Ratings, reviews and recommendations: the power of social proof

Over the last ten years or so consumers have become increasingly savvy and social proof is now a key factor in their purchasing decisions. This is hardly surprising as people tend to trust other people and value their opinions and recommendations. This article looks at the power of social proof and how your business can use it to let your customers do some of your marketing work for you!

What is social proof?

Social proof revolves around the premise that people tend to follow the actions of others on the assumption that their behaviour is likely to be correct. The more favourable reviews a business has, the more likely we are to believe that we will also have a good experience with that business. Recent statistics show that 82% read online reviews for local businesses, with the average consumer reading 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a business (BrightLocal).

Generally-speaking, there are five main types of social proof for small to medium-sized businesses:

1) User

This is when your customers recommend your products or service to others based on their own experiences. This might take the form of mentions on social media, Google reviews, testimonials, case studies, or ratings on review sites such as Trustpilot or TripAdvisor, for example.

2) Expert

This is when an expert in your field recommends your products or service(s), or agrees to be associated with your business in some capacity. This might be them agreeing to feature in a Twitter chat you’re running, for example, or having their endorsement on your website.

3) Wisdom of the crowd

This type of social proof is when large numbers are seen to be endorsing your business. This could be the number of followers on your social media platforms or the volume of positive reviews you have.

4) Wisdom of friends/family

This is when you see people you know approving of, or recommending, a business. It might be your friends or family using a product in real life or following a business on social media.

5) Certification and credentials

Sometimes people need to see an official stamp of authority before they trust you. This type of social proof might take the form of industry awards and certifications your business has received, for example.

Why is social proof so important?

Social proof matters for a number of reasons. It helps to:

  • build brand visibility, authority, and loyalty
  • overcome customer objections or doubts through user-generated content that increases trust and credibility
  • boost conversions.

All of these are highly persuasive grounds for your business to ensure it makes the best possible use of social proof!

How can your business harness the power of social proof?

There are many ways your business can use social proof to its advantage. One of the most important is to ensure you’re asking for reviews and testimonials from your customers! These can then be displayed or linked to from your website. You should also ensure that you respond to any reviews, particularly any negative ones, in a timely and professional fashion.

Any accreditations or certifications should also be displayed on your website and relevant marketing material, logos from awarding bodies are particularly effective in drawing customer attention to these and reinforcing trust.

To sum up, the power of social proof is not something your business can ignore. Make good use of this vital, low-cost marketing resource and you will certainly convert more prospects into customers!


If you need more help with your social media strategy, sign up to our next online masterclass. For more help specifically with social proof and how your business can maximise the impact of ratings and reviews, read Chapter 10 of the new Embrace the Space book!

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