Social Savvy: The role of social proof in marketing your business - October 2022

By Irene Williams

Have you ever attended an event because one or more of your friends opted to go? Made a purchasing decision based on online reviews? Decided not to eat at a restaurant because there were no other patrons? Waited for others to speak up or raise their hands before you did the same? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’ve engaged in social proof.

Social proof is the psychological and sociological tendency for people to modify decisions and behaviors based on what others are choosing or doing. We talk about social proof often these days because it factors prominently in the modern marketplace. Our digital-based, social media-driven world runs on algorithms fueled by human preferences that are trackable through online activity.

The term social proof was coined in 1984 by psychologist Robert Cialdini, who studied the science and practice of influence on human behavior. Cialdini may have provided contemporary terminology and context for the concept, but we humans have been operating on social proof in some form or fashion since we showed up on this planet. The tendencies to be influenced by others and err on the side of the collective stem from our primal need to function in tribes and form united fronts.

In prehistory, social proof helped us survive. Today, social proof helps us buy. Its role has evolved, yet it remains deeply rooted, offering opportunities for savvy business leaders to aptly (and ethically) use it for success in marketing and selling.

Here are some ways to apply social proof to your digital and social media marketing.

• Collect and share reviews and testimonials.
Consumers are greatly influenced when others share their experiences. Third-party endorsements are extremely effective in swaying people’s decisions. Recent studies found 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and the average consumer reads ten online reviews before deciding what to buy. This is why you should make the collection of reviews and testimonials an essential standard operating procedure for your business. Ask for feedback early in the selling process and make it extremely simple for customers to share. People are most likely to take time to offer feedback at the point of the sale or immediately following, when the experience and excitement are fresh.

Use digital tools to collect reviews and testimonials. If capturing feedback in-store, have a QR code handy so people can scan and get to the online form on their phones, right then and there. Be sure your collection tools have proper permission and consent language so that customers can agree to terms. Reviews and testimonials are more influential when there are real names and even photographs included, so capture as much detail as possible.

• Prioritize case studies and photography.
Real-life cases and photographs are consistently more influential than even the most descriptive copy and beautiful marketing pictures. I acknowledge that it is no easy feat to get project details and professional photos once products are installed, but, with 25 years’ experience in the business, I assure you that it is worth the effort!

Start the request for story and photos upfront, preferably even before a customer’s purchase is final and the project is underway-“before” photos are so helpful. Set aside a budget for professional photography to be used for exceptional projects that merit the investment. The flooring industry is one in which the very best stories are told visually, and this includes images before, during and after.

When capturing case studies, integrate customer testimonials into the narrative and pluck those endorsements out for other uses, as well. Be sure to get proper permissions to share across all your marketing, including paid placements, in social media posts and on your website.

• Consider the influence of influencers.
There’s much ado about influencers in social media marketing, and that is all because of social proof. Customers can be compelled to make purchasing decisions when they observe someone they know, like and trust using a product and sharing their positive experiences about a particular seller.

Today, we’re seeing the power of smaller-scale influencers, as they sometimes out-influence bigtime celebrities. It’s common to see a social media personality with fewer than 20,000 followers get endorsement deals from major brands. The brands realize it’s better to connect with, say, 5,000 devotees who will buy something because the personality they follow buys it first, rather than spending untold dollars to reach a famous person’s one million+ followers who may not be as engaged.

For your business, you can get in the influencer marketing game by pinpointing and nurturing relationships with even just one or two key social media personalities who are highly relevant for your local markets or product categories. You may be able to get some synergies that are truly organic, though it may be more viable to seek paid or sponsored interactions. Nonetheless, the investment of time, effort and budget can bear great fruit, and influencers’ endorsements can help gain the attention of key audiences who could actually buy from you.

• Get mentions in the media.
Getting mentioned in the press is another way to garner social proof. While the mention itself may be confined to a set group of people over a brief period of time, you can parlay these mentions over the long term to increase the benefits by sharing them on your website and in social posts. The coverage serves as third-party proof of the validity of your products or business.

Include media relations in your ongoing marketing efforts. Maintain a media list of publications, online outlets, bloggers, et al, and consistently share news with those contacts. Items that may be newsworthy include product launches, project case studies and company updates (staff changes, expansions, etc.).

• Participate in awards and recognition programs.
When your business or products earn awards or honors from third-party organizations, highlight the recognition, thus offering subtle social proof to your potential customers. Consumers often regard awards and honors as quiet nods of affirmation, which can factor into their purchase decision-making process. When the honors originate from highly regarded organizations or media outlets, the impact can be even greater. And when awards are generated through community voting, the influence is power-packed, as potential customers understand that a strong collective of people just like them have spoken in favor of the winning businesses or products.

Suffice it to say, it can be well worth your time and effort to participate in awards and recognition programs. Identify key programs that are most likely to be seen and appreciated by your customers, and focus your energy toward earning honors accordingly.

Be awesome! As Socrates said, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”

At the core of the pursuit of social proof, be excellent at what you do and what you offer to your customers. This is the ultimate way to get the kind of social recognition that helps you sell more stuff and grow. By focusing first and foremost on being great at answering customers’ wants and needs, you’ll naturally create customers who are more than happy to spread the word and sing your praises.

Copyright 2022 Floor Focus