Social proof is a term that’s gained a lot of popularity in recent years and is most often associated with online marketing. However, as a psychological idea it goes back much farther than this, and is a concept as old as human society itself.

At its core, social proof is all about trust. As human beings we’re wired to trust the opinions of our friends and neighbours, and as we’ve moved into the internet age this has spilled over into trusting online reviews and testimonials

In fact, social proof is so strong that research has shown that 92% of people would trust a recommendation from a friend, 70% would trust online reviews, but only 40% would trust a paid advertisement. So, it’s undeniable that social proof is important in marketing your product, but how can you use social proof in advertising effectively? We break down 6 ways you can.

1. User testimonials

This is probably one of the most common ways to use social proof in advertising. This is a genuine endorsement of your product or service and is up there in the 70% trust range. User testimonials can come from a few different sources:

  • On your company website
  • Via social media comments
  • Review aggregator sites like Trustpilot

Where possible, try and encourage your customers to leave testimonials and reviews in as many places as possible. The more positive reviews you have, the more people trust your product and the greater your social proof.

Looking for a tool to collect testimonials? Try the free version of our software!

2. Expert social proof

This type of social proof stems from the innate trust we place in authority figures and experts. This can be a little more difficult to obtain, as it involves reaching out to industry experts, but it’s an advertising strategy that can pay dividends.

We’ve actually seen this done for years in the dental industry. Who of us hasn’t seen one of those toothpaste adverts that claims “9 out of 10 dentists would recommend this toothpaste!”.

Of course you’ll need to be a little more sophisticated today. Some larger companies are able to involve experts in their research and development process of new products and can post updates to social media.

Smaller organizations can reach out to experts with large social media followings, and offer free trials of their products. If the experts are impressed, they’ll spread the good word.

3. Business credentials

This is another type of social proof in advertising that adds trust to your product. When people see how many others have placed their trust in you, they’re sure to follow suit. Let’s be honest, which would you trust more? The business that has serviced thousands of happy customers, or a brand new start up? People are much more likely to go with the one that has the most credentials. Some good credentials you can shout about include:

  • Total number of customers over the lifetime of your business
  • Any big name clients your business serves
  • Number of positive online reviews
  • Any industry awards you’ve won
  • Government accreditations for quality
  • Variety of products you sell

This type of social proof is generally used more by established businesses, as the longer you’ve been trading, the more time you’ve had to build up a reputation. Make sure you get these positive stats on your website.

4. FOMO – The fear of missing out

You might have heard of FOMO, or the fear of missing out. It’s a relatively new term, but the ideas behind it are quite old. Essentially, us humans don’t want to miss out on what the crowd is doing. If we see a group of people flocking towards a certain place, product or service, others are likely to follow.

But how do you use FOMO as social proof in advertising? Well, you need to convince people they’re missing out on one of your products that everyone else is enjoying. This can be done in the following ways:

  • Use limited time offers. Timed sales and events are a real encouragement to make sales. Just look at offers like Black Friday, or Amazon Prime Day as examples.
  • Give examples of customers who acted quickly in the past and how they benefited from getting in early. Always ask your customers permission first though before using their example in advertising.
  • Use exit pop ups on your website. Just as a customer is about to leave your website without purchasing, you can add an exit pop up. This will give your customer a last minute offer or discount, and hopefully persuade them to stay.

You may also want to check out these 7 real examples you can copy for your FOMO advertising.

5. Celebrity endorsements

This is a new form of social proof that has grown with the rise of Instagram and social influencers. While you can pay social media influencers and celebrities to endorse your product, it’ll be much more meaningful if you can get a natural endorsement.

Similar to getting social proof from experts, you can reach out to celebrities and influencers who might have an interest in your product, offer it to them for free, and if they like it you should get an endorsement.

6. Gazing

Gazing is a social proof advertising tactic that is becoming more and more popular. This is a method that’s used to attract customer’s gaze to a certain product and is used heavily in social media marketing. It’s based on our tendency to stare at something interesting or exciting.

This can be done by making engaging content and posting it to social media sites. People are naturally more drawn to videos and images, and these types of posts get far more traction on social media than others.

You can also apply gazing on a more basic level on your website. Make routes to purchase or sign up to email lists as obvious as possible, and use people’s natural gazing habits to attract attention where you want it.

Things to remember

These are just a few of the tips and tricks you can use for effective social proof in advertising, there are many more out there so feel free to mix and match to find a marketing mix that suits you. Always remember the importance of your customer reviews though. We’d say that this is the most important aspect of social proof, so try and encourage as many reviews, recommendations and testimonials as possible.