Social Proof in Social Media
- Why it’s so important for businesses, both off and online -
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Imagine that you’re going out for dinner, and you find yourself on a street with several restaurants that all serve very similar cuisines. At first it seems like there’s nothing pulling you to one restaurant over any of the others, but then you take a closer look and notice that one of the restaurants is much more popular than the others. It doesn’t take a marketing expert to figure out that you’re going to be drawn towards the restaurant which is fuller. That magical quality which influences consumers, sometimes unconsciously, that a business, product or service is worth buying or using has a name: Social Proof.
In the example above, the very fact that one of the restaurants was full of happy customers served as its social proof that they offer a qualitatively better service than their competitors. It’s the same reason that popular nightclubs are intentional about there being a long line outside their entrances, since it serves as social proof that their club is the hottest place to be. By social “proof” in this context, it is meant that customers are offered evidence that the product or service is actually worth purchasing.
Why is it Important?
Social proof is critical to your success since it can make or break the future of your entire business. You can try selling the most incredible product that has ever been created, but if people don’t trust your company then it will all be for naught. Social proof has tremendous power to influence the behavior of consumers, and it’s essential that this forms a large component of your marketing strategy. For example, studies have found that the overwhelming majority of consumers take product reviews of other users into account before making a purchase. Another study found that whooping 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
As individualistic as many of us claim to be, there is extensive research done by psychologists, marketers, and other experts which indicates that we are greatly influenced by the behavior of others. This is a truth of doing business that applies across the board, irrespective of the size of your company or the sector in which it operates. While there are times in which consumers factor social proof into the equation consciously—like by actively reading up on reviews of a company before doing business with it—there are also times in which consumers are passively influenced by social proof as well. The image below demonstrates the power of social proof in purchase decisions.
Social Proof & Social Media
While the concept of social proof existed long before social media came around, it’s particularly imperative for businesses to capitalize on the potential that social media creates for building up social proof among a wide-ranging audience. One of the primary reasons that social media is useful for building social credibility is that it allows you to interact with customers on a public forum that is accessible to all. For small business owners and entrepreneurs, this is a unique opportunity to show potential customers how you take the time to reply to their queries, which helps establish your brand as caring and trustworthy. Look at the two Twitter accounts below. Both are centered around the singer Taylor Swift and giving updates about her. If you are like the massive majority of people you would choose to follow the upper account as it has 200,000 more followers than the similar account below it. This is the basis of social proof on social media. Popularity alone can help you grow quicker and offer the benefits of credibility and truth-worthiness.
Moreover, it sends a very clear message to those who are considering doing business with you that you will be there after their purchase if they have any questions or concerns. Being active on social media is an opportunity to build up your social proof as someone who pays close attention to the needs of potential and existing customers. Furthermore, another reason why social media and social proof go hand-in-hand so seamlessly is that by attracting large numbers of followers, you’ll establish your brand as an authority in its niche. In the same way that consumers are considerably more like to go to the bustling restaurant over those that are depressingly empty, consumers will much sooner hand over their hard-earned money to a brand with active social media profiles than to one which is invisible from the public eye.
Capitalizing on Social Media
In order to reap the potential of social media to build up your social proof, it’s crucial that you approach your social media profiles as strategically as any other area of your business. First and foremost, this means interacting and engaging with your followers, including tweeting and posting relevant content, replying to questions and comments, and providing an enjoyable experience. One of the main advantages of engaging and interacting with consumers on social media is that it’ll show them you care and can attract new potential customers as well as returning customers.
Additionally, it’s critical that you spend time building up the number of followers that you have in other to use that large quantity as social proof. There are a variety of ways of attracting followers, from telling your current customers or visitors via your website or email and cross referencing social networks, to purchasing followers straight up from reputable marketing companies. You can buy followers for Twitter, SoundCloud and even Vine.
Another strategy to build up your social proof on platforms such as Facebook is investing in sponsored ads to attract members of your target market to your brand’s profile page. One of the huge benefits of advertising on social media is that you can target the optimal demographics for your business, increasing the efficiency of your marketing campaigns by a large margin. Smart car has one of the best responses to social media inquires in recent history, the below image shows the interchange between a snarky twitter user and the company who got some amazing press from the snappy comeback.
What to Avoid
The stakes are high when it comes to social media, and generally it’s better for your business to ignore social media altogether than to do a poor job of maintaining your profiles. For example, if your brand’s profile page is full of unanswered comments and questions, then it sends an extremely negative impression to potential customers about your lack of concern for their needs. Similarly, if a social media user finds their way onto your brand’s page and discovers stale content that is completely outdated, it sends a bleak message about your brand being out of touch with today’s realities. Keep your profiles active and full of up-to-date, valuable content. You should also be aware of who has the ability to post to your account and monitor it for any activity that is not within the scope of your business's ethics. This blunder posted to Home Depot's Twitter account from an ad agency is a perfect example of why you have to constantly monitor your businesses social media presence.
Final Word: Capitalize on Social Proof
It behooves all businesses to appreciate the power of social proof, but it’s especially key for small businesses looking for a leg up over their larger competitors. Social media is an excellent tactic for boosting your social proof in a meaningful way, but be sure to give your profiles the attention they deserve to ensure that your credibility builds—and not the reverse!