Social Proofing – buzz term or powerful marketing strategy?

What is social proofing?

We have all acted on things that we have observed others do. We follow others, especially majority votes. In the marketing context, any form of endorsement online that persuades consumers to act can be viewed as social proofing. Naturally this will lead us to social media activity and online reviews via 3rd party review resources.

Examples

The behavioural observations of social proofing are quite amusing, particularly early video clips like this 1962 Candid Camera episode:

The most common social proofing method is star ratings. The major e-commerce and tech companies all prominently display star ratings and product review content and this has led to huge popularity for websites like Amazon. The simple fact of it is that human beings are too lazy to not trust online reviews.

The vanity side of social media is scoffed at by the purist – but is also an example of social proofing. If a page is well liked, followed or circled then within the seconds that we view a social profile we make very quick assumptions in our minds (including elements like the Twitter following : follower ratio) about a company’s authority.

Most viewed products and most sold products are popular e-commerce examples. In the context of social proofing, think how influential these features can be when it is a product type that the website user has never bought before.

For me, reviews are the most useful form of social proofing – but then I work in digital every single day and know that social media statistics can be manipulated – the concept of social proofing wouldn’t observe such barriers. There are now many examples of online review content and review websites

Is this another pink and fluffy marketing buzz term?

Definitely not. Social recognition of your website and company’s existence and trading effectiveness will positively impact upon sales.

What you need to do

We can all demonstrate popularity, feedback and the direction of our users. This is the concept but as ever it’s good to work out the specific need and then get technology to do a lot of the work for us.

The Judge Service surveying process works in that way and catches car buyers at the time when they are most likely to leave valuable feedback: after they’ve received the vehicle. Do you have a similar process in place for every single customer that you sell to? This provides valuable social proofing data for the front end of your website.

Quick, low engagement competitions will not be meaningful in the most classic sense but can be carried out to give you a bit of zip in social media popularity (like/share/circle/pin). Could you do this with a competition relating to a key product or product range?

Could you do better in 2014 with social proofing? For most of us, the answer has to be yes. Show your user’s feedback, social connections and sales related data. It works!

This article was provided by Duncan Colman, digital advisor for JudgeService.com.

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