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6 types of ‘social proof’ and 3 ways they could improve your digital marketing campaigns

20 April, 2016

Social proofing your digital marketing campaigns
Can you cast your mind back to Monday 4th January? The first day back at work after the festive period for many, but it was also the day that we posted the first in a three part round up of the digital marketing predictions for 2016.

Back in December of last year, Jonny appeared on David Bain’s two-hour episode of ‘Digital Marketing Radio’ in which he explored the marketing predictions for 2016 by interviewing 54 of the leading experts. One of these experts, Olga Andrienko from SEM Rush highlighted that social proof will become more important and prominent in the world of digital marketing.

But what is social proof? This was a new term to me so I spent some time researching how it could be used in digital marketing campaigns – and I wanted to share with you what I have learned.

“Social proof (also known as information social influence), is a psychological phenomenon whereby people assume the actions of others in order to reflect the correct behavior for a given situation.”

I think this definition of social proof from our digital round-up blog perfectly sums up the ideas and psychology behind the term. Analysing behaviour in terms of social media is an area that I find particularly fascinating and I have carried out lots of research into personal branding and online identities, so it didn’t take long for me to fully understand how social proof needs to be considered as an instrumental element within digital marketing today.

In today’s society, we all look to each other on a daily basis for guidance, reassurance and confirmation that what we are doing is right, and social proof is nothing more than this. A study by Search Engine Land found that 88% of customers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation – even though they may not know the person who has left the review. Looking to online reviews or comments for confirmation that the product or service you are about to purchase is as good as the company says it is, is something we are now programmed to do.

sheep-17482_640Some may call this following the crowd, being a sheep or even jumping on the bandwagon. But this element of social proof is nothing new and many would argue that this notion is ingrained into human nature. So why is it important to consider this when incorporating social proof into your marketing campaign?

“Join 30,000 other marketing professionals”, “87% of businesses have found success using this technique” and “We’ve had previous success with these companies”.

Would you click on a link like the three listed above? I’d guess a majority of you would. And this is completely normal. In fact, I would challenge anyone who would be able to resist temptation by not clicking. Why wouldn’t you want to see what they had to offer? This fear of missing out or FOMO as it is now most commonly known is the ideology that underpins social proof. It can take several different formats; from client testimonials, to social media reviews and star ratings right through to simple online reviews – if you can support your services or products with confirmation from your customers, then you are more likely to see a measurable impact on your sales.

Social proof, therefore, is nothing new. It is an old idea that has taken on a digital meaning. Think of it as word of mouth marketing – online. Simple right? So how should you be incorporating social proof into your digital marketing strategy?

There are around six key types of social proof that are very simple to understand and you may already be using them without knowing!

  1. Expert Opinion

This really is what it says on the tin, using an expert or an industry leader to confirm the importance of your business’ products or services.

  1. Celebrity endorsements

More difficult to achieve for smaller SMEs but definitely something to be aware of. Using celebrity endorsements can have a dramatic impact on product sales.

  1. Customer reviews

Very simple – online reviews or testimonials from users of your products or services.

  1. Refer a friend

You may see this type of social proof a lot when signing up for things; a great example of this is Nationwide. They are currently offering a huge £200 to share when you recommend one of their current accounts to a friend!

  1. Recommendations by crowds of people

This type of social proof really does speak in volumes. It is all about crowds of people confirming that the product or service really is as good as you say it is!

A fantastic example of the real power of social proof comes from Taylor Swift and her collaboration with Apple Music. In a video released on the stars’ Instagram account, the “I knew you were trouble” singer can be seen rapping shamelessly to Drake’s ‘Jumpman’ whilst running on a treadmill and in a fabulous ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moment, falls spectacularly off the treadmill – whilst still managing to rap, before the screen comes up with the caption ‘Distractingly Good’.

Now I don’t know what’s better, the fact that when Taylor Swift posted this video on her Instagram feed, it received 1.5million likes in two weeks, or that she captioned it, ‘Based on true events. #TAYLORvsTREADMILL’ or that it increased sales of the Drake song by 431% globally and made the Apple Music #gymflow playlist number 5 in the playlist of the week! But this example clearly demonstrates the impact social proof can have on campaign success.

But what about SMEs who don’t have the same budget as Apple Music? Well, there are many other ways you can and should be incorporating social proof into your marketing campaigns and content strategy.

  1. Being on top of your social media

social-media-763731_640Managing your social media profiles effectively and professionally is key in terms of social proof. Generating comments, likes and shares are all great in terms of building your brand reputation. However, it is also about being able to effectively deal with criticism and negative feedback. Santander is particularly great on Facebook when it comes to responding quickly and effectively to ALL types of comments on social media. If you are still stuck on how to effectively manage your online reputation, take a look at our blog on ORM.

  1. Set up a Google Alert

Setting up a Google Alert can be a really quick and easy way to take control of your social proof. It is extremely simple to set up, plus you get an email sent straight to your inbox every time your business name or chosen keyword is mentioned online.

  1. Use and understand your Google Analytics

Your website may not be an e-commerce site, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be tracking your website traffic. Ensuring you get to grips with your website traffic and how customers are engaging with your site is crucial in fully understanding their customer journey. What pages do people reach before clicking off? What could you do to increase engagement on your site? Are you successfully driving traffic to your contact forms? If the answer to any of these questions is no then you may need to take some time to really work out what else you could be doing to keep your traffic engaged for longer.

What are your experiences of social proof online? Have you used these tactics – or will you now be using them more often? How have they helped your business?

If this blog post has left you with more questions than answers, or you would like guidance on integrating social proof into your digital marketing strategy, do get in touch and see how we can help you!

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