Social proof marketing is a concept that the average person would assume they know nothing about, claiming that it was yet another buzzword. Yet a large portion of the population has taken part in social proof marketing at least once in the course of their lives – and many participate on a weekly or even daily basis. How could it be possible to involve yourself in such a large concept unknowingly?
What is Social Proof Marketing?
The variability of social proof marketing allows for flexibility and creativity when planning a business and marketing strategy. For example, say you were at a street fair looking to pick out your lunch. There are numerous food trucks and stands, some of which have a few people waiting in line, and others with no patrons. All of a sudden, you spot a long line rounding a corner, trailing away from a particular food truck. Why is everyone willing to wait in that particular line? Your interest is piqued, and you’ll likely at least check out the truck, if not join the line yourself. The ability to harness principles of psychology and utilize them within your business is a significant advantage over the typical marketing strategy.
In a different example of the same concept, you’re now browsing the web looking for a new recipe for an easy family dinner. You find a couple different options that sound good and meet your criteria. One chicken dish looks phenomenal but has no reviews, and a salmon filet has 25 reviews at an average of 4 stars. A steak recipe you find has been reviewed by 5,000 people with an average rating of 4.3 stars. Which recipe are you more inclined to select to prepare? Your choice is likely the steak, as at least 5,000 people have prepared the meal and felt the need to review the recipe, most of whom had only positive comments or minute tweaks and alterations. There is an assumed inflation of the popularity of the recipe, since many people won’t bother to leave a review at all.
Both of these concepts, in addition to dozens of variations, make up the body known as social proof marketing. In defining terms, it is any marketing practice that involves using proof of social cues and interactions to establish an understood quality or desire for a product or service. Even a concept such as advertising or announcing the size of a crowd expected to be at an event is a form of social proof marketing. It is human nature to look to others before making a decision for yourself.
Why is Social Proof Marketing Important to Business Services?
Social proof marketing can take place in many forms. Word of mouth, online reviews, and testimonials are all common examples, manifesting in more local ways than you would think. When the public is so deeply centered within a specific marketing method, it is important to keep psychology and sociology in mind throughout all business practices.
When a person is considered ‘influential’, what does that mean exactly? What gives them the power to hold influence over other people? The short answer is that the public has bestowed this ability upon people that we like, respect, or simply adore. If a cute teenager on TikTok gains a significant following, she becomes what is known as an ‘influencer’ on social media and in public. These mini-celebrities now have the power to promote whatever product, brand, or idea they choose, allowing their influence to do the rest.
Remember the Fyre Festival scandal? Despite numerous rumors of the true state of the island and the festival accommodations, festival goers kept referencing a promotional video featuring more than a dozen world-famous supermodels. They trusted the images of these models showing them the glamour and luxury of an island that never existed. More than 60% of people that bought a ticket (anywhere from $1,000 – $12,000) still decided to board their plane and attend the festival, despite the aforementioned rumors and reports that half of the advertised entertainment had already dropped out of the festival by three days out.
Celebrities and models are not the only influencers we encounter in our lives. The opinions of friends and family plays a similar, yet different role in the psychology of decision-making. We judge celebrities and interact with them on a one-way basis, meaning that we view them indirectly and from afar. Our friends and family, on the other hand, are involved in our lives in a much more direct way.
You may worry (consciously or unconsciously) about how your peers and the public are judging and thinking about you, yet these feelings rarely arise when in a similar influential situation with a celebrity. That is because we view the psychological relationship we have with celebrities in a much less personal way than we view the relationship with our families. We care about the opinion and judgement of our friends and families when it comes to ourselves and our actions.
According to a 2018 Word of Mouth Report by Chatter Matters, “83% of consumers say that a word of mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase a product or service.”
This makes word of mouth one of the most lucrative forms of marketing available to growing businesses. The difference between a positive and negative experience can be miniscule; the most trivial misunderstanding or inconvenience could serve as the difference between a glowing review and a jaded one.
Service-based Business Strategies
For businesses that supply a service, such as car washes and phone carriers, social proof marketing is centered within the branding of customer experience and the quality of the service, as there is no physical product to rate. It is likely that your customers will need to interact with your company and staff on a somewhat regular basis to maintain their services and receive assistance with any issues.
According to PWC, “73% of U.S. consumers say that customer experience is a very important factor in their purchasing decision, so much so that even if they love a company or product, 59% will still walk away after several bad experiences and 17% will walk away after just one bad experience.”
Customer experience plays a massive role in the longevity and health of any business. As such, strategies such as ensuring customer satisfaction and promoting the testimonials of satisfied customers can prove themselves to be essential business practices. Designing your end-of-sale routine with small touches, such as personal contact and ensuring complete fulfillment of expectations can inspire the customer to leave a positive review or spread her satisfaction to friends and family. A mother of four children is more likely to believe the testimony of a fellow mother over a young, teenage influencer when selecting a product, therefore it is important to select promoters similar to your target customer base.
Product-based Business Strategies
Business models that develop and supply a product have to adapt to a different strategy, as they provide a tangible product. If your grandma bought a rocking chair that was beloved by all who sat in it, she would be participating in social proof marketing by simply telling each person where she purchased the product. These types of businesses rely less (but still a good bit!) on testimonials and customer experience, and more on the quality of the product itself and how it affects the life of the purchaser.
You would be more inclined to ‘brag’ or bring up a new car that you purchased if it provided some exceptional benefit, such as a low price for the quality, great gas mileage, or a self-parking feature. Ensuring that your product stands out will in turn affect how the public perceives and talks about it. Even if you supply an average product, small touches such as a treat in the package or a satisfaction guarantee can elevate your product above the rest.
Do’s and Don’ts
Here, we will go over some of the best and worst practices of social proof marketing. No matter your business type or model, we have a recommendation for you!
Highlighting only product features and materials
Incorporating customer feedback and ratings of the specific features and materials of the product
Paying a single, famous social media influencer a large sum to feature your product in his or her posts for a short period of time
Selecting a number of minor influencers and/or local celebrities to feature your product in their posts in exchange for freebies or smaller monetary amounts, better saturating the market and saving money
Promoting a singular product or service
Promote your business or organization as a whole to promote business ideals, awards, and other recognitions
How Matcha Design Can Help
Our award-winning creative team at Matcha Design has served the needs of local and international clients for more than 17 years. We have extensive experience in all forms of marketing and web design, aiding companies and organizations across the spectrum of industries and professions. We pride ourselves on providing a custom, personalized experience for each customer, prioritizing elements based on your individual preferences and specifications. Allow us to help elevate your business to its fullest potential by visiting our website at matchadesign.com and checking out all we have to offer.