July 10, 2020

Marketing keeps evolving, and especially so in the digital world. One could quickly become overwhelmed when you start looking at all the advice on the very best techniques that will lead to conversions. The best thing to do is to create a (semi-flexible) marketing plan. Stick to the plan as much as possible, but be open to incorporate new elements when they come up, and only if they seem viable.

But where do you start? There are so many wonderful ideas, theories, and tools out there, how do you know which ones will work for your business?

Old-School Marketing Techniques

These techniques have been tried and tested and proven to work throughout decades. Let us just be clear; a marketing campaign that ran in the 1980s will probably not lead to many conversions today. But the underlying psychological theory and motivation of the campaign could very likely be applied to your marketing strategies today – and with great success.

Why is Psychology Critical in Marketing?

If you understand people and how they behave in certain situations, as well as the motivations behind those behaviors, you can create marketing strategies that harness that knowledge. 

The Social Proof Theory

Psychologist Robert Cialdini first introduced The Social Proof Theory in 1984. The theory holds that if people are uncertain of how to behave appropriately in a particular situation, they look at other people for social cues on how to behave. This psychological phenomenon highlights the importance that social influence has on an individual’s behavior. The Social Proof Theory is also known as the informational social influence theory – illustrating that we are influenced based on the information that we perceive from others. 

Social proof and whether someone adopts the behaviors illustrated by others depends on several conditions. While not all of these conditions need to be present for social proof to work, they all contribute to the phenomenon. 

Uncertainty. No one wants to embarrass themselves and commit a faux pas. If a person is uncertain about the situation, they will turn to other people who they believe are more knowledgeable to guide them in their actions or decisions. 

Similarity. People tend to mimic the behavior of people that they see as being the same as them. Traits that influence whether people see others as “same as” or “different from” themselves could include people from the same demographic, age, race, culture, and financial standing. People tend to follow the behavior of the kind of person they would like to be perceived as or would like to become.

Expertise. People are influenced by those they see as more knowledgeable on a specific topic or product than they are. Others do not necessarily need to be an expert to exert influence over you. Even someone who is slightly more knowledgeable than you could purely influence your choices because you add weight to their opinions for being more knowledgeable on the topic than you are. 

Number. Social proof works best when a large group of people illustrates a particular behavior, action, or choice. The more people who find something desirable, the more people think that this is the best choice. Something called “multiple source effect” comes into play here. This means that when numerous sources or people approve something, others see it as being more credible. 

The Social Proof Theory has become a useful marketing tool to encourage consumers to buy a specific product or service. 

Types of Social Proof

There are different types of social proof that you can harness as part of your marketing strategy. While all of these could influence potential customers to convert to paying clients, some would be more effective than others, depending on your target market’s demographic. 

Expert

Expert social proof is when someone extremely knowledgeable in a specific industry recommends products or services in that niche. Expert social proof examples would be phrases like: “8 out of 10 doctors recommend…,” or “Michelin Star Chef Franco prefers…” It creates the idea that people who must know what is best are using a specific product. Therefore, the product must be good.

Celebrity

Celebrity social proof is when someone famous or who was well known endorses a product or a service. We often perceive beautiful or attractive people as being more sociable, mentally healthy, and socially skilled. These are qualities that others find desirable and strive to obtain. The celebrity’s perceived desirable qualities transfer to the product via celebrity endorsements. It encourages a thought process: “If I buy and use that product, I will be as (beautiful, intelligent, socially skilled, smell as good) as that celebrity.”

User

User social proof is when someone who is currently using a product or service recommends it to other people. “If someone else uses a product or service and is happy with it, then I would also be happy with it.”

The Wisdom of the Crowd

The wisdom of the crowd refers to when a large group of people endorses your brand. The idea that people’s opinions can influence individuals relates to the Multiple Source Effect. The more people who believe that a behavior is appropriate, the more we are likely to adopt that behavior.

The Wisdom of Our Friends

The wisdom of your friends is when people follow cues from their friends. We inherently want to fit in with our social group and thus would adopt the behaviors of our peers to obtain that. Furthermore, people tend to trust recommendations made by their friends.

Certification

Social proof through certification is when you have received accreditation or certification by an authoritative body in the industry. 

How to Use Social Proof in Marketing 

Invite experts or influencers onto your social media platforms. 

Working with influencers or experts is beneficial to both the expert or influencer and your brand. Everyone can extend their reach to include others’ audience and followers. It gives your product or services credibility while the expert or influencer gets more exposure. Seemingly small things like a blog post or twitter mention could have a massive effect on the number of people who see your product or service.

Influencers with a massive following often charge a premium to collaborate or promote or recommend a brand or service. Instead, you can try looking at micro-influencers. Micro-influencers might have a smaller number of followers, but they are usually more niche specific. By working with an influencer or expert specific to your niche, you can reach a more specific target audience. By reaching a narrower target market, your marketing efforts become concentrated on people who are more likely to be converted to paying customers. The focus is not on reaching large numbers of individuals, but rather to reach specific groups of people who would likely be interested in your offerings. 

Another way to reach more people who are potentially interested in your products or services is to make use of social media or brand ambassadors. These could be people who use and like your products or services already. Brand ambassadors could also be people who are not currently using your products, but who have a strong affinity for your products, services, and/or business ethos. Brand ambassadors aren’t necessarily influencers or experts. They are regular people who are passionate about your product or service and happily, and naturally, recommend it to others. Having brand ambassadors is a powerful word of mouth marketing strategy.

You can involve experts in your social media marketing by inviting them to events like podcasts, Twitter chats, Instagram stories, or Facebook Live video discussions. Collaborating with experts on live events on social media allows you to harness the experts’ positive influence while providing value to your audience as they have the opportunity to learn from experts in the industry. 

Let the Numbers Do the Talking

People tend to follow crowds. If a bunch of people makes use of a service or product, it must be good, right? Using phrases like “Join (add amount) of users world-wide” or “Join (add amount) of people enjoying our newsletter” shows that others are finding value in what your business offers.

Numbers that you want to talk about include the number of users, customers or subscribers, app downloads, and social media followers. You could also mention anniversaries and years in service or experience. Using numbers related to how long the company has been open, or the years of experience that you bring to the table lends credibility. If a company has been in business for many years, it has to be successful. Furthermore, the amount of experience offered creates a feeling of confidence and security as customers feel like they are in excellent and capable hands. 

Here is an example of how to use numbers as social proof. Say you have a relatively new company that employs three individuals with 5, 7, and 10 years experience in the industry, respectively. Instead of saying the company opened two years ago, you can say that XYZ-company offers 22 years’ experience in the industry. Can you see how subtly re-phrasing can make a massive difference in how you establish your company’s authority and expertise in the sector–even if your company is relatively new?

Let Your Customers Do the Talking

Involve your customers in your social proof marketing efforts by encouraging them to create content around your products or services. Create a specific brand hashtag and ask your customers to use it when posting on social media. You can also re-post or share your customer’s posts and testimonials (that has to do with your products) on your social media. 

You want people to see other, real people using your product or services – and enjoying it. It all relates to creating a positive connotation to your brand.

Another way to do this is to display customer testimonials on your website. You can include a separate landing page to feature testimonials and feedback from your clients or customers. You could go one step further and encourage video testimonials if clients or customers record themselves speaking about or using your product or services. Video testimonials give potential buyers an insight into the real-world use of your offerings. It shows people who potential customers can relate to in settings that are familiar to them. It encourages them to think about how your product or service could fit into their own lives and space. 

User-generated content (UGC), like video testimonials, is an invaluable social proof marketing tool. It shows ordinary people enjoying your products or services. Easy ways to integrate user-generated content into your marketing strategy is by posting customer photos and videos on your social media platforms. You could even include these testimonials in Instagram posts and highlights. 

You could create customer communities that are driven by loyal customers. An example of this is a Facebook group where you cultivate a community where customers and potential customers can interact with each other.

Furthermore, you can encourage clients or customers to leave product reviews and testimonials on various platforms. You will likely receive more reviews if you make this process easy and convenient. 

In a world where information is literally at our fingertips, more and more people are turning to review sites before they decide to buy something. When you are deciding whether something is worth your time and money, you could research the business. Even if you do this, there is no way to definitively tell whether the business is legit or fly by night. 

Positive reviews and testimonials from actual people and their experiences with a company or brand create confidence, trust, and give credibility to the brand. The thought process here is that if other people are using it and are happy with it, I will likely benefit from it. 

According to Search Engine Journal, an average of 77% of online shoppers use product reviews when deciding to make an online purchase. Yotpo’s surprising results take this fact a step further. The company surveyed women and focused on factors that influence their buying decisions when looking at purchasing beauty products. They found that 44.7% of women considered feedback from reviews from other customers before making a purchase. Feedback from online reviews even had a higher impact on these women’s decisions than referrals from their close friends. Yes, women would rather buy a beauty product if it has many good reviews than only considering their friends’ opinions. 

More traditional marketing had a much smaller influence on these women’s purchasing decisions. Television commercials came in at 17.7%, digital and social media ads were at 10.2%, and offline ads at 6.8%. This example clearly shows the power that customer reviews have on whether new customers would make use of your services or products. 

There are several ways that you can encourage your clients or customers to leave reviews and share testimonials. You can ask them in person or send an email. Create a survey and offer incentives or hold a contest to encourage people to participate. 

Include Social Proof in Your Ad Copy 

By using the types of social proof listed in your ad copy, you can add credibility and encourage potential customers to buy your product. 

Mention Prominent Clients, Customers, or Affiliations

In a way, this links to experts. People will trust companies who have been certified or given awards by brands that they know. For example, approval from an authoritative entity like Google, Instagram, or Facebook will give your brand credibility. The same goes for certification by an authoritative body like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

You could also consider displaying the logos of previous clients (mainly if these are businesses), or press mentions on your marketing material. Displaying the logos of other companies on your marketing material is especially effective if you have dealt with, or have been mentioned by well-known companies and publications. It creates a link between the company whose logo you are displaying and your product or service. It encourages thoughts like: ‘Well, if Google uses this, it must be good”. 

Most logos are trademarked or copyrighted, and you will need to get permission to use these logos on your website or marketing material. Many businesses prefer to display the logos of other companies in grayscale. Using greyscale for other companies’ logos is mostly from a design perspective, to avoid the logos from subtracting or drawing attention away from your brand.

Speak to Your Target Demographic 

The survey that Yotpo conducted on women’s purchasing habits of beauty products found that different generations and age demographics find different marketing strategies appealing. While positive customer reviews came out on top, GenZ is most affected by influencers or celebrities and Instagram influencers. Millennials and GenX relate most to customer photos and videos. 

Negative Social Proof

While positive social proof is a powerful marketing tool, negative social proof can cause your business more harm than good. 

Negative social proof encourages readers or potential customers to do the exact thing that you don’t want them to do. It creates the idea that many people are doing it. Because many people are doing it, your potential clients and customers would feel the influence to follow the crowd and adopt the same behavior. 

Cialdini and his colleagues spent five weeks in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. They erected various signs around the park in an attempt to inhibit visitors from taking petrified wood bits. Signs that simply asked: ‘Please do not remove the petrified wood chips’ were very effective. Areas where these signs were displayed saw fewer than 2% of wood chips stolen. Why? Because it gave clear instructions on how to behave acceptably. 

In another area of the forest, Cialdini and his colleagues placed signs that read: “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, changing the state of the petrified forest.” Here nearly 8% of wood chips were taken. Even though the sign clearly states that if people take petrified wood chips, the state of the forest changes, it normalizes the behavior by saying many people do it.

An example of negative social proof would be ‘thousands of people are losing out on these discounts by not signing up for our offer.’ Remember earlier, we spoke about how people mimic others’ behavior in certain situations, especially when they are uncertain about the correct response? A sentence like this essentially tells the reader that many people do not sign up… that is that the majority of people in the same situation opt not to sign up for these offers. Based on the informational social influence theory, the reader will then be less inclined to sign up. Essentially you are encouraging them to do the opposite of what you want. 

To turn this sentence into positive social proof, you could write it as: “Join hundreds of people who have benefited from these discounts.” Even though the number that you mention is smaller, it encourages people to take the action that you want then to.

By harnessing social proof principles and implementing them into your marketing strategy, you could see an increase in conversions. Many of these social proof tools require very little financial investment and could show massive rewards if implemented correctly.

As with most marketing strategies, social proof only works efficiently if it is effectively and consistently implemented. Ensure that your social proof marketing endeavors are updated regularly and remove old or irrelevant content. Remember that it is better to have no social proof marketing than to have social proof marketing strategy that is poorly and inconsistently implemented as this could eventually do more harm than good.

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