Does publishing engaging content make people want to buy from you?
While this is important, effective content creation is only one piece of the puzzle.
After your target audience has read your blog posts, downloaded your eBooks, and visited your website – they are looking for validation. They want to validate the thoughts and feelings they have already formed about your brand with consensus.
Consensus is one of the six universal principles of persuasion – people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own actions. In today’s digital landscape consensus comes from social proof.
An ounce of psychology: Why social proof works in marketing
Social proof simply means that people conform to the actions of others, under the assumption that these actions reflect a correct or acceptable behavior (in other words, what the “cool kids” are doing). It takes the form of feedback, reviews, and approval from other people who have tried your product or service.
Although a marketing environment is different than the halls of a high school, much of the psychological influence behind social proof, and why it works, remains the same. When prospects look at a solution that will answer their pain points or solve their problems, it’s human nature to conform to the actions of those who’ve been there before.
Leveraging social proof can push your brand to new heights, whether you harness its power on your website, in your social media posts, or as part of your content marketing strategy. A number of ways exist to establish social proof, but below are a few that can undeniably build your brand’s trust and credibility in the minds of prospective clients – making them want to buy.
5 Ways Your Brand Can Leverage Social Proof
1. Turn employees into brand ambassadors
The easiest way for a company to create social proof is through its employees – one of its most untapped resources. When coming directly from employees, posts about how great the company culture is, an upcoming sponsored event, or even a new job opening will always feel more authentic in the eyes of prospects than a corporate post ever will.
Employees have access to fresh and unique audiences that a marketing team has difficulty reaching, and their posts are much more likely to be considered real and trustworthy.
Quick tips for encouraging employees to share on social media:
- Launch an employee advocacy program and create a set of guidelines to keep employees informed.
- If your company is recruiting, ask employees to share the news on their personal social profiles.
- Incentivize social sharing by rewarding employees who have generated the most likes, shares, or clicks, or found the next hire for your company.
- Use employee advocacy tools such as Addvocate or Social Chorus to get everyone on board.
- Create a company culture hashtag, such as Adobe did with #adobelife (see below), and encourage employees to share social posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using it.
Example of employee advocacy using the #adobeLife hashtag:
2. Capture real-time social proof by listening
Social listening is an essential part of better understanding your target audience. On Twitter for example, you should track brand mentions and respond to any questions, comments or feedback as promptly as possible.
To start monitoring your brand mentions, download a free tool such as TweetDeck, and create a stream to follow mentions of your Twitter handle. Then, start favoriting, re-tweeting or interacting with any tweets about your brand. For example, this could be a prospect tweeting about helpful customer support, or an existing customer sharing feedback on one of your new products. The tendency at this stage is to only respond to positive messages, but it is also important to proactively respond to negative comments where possible.
Here is an example of the favorites timeline from KISSMetrics, a brand who regularly interacts with prospective customers on Twitter:
You may also like to track industry keywords on Twitter; if anyone is asking for suggestions on a product or solution, look for a way to get them to check yours out.
Social listening is powerful because it not only builds your brand’s image, but also offers website visitors an interactive and real-time experience. Look to leverage this form of social proof by embedding tweets on your website for prospects to see.
3. Collaborate with customers & influencers
Content marketing and social proof go hand-in-hand. There are countless opportunities for bringing customers – or even influencers, into your content marketing strategy. Partnering with another company or individual compounds the effect of promotion and amplifies your exposure. As this positive energy gains momentum it acts as “proof” that your customers and thought-leaders support your brand.
Ideas for joint content marketing initiatives:
- Co-host your next webinar with a customer, or if possible, an industry influencer. Figure out a way that the event will benefit both of you, and then ask them to help promote it on social media by creating an event hashtag.
- Contact one of your most active customers, and write up a case study. Publish it on your website, upload the slides to SlideShare if relevant, and share it in your nurturing emails.
- Reach out to an influencer via Twitter to request an interview, and publish it as a blog post.
- Ask a customer or influencer to contribute a quote to your next eBook or white paper.
- Create a “Clients Page” for your website to feature testimonials (with logos and headshots).
Here is an example from the HubSpot customer testimonials webpage:
4. Ask your customers to write online reviews
When was the last time you purchased a product – or even went to a restaurant, without first reading a few reviews?
Studies show that 70% of consumers say they look at product reviews before making a purchase, while 79% of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews can make or break a brand, and motivating happy customers to share their experience online – particularly on social, can generate some much needed social proof. So be proactive about generating positive reviews by asking your best customers.
Take some time to research the niche review sites in your industry – such as Yelp, TrustRadius or G2Crowd – and seek to reward the people who have reviewed your product or service. Ask to showcase their photo, company logo, and part of their review on your website or landing page.
Here is an example of a customer review from TrustRadius:
5. Add social share counts to your site
This last one is more obvious than the others – but sometimes it’s the basic ideas that count most for social proof. Adding social media share buttons, such as the AddThis widget, is the quickest way to give readers the chance to share content on their personal profiles.
Here is an example of social media share buttons from JeffBullas.com:
If you’re new to blogging, it might be best to only have share buttons – with no counter – since share counts will probably be low. But, when you start gaining a dedicated readership, placing a counter on your blog posts shows readers that others find your content worthy of sharing, subconsciously nudging them to follow in the footsteps of their peers.
When done well, these five actions will transform the perception of your brand. Leveraging social proof is a powerful tool for marketers, as it demonstrate to prospective clients that your solution is a legitimate part of your industry’s conversation.
Of course you need to talk about your brand – but it’s far more compelling to showcase how current clients and industry players are talking about your products and services.
About the author: Valerie Levin is the Director of Inbound Marketing at Penguin Strategies, a B2B marketing agency focused on bridging the gap between sales and marketing, and leveraging inbound marketing to generate qualified leads for clients.
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