Operationalizing Social Proof
We have discussed the concept of social proof in prior blogs you can find listed here. In short social proof is “psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior for a given situation” (wikipedia). In this post we made the argument that social proof is the reason social media-based marketing works.
Most New Market Entrepreneurs intuitively understand the power of social proof in gaining traction at all stages of their rollout. The challenge becomes defining and executing a plan that will deliver powerful influencers to start the social proof wheels a-turning. But the process is not easy. In fact, we discussed the challenges associated with leveraging influencers last month (here).
That’s why we were excited to discover this piece published by Hubspot offering practical ideas for operationalizing social proof and we are eager to share some of its highlights.
The concept of social proof is nothing new, and it needn’t only apply to an online world. Consider the following traditional examples:
- Night clubs and bars limiting entry, making patrons wait in line outside to increase the perception that the venue is popular to attract more passersby.
- TV shows playing canned laughter or recorded applause to elevate the perception of funny or applaudable situations.
- McDonald’s fast-food restaurants displaying signs boasting “Billions and Billions Served.”
So while the concept of social proof may be nothing new, the rise of the internet and social media adoption have certainly made social proof a lot easier to leverage and exploit, especially in a marketing context. Building and providing better visibility for your business’ social proof can be a powerful addition to your marketing strategy.
The piece goes on to identify 5 types social proof categories. In planning your attack plan, we recommend New Market Entrepreneurs and their teams brainstorm heavily on each category in an attempt to identify leveragable opportunities for your cause.
- Expert Social Proof: Approval from a credible expert, such as an industry blogger or other authority
- Celebrity Social Proof: Approval or endorsements from celebrities, especially those that are unpaid
- User Social Proof: Approval from current users of the product/service, such as customer testimonials, case studies, and those all-powerful reviews
- ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’ Social Proof: Approval from large groups of other people (Our traditional examples above would fit nicely into this category of social proof.)
- ‘Wisdom of Your Friends’ Social Proof: Approval from your friends or people you know
1) Social Media Mentions Regularly monitoring your social media presence can be a great way to source social proof, especially User Social Proof, on a regular and ongoing basis. Incorporate mechanisms to surface some of these instances of social proof into your day-to-day monitoring activities. If you’re using a third-party tool like HootSuite orHubSpot’s social media monitoring, you can track mentions of your products or services and surface any positive mentions you find.
2) Embedded Tweets If someone tweets something positive about you, now you can embed that tweet on your product or case study pages (or elsewhere) to add credibility and emphasize User Social Proof. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using Twitter’s embeddable tweets feature to help you get started.
3) Social Plug-ins Social plugins are an excellent way to leverage ‘Wisdom of Your Friends’ Social Proof, and Facebook specifically offers several options in this category. Consider adding Facebook social plugins such as the Activity Feed, the Recommendations Plugin, the Like Box, and the Facepile Plugin to your website and blog content. These plugins put social proof at the forefront, showing site visitors thumbnail images and/or names of people they know who have already liked, recommended, subscribed to, shared, commented on, etc. the content the plugin is installed on.
4) Social Media Sharing/Follow Buttons Social sharing is a form of social proof, so make it simple and easy for your fans, followers, subscribers, etc. to share your content. Include social media sharing and follow links/buttons on all your content — on every blog post, every landing page, every page of your ebooks — everywhere! When you make it easy for people to share the content they love, there’s a better chance they’ll actually share it, expanding the reach of your content and spreading social proof for your business. For social game service provider Zynga, for example, friends inviting friends to play through Facebook and other social networks helped the company grow from 3 million to 41 million average daily users in just one year.
5) Case Studies & Testimonials Another great form of user social proof, publishing case studies and testimonials allows you to highlight the positive experiences of your happiest/most successful/passionate customers. Consider the various ways you can identify and feature your best customers. Connect with your customer service team and ask them to alert you whenever they come across a particularly happy customer. Then approach them for a testimonial or case study. At HubSpot, for example, we feature customer case studies on our case studies blog, feature user testimonials here, as well as showcase customer love through our “I HubSpot Because” campaign:
6) User-Generated Content User-generated content such as blog posts, photos, and even video can be another fantastic form of user social proof. Usually crafted by your brand’s biggest fans, this content is often very genuine, enthusiastic, and positive. Video user testimonials on YouTube, for example, generated 3x the conversion rate vs. organic traffic for Beachbody, the makers of P90x fitness. Consider holding a user-generated content contest, and feature the best submissions on your website, blog, and via social media.
7) User Reviews & Ratings User reviews and rating systems can be found on review sites such as Yelp, within social networks (LinkedIn Reviews is a great example), or particularly in the case of ecommerce businesses, implemented directly on your website. And according to Harvard Business Review research, a 1-star increase in Yelp rating leads to 5-9% growth in sales. To encourage more positive reviews on third-party review sites, check out this helpful guide to accumulating awesome online reviews.
8) Social Advertising One of the most recent internet-based applications of social proof is in social advertising, or ads that leverage the social context of the user viewing them. In other words, in social advertising, the marketer targets users based on what they know about that individual’s social network. Promoted Tweets and various Facebook Engagement and Sponsored Stories ads are great examples of social advertising, which enable marketers to better target their advertising efforts and leverage ‘Wisdom of Your Friends’ or ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ Social Proof in advertising efforts, as seen in the example at right. To experiment with Facebook’s social advertising functionality, check out our free ebook on creating effective Facebook ads (no form submission required!).
9) User Statistics This form of social proof, which falls under the category of ‘wisdom of the crowd’ social proof, can be leveraged by surfacing such user statistics as blog subscribers, customer install base, user successes, etc. What are some of your business’ most impressive stats? Do you have an impressive install base (remember our McDonald’s example)? Is your blog subscribership something to brag about? Have you been in business for decades? Have your customers collectively accomplished something impressive?
10) Media & Blog Mentions That’s right — media mentions are definitely a form of Expert Social Proof, so be sure you’re giving that PR coverage the attention it deserves! Keep your press room up-to-date and make it more social so people can easily find and share your positive press with their networks. To learn how to ramp up your media and blogger relations efforts to get more coverage, check out this blog post.
When it comes to securing influencers and driving social proof, there is no magic bullet and assured hard work. We wanted to close by sharing another piece that speaks a similar message to our own regarding the challenges associated with securing influencers.
Pursuing the “big influencers” alone, is probably one of the biggest fallacies on the web.
Put aside the challenges how to find influencers and consider what “influencer” means. To me, it’s someone that has earned ongoing attention of an audience or community and the ability to motivate others to action. There’s often a disconnect between the appearance of influence and those in a position to act on it.
Mass influence exists, but it’s often confused with popularity. They’re not the same thing.
Influencers with mass appeal are easy to find and get found often. They get pummeled with requests by others to do things: share this, promote that. Some of them take up those offers and lose credibility by over-promoting. While they have a significant community watching and listening to them, the ability to inspire action is often lost.
Maybe niche influence is what companies should be considering. Rather that just going after the big fish, target those that have closer, more intimate and meaningful connections with their networks. Say goodbye to the idea that if you could just get that one famous person to say something positive about your software on Twitter, or Facebook or on a blog, then things are going to happen. They probably won’t.
Go after a quantity of quality. Go after many different niche influencers. Not just the big fish.
We could not agree more. New Market Entrepreneurs who carefully consider- then operationalize every aspect for how social proof / digital influence will play a role in their product launch and/or ongoing marketing will reap higher rewards than those who do not.