Reviews, testimonials and case studies about products or services are among the many strategy’s ecommerce providers use to obtain social proof, however their value has been diluted over recent years as the internet has become awash with fake content, social proof has become a victim of its own success.
Despite the fakes, social proof is still powerful where it is verifiable and from when it originates within the buyers own network.
Social proof is based on a psychological phenomenon that allows you to reduce the fear in your customer’s mind when they are about to make a buying decision. The best kind of social proof is one that a person can relate, again it helps when it comes from the buyers own network, but most important of all is relevancy to the buyer’s needs. Reviews and comments provide one way for customers to obtain a supposedly 3rd party independent opinion about the product or service under consideration.
If the testimonial originates from an “expert” this again enhances the product or service appeal, building trust in the consumers mind.
It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is simply the evidence that your business is well-received by other customers and is seen as a safe and smart choice to go with. Its effects on conversion rates can be remarkable, and is therefore an essential part of the Conversion Rate Optimization process. As a business, there are an infinite number of ways which you can use social proof to shape opinions, increase sales, and enhance your brand reputation.
Social proof is simply one way of many to influence the perception of your brand. It is particularly important to women because of the tendency of women to seek validation from friends and family about their buying decisions. By eliciting feedback from friends and family regarding important purchasing decisions, they are sharing and promoting the product or service with others. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why social media itself became so popular. It is one of the quickest, easiest, and powerful ways of getting instant credibility for your product or service.
The power of social proof is the reason why influencer marketing has become so popular, however there are many other examples, – many ways to leverage social proof and not just on social media.
The success of social proof is due to ability to build trust, and because it leverages the psychological effect often referred to as herd mentality, the idea that if the many are buying it, then it must be a good choice.
Live poof takes the herd mentality effect and adds a dash of limit time availability, providing the user the feeling that the item they are considering is selling well, and therefore while available now, may therefore not be available for long. The “get it while you can” effect is one sure way to trigger buying emotions, – critical to improving sales.
The same is true for limited time offers with count down timers, however it can be argued that live social proof is more powerful because the feeling of urgency is generated by others buying the product and not by some convoluted offer.
The Down Sides to Social Proof
The problem of gaining real feedback is that it is a double-edged sword, in that there are both positive and negative reviews.
The negative review has a powerful effect costing far more than gained by a positive one. Why, because people love to share outrage and misery and therefore one bad review has a far greater social reach, potentially destroying a hard-earned reputation and disrupting the herd. The saying “You only get one chance to make a positive impression”, is all too true when it comes to reviews and comments. The take-away here is to only seek social proof if you are supremely confident in your product and are willing to face criticism and face down competitors who will try to drag you down. This major down side to social proof also explains why fake reviews are so commonly used, because they provide all the upsides and none of the downsides (this is an example of negative social proof, see below).
Negative Social Proof
A big problem associated with negative social proof when used as a factor to sell a product or service is that it can have the opposite effect to that intended.
At all costs avoid using negative social proof that implies that many people and its wrong even if true if something is to be gained by that wrong action.
Why? Well it can actually increase the number of people carrying out that wrong action, – because the many people doing it, is social proof that they are benefiting from it.
Environmental campaigners often fall foul of this phenomenon. One example of this is the work carried out by psychologists Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin who tested the effects of three different signs in the Arizona Petrified Forest, signs designed to prevent theft. The sign that contained the negative social proof actually encouraged more stealing, tripling the about of theft. It read as follows:-
“Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the petrified Forest”
The problem with this sentence is that it implies that the petrified forest is destroyed so why not benefit from it since everyone else is.
The “Get it while you can” trumps the “its wrong” emotions.
Positive Social Proof
Let’s formulate a positive piece of social proof for OptiMonk.
- It must refer to the many or most people (generally or targeting a specific persona)
- It must directly address the customer pain points
- It must provide the benefits of using the product.
- It must be true.
- It must leverage emotion, before and after.
“Thousands of ecommerce websites use OptiMonk to dramatically increase sales”.
“Thousands of ecommerce websites use OptiMonk to reduce cart abandonment”.
“Thousands of ecommerce websites use OptiMonk to dramatically increase conversion rates”.
While the 3 above sentences leverage the herd mentality and are good, they lack the emotion for optimal success. Add an appropriate background image to communicate the emotion.
While all of the above examples of positive social proof work, some would be used rather than others, depending on the content focus. For example, in the case of an article about cart abandonment, the second example should be used.
A prominent positioning of social proof is essential, position on the home page, a landing page or highlighted within content such as a blog article. It should also be provided with an image which helps to make the social proof verifiable. The quote from the testimonial should be highly relevant and address the pain point the content is referring to.
Positive social proof is more persuasive than saving money, and so even if your product does save the customer money it is not likely to be the best approach to highlight this.
The usage of social proof can be found everywhere in many areas of both offline and internet marketing. Using social proof to promote digital products has become a necessity, but buyers are increasingly wary of fake reviews, and so ensure yours is backed / done by influencers or client company leaders.
Credibility is Key to success with Social Proof.
Recipe for Successful Social Proof
The composition of the social proof is also vitally important. Leverage the fact that buyers are seeking to solve their own particular pain points (before) to be better, feel better (after). Emotion is key to your products success and so your social proof should reflect the before and after emotions to target specific persona’s – target those with similar problems. Remember to use images or video to communicate emotion, before typically should show frustration and the after should show freedom, happiness or joy. Finally, AB testing and timing are crucial, by using a triggered message at just the right moment captures all their attention, your goal is to give them exactly what they are looking for in that moment. This is achieved with the power of OptiMonk.
Use OptiMonk to create triggered messages, drag and drop emotive images add your well-considered emotive text along with an image of the influencer, under which add their name and job title. Create 3 or 4 versions and AB test. Also consider adding social icons to add shareability of the quote.