Social Proof: What It Is and Why You Need It

The web has an inherent problem for buyers: it’s impossible to tell trusted, respected businesses apart from cowboys, swindlers and snake-oil sellers. Unless of course, you happen to know the business in question.

For most people, viewing most websites, they only know what is put in front of them. So if your business has a website, you need to appeal to the people you’ve never met, just as much as those people you’ve already approached.

How Do You Make Someone Trust You?

You can’t make anyone do anything, but you can help them. Using Social Proof is a great way to build trust. Social Proof basically means showing people that other people have used your business successfully. People are herd animals and we need to feel that others have gone before us. It’s much easier to persuade someone to buy your product if you can persuade them that others have already bought your product.

I recommend using genuine testimonials. But go further. Don’t just use:

“This product is great!” – J. Hoppendoodle

Say who J. Hoppendoodle is, where they’re from, and provide a link to their website. Show that real people use your products and services by connecting your audience to those people. Let the roots of your social proof run deep. The more real you make your business the easier it will be to sell your wares.

Bandwagons

Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry for Social Proof contains a note suggesting that the entry is merged with the entry for Bandwagon Effect. ‘Bandwagon effect’ is a useful way to think of social proof. It captures the notion that people will ‘jump on’ something that everyone else is jumping on, almost regardless of the underlying facts.

I don’t mean that people are mindless sheep- because they’re not. But people do need to feel they can trust you, and it’s wise to use social proof as a device for building trust.

Secondary Benefits of Social Proof

Often, using social proof on the web has secondary benefits. Mentioning your clients’ names and websites means they get free publicity and you both get to advertise your mutual association. Possibly the biggest benefit to your clients is the links you can offer them on your website. The Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) benefit of additional links is considerable, so using social proof also gives you a great opportunity to reward your clients.

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