We’ve all been there. Clicking an ad for a product we don’t even need just because it says 23,000 people use it. Driving across the city to get a milkshake because someone on TikTok said we have to try it or it has 3 million five-star reviews. These days, customers are willing to go to extreme lengths to get things and have experiences that other people like. Why? Social proof.

In our modern, socially-driven marketplace, social proof runs the show and can be make-or-break in boosting your marketing strategy. But don’t worry—if you don’t even know what social proof means, you’ve come to the right place. 

Read on to learn why social proof is so important for local businesses, which types work best, and which brands can teach you how to get it right. 

What is Social Proof?

Social proof is the theory that people imitate the actions of others in an attempt to become like them, have a similar experience, or emulate behavior. So when Jimmy Fallon tells me that I have to try a cronut, I have to try it. If a dental office displays multiple enthusiastic user testimonials on their website, and Marrissa from New Haven says, “the procedure was the quickest and least painful I’ve ever had” or Kyle from Waterbury says, “My smile is now whiter than when I was born,” I want to patronize the dental office more. 

In essence, it’s the power of social influence—whether the individual or the crowd. Hearing an endorsement from someone who has a lifestyle I want, or seeing a million people like a specific product, makes me want to purchase whatever’s being sold so that I can be like them. 

Social Proof - Woman Looking at Phone

Why is Social Proof So Effective? 

It seems insane that social proof is as influential as it is. Why is it so effective? Social proof taps into “the basic human instinct to follow the actions of others, building trust and credibility, and lowering barriers to making purchases online.”

This psychological phenomenon taps into our universal, underlying FOMO (fear of missing out). No one wants to miss out. If 200,000 people are pointing to something and saying that it changed their lives, you want to know what all the hype is about firsthand. As human beings, we don’t want to miss the boat, and we don’t want to be left behind, and social proof indicates that something is worth having or experiencing.

What does this mean for your business? By leveraging social proof, you can expand your brand’s reach, increase your sales, and create happy, life-long customers.

Which Types of Social Proof Work Best? 

There are generally five types of social proof that work really well—and local businesses can take advantage of that knowledge. 

1 – User Testimonials

We’ve mentioned this one, but it’s probably our favorite. Why? User testimonials are extremely personal, helping leads form relationships not only with the person offering the testimonial but your business as well through elements of sharing, narrative, and experience. User testimonials use advocates—that you can handpick—to endorse your product and come across as very authentic. When businesses post testimonials and reviews on their website, social media platforms, or review sites (pro tip: pictures, names, and videos really help), they do a lot to personalize their brand and create enough trust to inspire action. 

2 – Social Media Shares

As they say, there’s wisdom in the crowd. When a large group of people endorses your brand through likes or shares, people trust you more and want to hop on the bandwagon. While it’s not always the truth, as humans, we think that the more people gravitate toward something, the better it must be. Collecting likes on your posts, thousands of followers, and hundreds of shares can go a long way in showing potential customers who is leading your industry: you. 

3 – Expert’s Stamp of Approval

When it comes to making important decisions, there are few people we look to more than experts. Why? Experts have experiences, education, and insight that we don’t have. When an expert in your field endorses your services or products or otherwise associates with your brand, it increases the credibility of your brand and people trust you because the experts do. If my makeup artist friend raves about a certain makeup brand, I’ll probably start using that brand because I know she knows her stuff. 

4 – Celebrity Endorsement

What’s more convincing than Oprah Winfrey saying that a certain brand of sparkling water is the only one she drinks? Humans pay attention to what is popular because we think that what is popular must be good, must make our lives better, or might just make us a bit more popular too. Often, businesses will ask celebrities or social media influencers to post or tweet about their product and its impact on them. This type of social proof is a particularly effective method to reach a large target audience.

5 – Certification

Similar to the expert’s stamp of approval, certification is being given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure or organization in your field. When Forbes tells you which companies are the best, you listen. When the Wall Street Journal says which companies you should turn your attention to, you do. 

Social Proof Examples—Brands Who Got It Right

Leveraging social proof well centers around offering an authentically valuable and outstanding product or service and capturing the delight of your customers in the right places. It includes capitalizing on hard-earned trust, credibility, and relationship strength. And it takes a few tries to know which types are going to work for you. 

A number of companies, though, have become experts at leveraging social proof. Let’s take a look at a few brands who got it right. 

1 – Slack

One great example is slack. Slack has created a page called “Slack Love” where they retweet tweets from people who love Slack, tapping into the power of user testimonials in an authentic, playful way. This type of marketing practically does the work on its own, with Slack simply increasing the visibility of what is already being posted. 

Social Proof Example - Slack

2 – HubSpot

Another excellent social proof example comes from HubSpot. In this screenshot below, HubSpot uses a social media platform to show off how many customers in how many countries are successfully using their services, employing bandwagon effect, trust, and global appeal. Yes, it’s that easy.

Social Proof Example - Hubspot

3 – Qualtrics

And of course, it doesn’t all have to be social media marketing. In this example, Qualtrics posts a user list of 16,000 of the world’s “best” (i.e. trusted and recognizable) brands smack in the center of their homepage, creating a compounded trust effect. Without explicitly saying it, this list says: if you use FedEx, ABC, Hulu, or Verizon, you should use Qualtrics as well. If you’re looking for simple, effective user social proof, this is it. 

Social Proof - Qualtrics

Get Started

Getting the hang of social proof can take a bit of experimentation, but any business can do it. If your marketing budget is small, begin by collecting positive reviews and posting user testimonials to your landing pages and social media pages. Post as your followers grow, thank your customers for their support, and highlight awards or exciting benchmarks. From there, you can start to see which avenues might open more doors for you. 

Ready to get started? We can help. Podium offers a number of tools that can empower your business to leverage the power of social proof, from widgets and gadgets to software that makes getting reviews as simple as sending a text. Watch this demo to learn more about how to effortlessly leverage the delight of your happy customers to make even more customers, and yourself, happy too. 

Jono Andrews
Jono Andrews Group Manager of Product Marketing
Jono is a Group Manager of Product Marketing at Podium, the premiere marketing and communications platform that connects local businesses with their customers.  He loves to help local businesses see success in creating the best customer experience.

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