Brands use (online) marketing to enhance their visibility. To build an awareness around their product or services so that when the moment is there that people are in the mood for buying you’re on top of mind. But what good will that do if your leads, your consumers, the people who could use your product or service don’t trust you?
Trust is a strange thing; it can make people comfortable to hand over their hard earned money, or their personal information, or some other valuable item for them. But if there is no trust, that all will stay shut. Trust is an essential item in your conversion funnel, in the journey people take from becoming someone who passes by to someone who buys.
Even for building your reputation, it isn’t something that is automatically there, and it is something that needs to be developed over time.
The big problem with trust, however, is that the best way to earn it is via experience. Think for a second about the brands that you trust most in your life, why do you trust them? High chances are that you believe them because you’ve engaged with them enough times in the past that they’ve earned that trust. If you just met this brand for the first time, how can you possibly believe them?
That’s the dilemma that a lot of startups are facing. How can you build trust with people if this is the first time they’ve laid their eyes upon you?
Five levels of social proof
Building trust is something that takes time, but there are however ways in which you can speed up the process. One of the most common ways to do this is by using social proof. Wikipedia defines social proof as:
Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.
You might remember it from those infomercials from the nineties, where you had someone trying to sell an exercise machine, or some “amazing” cleaning product, or a diet and where you had other people explaining how that single product changed their life for the good.
So how can you create these kinds of proof online? To look into that, let’s have a quick overview of six levels of social proof that you could be using on your website today:
- Customers – your existing customers (for example testimonials or case studies)
- Celebrities, influencers and experts – celebrities, influencers or other experts talking about your product or services (for example celebrities who have bought your product or visited your store, a famous journalist in your industry writing about you, etc.)
- Crowds – large numbers of people using your product or services (for example “over 10.000 people help grow their business using our newsletter”)
- Friends – showing individuals who are friends of your customers/website visitors (for example “49 of your friends like Inbound Rocket”)
- Certifications – a credible, third party that has certifications that showcase your expertise, or that your trustworthy (for example “Apple premium reseller”)
Now we know what types of social proof you can leverage, let’s make them more concrete and see how they can help your business.
One of the most common forms of social proof and that’s why it is positioned at number 1, is just showcasing testimonials from your customers. You know what we’re talking about and you see them everywhere online. From Amazon for example:
According to research done by Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation of a friend (hence they are at the number four place on our list as well), but still, 70% of people will trust a recommendation of someone they’ve never heard of before.
That is the reason why so many brands are showcasing testimonials on their website. Another study done by VWO tells us that testimonials on a sales page can help increase sales by even 34%. So no reason for you to start talking to your customers again and asking for testimonials!
Celebrities are walking advertisements everyone knows that. So any product that they seem to be using or even better pro-actively recommending will be getting a lot of attention.
These don’t automatically need to be a big time Hollywood celebrities, but even in your niche, there could be a lot of local influentials. People who in all likelihood are a lot cheaper to get on board as well 😉
According to Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media in his article on the Unbounce blog called “The Psychology of Social Proof & How to Build Trust in Your Business“. The more relevant the celebrity or influencer is in relation to your audience, the better of course. Andy even suggests to actively start searching for these people:
If your business has ever received a compliment from a well-known person who is respected by your audience, go find it, and add it to your home page.
Another form of celebrities or influencers are experts in your domain. These could be individual people, but could also be recognisable brands you’ve worked together with or are clients of you. A lot of startups use a dedicated section on their home page for this showcasing which websites featured them:
Don’t just put the logos, though, put a link behind it to the original article so people can see what they had to say about you.
Which celebrity, influencer or expert for your business can you think of that would fit well with your audience and would love to give you a testimonial?
The third way social proof can help is by showcasing the approval from large groups of people. It shows that you’re not the only one using this product or service, in fact, thousands or in the case of Buffer, even millions of people have taken the action you want your visitors to take and are happy customers with them.
This type of social proof works because of something that is called FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. And it is a form of social anxiety. If all of these people love this product, it must be good right? FOMO can also be used with your content marketing efforts or on social media for example. If so many people are sharing your content, it triggers people to want to share the piece of content too, to help them look smarter 😉
A third example for which the numbers of the crowds are often used is to showcase the number of email subscribers on the mailing list of a company. It shows the potential subscribers that if they don’t subscribe they would be missing out on all the great content and valuable tips that these people are receiving.
As we already stated at our first example of social proof, 92% of people trust a recommendation from a friend. Having people share your products they value on social media is, therefore, a powerful option.
Whether it is something simple as a widget on your website that shows the faces of the people who liked your brand on Facebook (it automatically shows your friends first), Twitter’s display of people you follow that also follow another person, or companies using rewards for sharing their products. All of them can be used to great advantage for your brand.
For example, Dropbox rewards people if they share their website via the referral link. If someone signs up via the referral link you created, you will be rewarded with 1GB of free storage. This has been one of the big growth drivers of Dropbox since the moment they introduced this.
The final type of social proof we want to highlight is creating social proof by showing your certifications. If your company has earned certain industry-wide recognised certifications or accreditations, you should show them on your website.
Most companies who hand out certifications and accreditations have ready made logos available you can use on your site (it gives them more visibility as well so a win-win for the both of you). Research by MonetizePros in 2014 even show that some of these badges can help increase your conversion by as much as 30%.
Showcasing logos of other companies should not just stop with your certifications, maybe you have some integrations with your product and other well-known products or services out there. By showing their logos on your website, you can let some of their success shine of on you, and it helps convince users of these products that they can get even more return on their initial investment.
Start using Social Proof now
In the end, remember, up until that final moment (and sometimes even after) that someone presses that Call-To-Action everybody has doubt whether or not they should do it. It is your job to take away that fear so that they will become customers. Social proof is a great way to assist you in this process.
Some of these examples take a bit more time than others, but what is stopping you from trying to get more proof on your website? Which items of proof are you using on your site? Anything we missed? Leave a comment below!