Social Proof: What Is It and Why Does Your Brand Need It?

Taryn Williams

When people look for brands online they look for reviews, testimonials, and trust metrics. The more of these metrics you earn, the stronger your social proof. Here’s how to tap into this psychological phenomenon to drive conversions.

Did you know 90% of customers read online reviews before shopping?

*Mic drop*

Oh, you want more proof that your online reputation has a direct impact on your revenue?

Here’s the cold, hard truth. What customers buy is hugely influenced by what other people around them are buying. In fact, peer recommendation is a significant driver of purchasing behaviour.

Imagine you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes. You’ve narrowed your choice down to three similar pairs, but you can’t split them. One pair of shoes has over 500 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 stars. The next pair of shoes has 60 reviews with an average rating of 3.8 stars. The final pair has zero reviews. So, which pair do you choose?

If you’re like most people, you’re drawn to the product with the most reviews and the highest rating. Why? Thanks to a psychological phenomenon called social proof.

What is social proof?

The term social proof was coined in 1984 by author Robert Cialdini. This term describes the natural tendency to imitate what others are doing, especially people we respect or admire. Put simply, it’s the idea that people imitate the actions of others when they’re unsure how to behave.

If you’re at an event, this could mean watching other guests to see how they approach the snacks table. In marketing terms, social proof works the same way. When people shop, they look for reviews, testimonials, and recommendations to help them make an informed decision.

Social proof is so deeply embedded in your customer’s purchasing behaviour that they don’t even realise it - this makes it a potent marketing tool for you to use.

Social proof can work wonders in boosting sales. The more reviews and testimonials you have, the stronger your social proof. Keep in mind, trust in your brand comes from more than a 5/5 rating online, as there are dozens of ways to build online proof and help drive conversions (which we’ll explain below).

How does social proof work?

Ever heard the expression “jumping on the bandwagon”?

That’s what social proof does. The more positive feedback, reviews, testimonials, and buzz you create, your brand becomes more appealing. No one wants to miss out on a great product or service, which draws more attention to you. With more attention comes more social proof and the cycle continues.

Social proof is a psychological concept more than a marketing “hack”. People are more likely to engage in a particular action if others are already doing it.

For example, if 2,000 people have left reviews on your Facebook page, it’s easy for potential customers to feel confident they’ll love your brand too. But the reverse is also true. If you’ve got a handful of reviews and your competition have hundreds, customers will naturally be drawn to their brand over yours.

Why is social proof important?

Great social proof builds trust, and trust is the currency of the internet. You might dip into your savings (or splurge out on your credit card) to buy products. But you only take that final purchasing step once a brand has built the necessary trust to land a sale. If you need more proof on the value of social proof, try these stats on for size:

  • 40% of customers find brands to follow based on personal recommendations
  • 50% of customers visit a brand’s website after reading a positive review
  • 90% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase

Competition for customers is high no matter what industry you’re in. That means plenty of brands offer a similar product and service to you. You might think your offering is the best (and we love your #confidence), but your audience doesn’t know that. Social proof helps build trust. And trust helps land sales.

Examples of social proof

You’ve likely run into an example of social proof online (even if you didnt recognise it). Some of the most common forms include:

  • Testimonials from customers
  • Testimonials from experts
  • Customer case studies
  • Customers ratings
  • Reviews on third-party sites like Google or Facebook
  • Reviews on your website
  • Number of followers on social media
  • Download counts
  • Total customer counts
  • Share buttons with share and like counts
“Gifting has accelerated Koala’s influencer program by enabling us to connect to thousands of talented influencers and creators. Many of the gifting campaigns have resulted in high quality content that has gone on to be reused in our ad channels, and were some of our highest converting ads. I highly recommend brands to use it too.”

Bernice, Koala
Influencers enjoying Koala products

Now that you know how social proof can manifest, let’s talk about how you can start using it to your advantage with #gifted.

How to use #gifted to build social proof

Be honest, when was the last time you made a purchase without checking reviews or reading customer testimonials?

This behaviour is the default for consumers who seek validation of their purchase without even knowing it. Social proof is so deeply embedded in your customer’s purchasing behaviour that they don’t even realise it - this makes it a potent marketing tool for you to use. Through influencer marketing campaigns you can borrow third-party influence to sway potential customers.

Our influencers have developed strong relationships with their audience. When you partner with a #gifted influencer, you’re not just tapping into a broad audience looking for tips and insights on the best brands, you’re creating a priceless form of social proof that helps you drive conversions and kick your brand goals.

Ready to partner with the world’s best influencers? Sign up with #gifted to get started!

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