Picture the scene: You're on your way to work on the Underground, sipping on a latte, dreading the boring Management Team meeting that afternoon.
Then a commotion breaks out ahead.
You can't see what's happening, but people start running. They run past you and back up the stairs, terrified looks stretched across their faces.
What do you do?
Does your curiosity get the better of you, compelling you to venture in the other direction? Or do you turn tails and run as fast as your feet can carry you?
Most people would choose the latter. Most people know that when everyone else seems to know something that they don't, it's a safe bet to follow the crowd.
You Already Know what Social Proof Is
This is essentially what social proof boils down to. The question: "What do they know that I don't?"
We all experience it on a daily basis – though perhaps in less distressing ways than disturbances on the Tube.
If you've ever been on holiday in a foreign country and wandered out into the local square to pick a restaurant, you will know all about what social proof is.
When you have no idea which restaurant is best, you can place a fairly safe bet that the one with the large queue forming out the front has something good to offer, while the half-empty place opposite is probably worth avoiding.
We care about what other people think. We care even more when we know them and trust their opinions, but we're still happy to go with the recommendations of complete strangers most of the time.
Following the crowd is programmed into our brains at a deep level. We use other people's knowledge and experiences when making decisions where we lack enough information to make an informed choice.
That's why using social proof is such a crucial element of sales copywriting.
An Essential Element of Your Landing Page
If you are creating a landing page, adding an element (or many elements) of social proof should be considered essential.
For most marketers, this means testimonials. But while testimonials are an excellent form of social proof (when they are done well, at least), there are many other ways to use it effectively.
So let's imagine for now that you have no testimonials, or that for some reason you don't want to use them. Here are three simple ways to incorporate the mighty social proof.
If your product or service can be reviewed, then it's high time you started to collect some. Because that is what people do now. They go online, and they find out what other people are saying about things before they spend their money.
I do this all the time. Before I buy anything on Amazon, I always read the reviews, because it's here that you find out what's really going on, those little problems that are for obvious reasons not highlighted in the product description.
I was looking for a wind-up torch the other day and found one I liked the look of (good price, good features, etc.) But one of the first reviews had this to say:
… and my search began anew.
But while bad reviews can put people off buying, good reviews can do the opposite. So if you have picked up some great reviews, either on a third-party site or on social media, use them right in your landing page.
Take a screenshot of your reviews and highlight them to your prospect at the moment in time when they are most likely to convert. These are even better than testimonials because you do not have any control over them, making them more genuine.
But go beyond looking for positive reviews. The 'this is great' type of review that doesn't really say anything other than "I'm a happy customer".
Look for reviews that highlight a specific feature. Ideally, this will be a feature that is likely to raise objections in your prospects, a question that they are always asking.
Perhaps one that addresses the quality of the customer support, like: "When I had a problem, they got back to me within the hour and they were really friendly."
Whenever you create sales copy, you'll want to know about the objections your prospects might have. Addressing these is good – but getting a third party to address them is ten times better.
2. Press Mentions
You arrive on a product page, and it all looks a bit ordinary. Perhaps you're researching a new vacuum cleaner. But then you see the following:
"As mentioned in The Guardian, The Telegraph, Forbes, Time"
Suddenly you're interested.
This is not just some standard run-of-the-mill product. This is a product that has attracted the attention of the big media publications and websites. Publications that you know and
that you read.
Whose opinions you trust.
Even the mention of these publications and websites can influence your opinion of a product or service.
That's why you see this so often on landing pages and home pages. Their mere presence indicates trust. Like these from LinkedInfluence:
And these on the Drip site:
Interestingly, such press mentions rarely go beyond the icons themselves, showing just how effective they are. You may have just written a guest blog for the publication. It could have been a negative review! You've still been featured.
That's why to make full use of these tactics, it's worth putting them into context. Being specific can give you so much more credibility. How about: 'Described by Best Vacuum Cleaner as a vast improvement on 2015's models."
And remember that the publications don't have to be national newspapers or huge websites: they just need to mean something to your prospects. That could mean niche publications, or blogs that no one outside of your target market will have ever heard of.
3. Social Media Followers
Social media is used for many reasons, which I won't go into here. But one of these is social proof.
Which product do you choose – the one with 10 Likes, or the one with 10,000 Likes?
This is one of the reasons businesses are so keen to get a huge number of Likes and Follows and Tweets.
Many probably do it for the SEO and to drive traffic, but it's the social proof element that is so interesting for sales copy.
If you see: "Join 12,854 others following us on Twitter", you're going to be at least intrigued – 12,854 other people can't be wrong!
This is where the power of big numbers comes into play. You don't just see this with social media – newsletters use it as well, like this example from HealthAndSafetyTips:
The effect is the same: if that many people have signed up, it must be good.
Just quickly, the above example could have been made better still if it had used an exact number like 5,342 rather than just “over 5,000”.
Large numbers impress. Small number, on the other hand, do not. So if you've only got 15 Facebook friends, you might not want to shout about it.
If you have some big numbers, just try to make it relevant to what you are trying to achieve. For example, highlight newsletter subscriber numbers if you want to encourage more people to sign up to your newsletter.
But even if you don't make it relevant, showing off large numbers is always going to help convince your prospects when they land on your landing page.
This Is Just the Start
Reviews, press mentions and social media followers are just three of the ways you can use social proof in your landing pages, websites, emails and other types of sales copy.
But they are just the start.
Do you rank highly on a trusted website? For example, do you have a hotel with a good ranking on TripAdvisor, especially a number-one ranking?
Have you been awarded a certificate from a well-known industry body?
These will all help.
You need social proof. You will find it harder to convince without it. No social proof suggests you have something to hide, especially now that it is so easy to gather reviews.
And while you should always have testimonials and endorsements, don't forget about the other ways social proof can help you increase conversions.
So show prospects that other people like you and trust you – and reap the rewards.