How Important is "Social Proof"?

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As someone who works in “online presence,” I get questions ranging from “How can I change the way my product looks on Amazon?” to “How important is it for me to be on Pinterest?” Sometimes I have to be frank that my areas of expertise don’t span the complete breadth and depth of the internet; other times I get questions I can answer enthusiastically.

Right now I’m in an exciting phase of being asked lots of questions about social media. It’s exciting for me because as a New Englander, I’m surrounded by businesses that have barely made it into the 21st century by having websites. There have been days I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be able to communicate to struggling businesses what an immense opportunity is offered by free online social platforms. But as of late, I haven’t had to do much convincing—businesses are seeking out on their own how to use social media! And that’s amazing!

But where does one even start when beginning to tackle social presence? There are so many platforms to be on, for one thing—is it all or nothing? For another, what exactly are you supposed to post? And how do you measure the return on your investment of time—coming up with pictures and captions and hashtags and blog post titles?

It gets overwhelming really fast.

Today I’m simply going to talk about something called "social proof"—what it is and why it matters. Over the coming weeks I hope to address some of the other questions I get asked, as well—so if you have a question you'd like answered, leave a comment below this post or head on over to my Facebook Page to share what's befuddling you!

Remember: Learning to harness social media to your advantage in business is an ongoing process, not something that can be grasped overnight. Hopefully these bite-sized lessons will make the journey easier, and more rewarding moment to moment!

Social Proof: A Definition

Social proof is simply evidence in numbers that others are buying into your product or service. It comes in the form of followers, reviews, and recent, enthusiastic activity in every place where you show up online.

Consider your Facebook page. Having 143 followers on your Facebook page after being in business for 5 whole years would be pretty poor social proof, no matter what industry you’re in—it says that people aren’t excited enough about your brand to crave more. If you’ve been in business for a year and you have 1,430 followers on Facebook, however, that might indicate proof to someone who's never heard of your business that you’re worth investigating further. A crowd draws attention.

Social Proof: Is it Vital in the 21st Century?

Some would argue that social media is an essential tool to learn in order to remain relevant to the newest generations that are out there, making and spending money.

Others would argue that they've been in business for years without bothering with social media, and they're doing just fine.

I personally believe that both parties have something of value to say. As retailers decide who gets to stay on their shelves and who doesn't, and as more and more brands depend on the internet for sales in order to compete with Amazon, learning how your ideal clients behave online and meeting them halfway is going to become imperative if it isn't already.

However, social media isn't the only way to market. It's simply one way that, given proper time and attention, can provide a fun and free way to interact with the people who have already shown interest in your business by hitting that "Follow" button. 

Social Proof: Psychology

Whether or not you realize it, you probably rely on social proof yourself to give credibility to new products or services you want to try.

Let’s say you need to hire a photographer for your wedding and you don’t know anyone in person you trust enough to do the job well. You’ll probably start asking friends who did their wedding photos, as well as looking online for local photographers.

When you get what seems like a promising lead, you’ll want evidence that the photographer in question can do a good job. So you’ll go to his or her website and Facebook page. There will be little signs you subconsciously seek out that give you a good “gut” instinct or an uneasy one—and they may have nothing to do with the quality of the photographer's portfolio:

  • Does the photographer have recent activity on his site and/or Facebook page? How often does he post?
  • How many weddings does he seem to have shot—more than are worth counting, or do all the photos seem to come from just 2-3 weddings?
  • How many stars does this photographer get in reviews? What do people have to say in their written reviews?
  • How many people are following this Facebook page? What do they write in the comments on the photographer’s posts?

As a customer, you’ll rely on the experience of others to provide assurance that your experience will also be worth the money you exchange for it. You want to be at ease with your decision, especially when it’s something as big as who will shoot your wedding photos! It’s to the photographer’s advantage that he provides as much content as possible for his fans and followers to interact with, and that he encourages follows and reviews.

Even if he’s a totally capable photographer, he will give potential clients an uneasy “gut” instinct if he can’t prove that he’s seasoned to do the job, and that those whom he’s worked with can’t wait to recommend him to others.

You want to follow this same reasoning when opting even to be on social platforms: You want to be there, be present, be current, and be generous.

Social Proof: An Opportunity to Market

When viewed only in terms of numbers, social proof could be written off as a popularity contest. Business owners should, admittedly, care more about the numbers that keep the company afloat than the ones that indicate how clever they are at gaining traction on social media.

However, a large social following is also a large platform to market products, services, menu changes, price updates, sales, events, contests, and more. Looked at this way, social proof is a form of lead generation. The more people who follow, the more you can sell to.

Additionally, if you ever decide to go the way of paid advertising on social media, you’ll have more options to reduce your ad spend when you have more followers. This is because, depending on what you’re trying to do, you might be spending money to sell to warm traffic, or people who have already interacted with your social content. Warm traffic tends to lead to more sales than cold traffic, and because it’s more rewarding for the customer (you), it tends to result in you spending more money with the people you pay to advertise for you. Because of this, the ad agency (or social platform) won’t gouge you the way they will with cold-traffic spenders, who are more likely to get discouraged and stop spending money on ads.

Social Proof: Quick Tips for Generation

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I plan to dive deeper into social presence in upcoming posts, but I don’t want you to leave today without some actionable takeaways! So here are a few tips for bumping up your follower counts and engagement:

  1. Post consistently. If you’re someone who knows you can’t commit to posting more than once a week, put it on your calendar and program an alert into your phone to post every week on your slowest business day (often a Monday or Tuesday for small businesses). Just showing up on a regular basis can encourage more interaction from your followers.
  2. Don’t try to sell anything—most of the time. Capture fun moments in the shop, tell a behind-the-scenes story, read a letter from a customer, or anything that shows how much you love what you do and how others are reaping the benefits. If you can give something away out of the kindness of your heart—cooking tips, a fun quiz, a printable, or anything else that makes people feel like they’re already getting the experience, even if they’ve never shopped with you before—that will lead to the right customers craving more, and eventually making a purchase.
  3. Point your social platforms to the place where you can capture emails or make a sale. If this sounds like it contradicts the previous tip, understand that this is a nuanced thing. When potential customers get that “preview” that leaves them feeling warm and fuzzy and they want more, you want it to be very easy for them to find the place where they can buy the next part of the experience. Make sure that your website is listed on all your platforms, place CTAs (calls to action) in appropriate places in your blog posts and email blasts, and funnel people to the place you want them to go.

That’s all for this week! What do you think? Did this clarify things for you, or are you still puzzled? Leave a comment below or come leave your thoughts on Instagram, @alexisthegreek!


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What do you think? Leave a comment over on Instagram @alexisthegreek! As always, if this information was helpful, share it with a fellow business person and stop by my tip jar to let me know you appreciated it. And if there's a topic you'd like me to cover in a future blog post, let me know by emailing hello@alexisthegreek.com.

Alexis Paquette

Hi! My name is Alexis. I’m a web designer and photographer for creative professionals. While I’m based in New England, I travel and I accept work from all over the world from both small and international brands!