Have you ever wondered why each tip jar is at least half full at all times? Or why you’re very likely to participate in viral trends?

You guessed it: Thanks to a psychological phenomenon called social proof

There are ways to turn this social proof bias to your benefit!

Read further to discover social proof strategies for your marketing efforts.

Pssst.. Here’s a previous article about social proof strategies specifically for e-commerce, if that’s more suitable for your needs.

What Is Social Proof Bias?

The social proof bias occurs when we are not sure about how to behave in a new situation.

In those situations, we often look at others. How are they behaving?

The concept was popularized by psychology professor and author Robert Cialdini, who listed it as one of the six principles of persuasion.

social proof definition

Like other cognitive biases, social proof is kind of irrational. We have no way of knowing if what others do is right – but we believe it anyway.

Take this example from my personal experience…

I was parking in a new area. I saw multiple cars parked diagonally next to the street, so naturally, I followed their lead.

Little did I know that was the wrong way.

It didn’t even occur to me that there was a sign telling us to park vertically. Only after receiving a nice little ticket I went to check the signs.

Basically, I trusted other people who had parked there before instead of checking for myself how to do it.

That’s a prime example of social proof.

Let’s check out more definitions for the phenomenon.

Different Types of Social Proof

types of social proof

Social proof can be further divided into different categories.

The six categories are explained below:

Type of social proofHow it worksUse cases for marketers
Family and friendsThe social proof effect is the strongest when following the actions of those we relate to the most. We might not care about strangers’ opinions as much as what our friends and family think.Personal recommendations, word-of-mouth, affiliate programs, multi-level marketing, family discounts…
ExpertWhen dentists recommend a toothpaste, it must be good, right? 
Experts know more than we do, which is why we trust they are in the right when we are lost.
Expert recommendations, advertisements, commercials, packaging…
Celebrity/influencerCelebrities or influencers might not be experts in the products they advertise, but the right celebrity brings certain image for the brand. We want to purchase something these people use because we identify and relate to them. I, for one, am seriously considering buying a perfume solely because Emma Watson promotes it!Advertisements, commercials, social media marketing, social media takeovers, influencer marketing, paid sponsorships…
Customers and usersToday, people have become more aware of the fact that celebrities and experts are likely being paid to say certain things. But you know who don’t lie? Who know the products the best? The actual customers and users – people just like us. They can’t be controlled as much by the brands, which makes them trustworthy source of social proof.Recommendations, affiliate programs, word-of-mouth, user-generated content, reviews…
Wisdom of the crowdThe more people trust something, the better. When you are able to show that you have lots of people on your side, you’ll build trust faster.Reviews (a large amount!), numbers, community, large social media audience…
CertificationCertification is a stamp of approval from someone who is regulating a specific field. For example, a Michelin star is the ultimate certificate for a quality restaurant.Badges, recognition by authorities and experts…

Now, let’s look at different tactics you as a marketer can use social proof to persuade customers.

Strategy 1: Micro or Nano Influencers

Micro influencers are a great choice for executing affiliate programs.

This tactic combines multiple types of social proof: influencer social proof, customers and users, and wisdom of the crowds.

The idea is to make it look like everyone is using your products.

Contact a larger group relevant micro influencers and ask them to post about your brand around the same time.

As a reference, let’s look at some influencer definitions.

  1. Celebrity or “macro” influencers have over 100,000 followers on social media.
  2. Micro influencers have between 10-100k followers.
  3. Nano influencers have less than 10k followers on social media.

But why micro influencers? Why not the big names?

Well, here’s the reasoning:

  • Micro or nano influencers are affordable compared to big names. Most of the time, small businesses can’t even afford the famous influencers.
  • Smaller influencers are more relatable to the average consumer. It can mean a better social proof bias effect.
  • Especially on Instagram, the fewer followers an influencer has, the more engagement they get for their posts. It means people are actually paying attention to your product.
Image source

If you decide to employ this strategy, you might be better off starting with local influencers, and carefully choosing the ones speaking to your target audience. 

That creates the illusion of “everyone” being obsessed with your brand. If you choose influencers from a broad range of topics and geographical areas, the chances are that they are not reaching your goal demographic.

And, if your product is truly awesome, it might go viral on its own 😉

Tactic 2: Make A TikTok Trend

Talking about viral, if you are able to create a viral TikTok trend, your success will be guaranteed. At least for some time.

TikTok is notorious for users creating the same type of video over and over again. Everyone wants to join the trend because it’s so popular.

But how does one just create a viral trend? You can’t just decide to put something viral. It needs to be packed up by a ridiculous number of people.

One way to attempt a viral trend is to create a challenge, come up with a strong hashtag, and pay a few influencers to take part in it.

The challenge must be fun and easy to do if you want people to get excited about it.

The social proof kicks in when your original video has lots of likes, or when the trend itself grows big and everyone wants to be involved.

For example, a recent #sitdownchallenge has accumlated almost 95 million views. Can you even gather how many people that is?? 

But how to turn a viral challenge into revenue for your business?

The chances are that even if your challenge goes viral, it won’t translate into sales. Unless your challenge involves a product that can only be purchased from you!

Converse did this by encouraging people to design their own Converse style, as explained in the video below.

There are other cases where companies have gone viral due to their creative content. 

Look at Duolingo, for example. They have created funny content, participated in trends, and stitches other creators’ content.

With this tactic, they have accumulated almost 5 million followers and 96 million likes. It must affect their bottom line somehow!

Most of the time, the best TikTok can do is to raise brand awareness and build your image as a fun company.

If you want a deeper dive to the topic, check out this Youtube video by Hubspot (jump to 5:30 if you want to especially hear about creating your own trend!)

Don’t forget to check our our recent webinar on TikTok tips and best practices.

Tactic 3: User-Generated Content on Your Website

Many brands have employed user generated content as part of their marketing strategy. 

This is used by encouraging users to publish content on social media with a specific hashtag, and by tagging the company.

It’s a great tactic, but how about adding user generated content on your website, too?

User-generated content can mean reviews or video testimonials, but also content published on social media that is imported to the website.

The most effective form is images or videos that showcase the users and the products.

80% of people would be more likely to purchase from a brand that showcases UGC on the website.

You can do this easily by importing user-generated content from social media platforms with a tool like Trustmary.

All this is part of a broader social shopping and social commerce trend that is surely going to grow in the future.

For example the brand Mutjutin uses videos where customers massage their dogs with the product they have purchased:

video testimonials as user generated content

Tactic 4: Keep Your Review Game Fresh

I’m probably not wrong if I say that you read reviews before buying a new product online.

Unless you are the exceptional one out of ten consumers who doesn’t.

The reason why people read reviews is social proof. They want to know what other people think of the products, or the brand in general.

Review statistics show that there are some things that make reviews effective:

  • Number of reviews: the more the better.
  • Recency: reviews should be less than one month old to be trustworthy.
  • Star rating: honest opinions are valued, and the best place to be is not at full 5-star average, but a bit below that.

You should be able to keep up with this standard if you ask for reviews regularly.

A prominent belief seems to be that reviews only concern e-commerce, and the first association is product reviews.

However, reviews are important for any business in any industry.

All companies need to build trust online, and customer reviews are one of the best ways to accomplish it, thanks to social proof bias.

With Trustmary, you can collect and showcase reviews easily and automatically.

Here’s how our client Windward does it:

testimonial widget

Tactic 5: Business Case Studies

Another big misconception is that business clients would somehow be immune to social proof. 

“They are supposed to be rational and calculative, which means they are not affected by emotional factors.”

If you think that, it’s time to change your perspective!

Businesses are managed by people, and regardless of having certain business goals to hit, they aren’t immune to cognitive biases.

However, perhaps more than in consumer marketing, the B2B field requires factual information and evidence of results.

To provide this for your sceptical leads, create case studies from previous successful business cases.

Focus on actual, tangible results. If possible, provide numbers from before and after the client started collaborating with you.

Repurpose the story for multiple platforms: make a video, write a case study, post on social media, create an infographic.

This is great peer social proof for potential clients who can relate to these businesses and are looking for similar results. 

To make it easier to relate to, include details of the company’s industry, size, customer base, challenges, and so on. 

business case study example

Conclusion

Social proof bias affects us all, regardless of our work title or what we are shopping for.

As a marketer, you have a chance to leverage the phenomenon.

This article introduced five possible strategies, but it’s just a tiny peek into what you could do. See the further reading to discover more tips!

If you can’t wait to start using social proof and want a fast solution, I have one for you.

With Trustmary, you can import your existing Google, Facebook, Yelp, and many other reviews and showcase them on your website with a stylish widget.

Sign up for free today, and you can tap into the benefits right away!

When you notice how powerful the reviews are on your website, you can move on to collect more of them yourself with our automated workflow. But let’s not rush ahead of things…

Further Reading

FAQ

What is social proof bias?

Social proof is a cognitive bias in which we assume that other people’s behavior is correct, when we are unsure of how to act. It’s a phenomenon that makes us follow the pack.

How to make use of social proof in marketing?

Social proof is a powerful marketing tool. When you know how to harness it, you can boost your business. The key is to get other people recommend or speak highly of your brand. It can be friends and family, celebrities, experts, other customers, you name it. 

What is the best social proof tactic?

The best social proof effect is reached when customers can identify with and relate to your advocates. Most of the time it’s their closest friends who make personal recommendations. The best way to imitate that situation is to employe customer reviews and testimonials on your website.