93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product. In other words, people value other people’s views more than what a company says, which is why social proof should be a core part of your marketing strategy.
Social proof plays an important part in decision making. It reassures us. After all, if other people are using your product or service, it must be good.
What exactly is social proof?
According to Wikipedia
"Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation. The term was coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence, and the concept is also known as informational social influence."
Social proof is also often referred to as herd behaviour. Following the crowd. "If other people are following X company, then I should as well. After all, they can't all be wrong."
People trust what their peers say about your products and services more than your own sales or marketing material, which is why they research, read reviews and look for recommendations online before making a purchase.
Think about it. If you’re looking for a new restaurant, would you go to one that has hundreds of good online reviews or one with a few mediocre ratings? Similarly, you’re more likely to choose a restaurant that’s busy when you pass by rather than one with no customers inside.
B2B customers are exactly the same, they want to be confident that they’re making the right choice when they decide to do business with you.
Everyone comes across social proof at some point. Popular forms include creating a feeling of FOMO by saying “don’t miss out, only 1 left” or “exclusive offer ends tomorrow." There are also popular celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing activities that encourage you to make a purchase because a ‘celebrity’ uses that particular product.
While this can be effective in B2C marketing, B2B customers tend to value peer to peer social proof more than paid for forms of endorsement.
So what are the main marketing tactics that B2B companies can use to build their social proof, increase trust and persuade customers to make a purchase by triggering that “me too” feeling?
8 common types of social proof for B2B marketing
The main aim of B2B social proof is to grow your business, in other words, generate sales.
This can be achieved in a number of ways:
1. Customer case studies – for me case studies are the best form of social proof as they take a detailed look at how you helped solve a customer’s pain point. They’re an incredibly powerful way to show that your products are as good as you say they are and that other companies trust you. Professionally written case studies are great third-party endorsements however, video case studies are stronger as they visually show how you helped a customer or how a company is using your product.
2. Testimonials – are simple examples of social proof and work on the same principle as a case study, they’re just shorter. A couple of sentences or short paragraphs often in the form of a quote from a customer is a great way to highlight specific features of a product or benefits from a service. If you can, include a photograph of the person providing the endorsement as this will increase the credibility and effectiveness of the testimonial.
3. Numbers and statistics –these can be used in several ways to build social proof. You could say how many people have bought one of your products, how long you’ve been in business, how many m2 of flooring you’ve laid or how many people have signed up for your newsletter.
Figures and stats can be used on your website, in email campaigns, social media posts and in sales material. But remember, you need to update the numbers when necessary, otherwise their legitimacy will be questioned.
4. Social shares - social media sharing allows you to reach not only your own audience but also new audiences when your customers share your content with their followers.
Make it easy for people to share your material by adding share options on your website, a blog post or an email campaign. Including share counts on blogs or social media posts will show visitors that others found the information useful, liked it and shared it with their connections.
You can even include a social share CTA in the body of your blog post. This is how Content Marketing Institute encourages people to share tweets from its blogs.
5. In the press – people value editorial content more than paid for advertisements. When publications write about your company, products or services they’re helping to build brand awareness and provide social proof.
A good way to gain coverage in the relevant trade press is through case studies or generic feature articles, discussing a particular industry issue. If you’re launching a new product, give one of the main trade titles exclusivity on how the product was designed, tested or developed. Once you’ve been featured in the press, you can include snippets on your website or link to the online article.
6. Expert endorsements – I suppose this could be seen as the B2B version of celebrity endorsements; except they’re not paid for. Reviews or comments from experts in your industry can provide strong social proof and have a major influence on whether someone buys your products or services.
7. Publicising your customer base - including logos on your website will show who is using your products or services and who you’ve worked with in the past. And if it’s good enough for these companies, then it’s good enough for potential customers.
8. Certificates and accreditations - if you've gained accreditations that are recognised by your industry, then display these on your website and on your emails.
For example, CHAS and Constructionline logos show those in the building and safety sectors that you’ve been successfully audited for compliance against specific criteria of risk management, health and safety, whilst ISO 14000 demonstrates your commitment to environmental impact management.
Accreditations such as these show competency and assure your audience that you meet required industry standards.
Socially boost your SEO
These are just a few ways to boost your social proof and the benefits they'll bring about. And if you’re still not convinced that you should include social proof in your marketing strategy, it can help boost your SEO. Who doesn’t want to boost their search engine rankings?
It’s logical really. The more people who talk about your brand, company or products online, share your content on social media or link to your blog posts, the higher you’ll start to rank on search engines.
Start building your social proof
There are of course so many more ways to build your social proof. The chances are you already have some elements of social proof in what you already do. The trick is to identify these and make sure you’re using them to their full potential.
Test out the different tactics. Once these start to show results you can introduce other techniques into your campaigns such as online customer ratings and reviews or awards.
Or you can just focus on your best performing activities. You don’t have to try and do everything.
Use the power of social proof for your marketing
The power of social proof as a form of marketing should never be underestimated. We’re social creatures and are influenced by what our friends, family and peers think and do.
Building your social proof in the form of case studies, testimonials, user statistics or social shares and using them in your marketing campaigns will build credibility and increase trust.
When done well, social proof will give you a competitive edge and help potential customers to make that all important purchasing decision.
Need help writing content to boost your social proof or advice on your strategy? Get in touch, I’m here to help you.