Word-of-mouth has always been the marketer’s best friend, and the web has only made the concept more powerful. Consumers are no longer limited to the opinions of people they know in real life. Today, they can find out what people on the other side of the country think about a product they are considering.
For content marketers, this news is either very good or really bad. According to Buzzsumo, 50% of content earns less than 8 shares, and a lot of posts earn exactly zero shares. But about 1 in 4 earn thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of shares. Why? While quality is most certainly a factor, it is not the only consideration. Posts that harness trends were most popular. Then again, writing about things your core audience is talking about should be a no-brainer.
And then there’s amplification. Generating buzz. Earning social proof. When more people are talking about your content, more people are likely to read it.
So, how can you harness that kind of power in your marketing?
What is Social Proof?
In terms of social media and marketing, social proof is also known as earned media. It is comprised of independent reviews, comments, blog posts, shares, and other endorsements your customers volunteer.
Everyone loves to share their opinions, talk about new purchases, give and receive advice. That’s why social media is so wildly popular. Connection makes people feel like part of a group, and reading user reviews helps consumers feel they are making a truly informed decision. The overwhelming majority of consumers say they trust reviews as much as they trust recommendations from people they know.
Fast Facts About Social Proof:
Bright Local ran a survey about customer reviews for six weeks from May to June 2014. Of the 2,104 respondents, 90% were from the United States and 10% from Canada. While I definitely recommend checking out the complete report, here is a snapshot of some quick facts that stood out.
- 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business
- 39% of consumers reviews on a regular basis
- 67% of consumers say they read up to 6 reviews before trusting a business
- 85% of consumers say they read up to 10 reviews before trusting a business
- 57% visit a local business website after reading a positive review
- 37% have used Facebook, 12% Twitter & 10% Google+ to recommend businesses
Pro tip: Don’t be tempted to plant fake reviews. Consumers are suspicious, and fake reviews are easier to spot than you might imagine. Purchases actually go down when product star ratings are too perfect. The sweet spot for effective persuasion is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars, with a lot of positive reviews and a few negative ones.
6 Ways You Can Earn Social Proof
#1. Go One Step Further
Getting people to share recommendations about your business or content is a matter of offering the qualities they are most likely to admire and want to talk about. Reliability, expertise, friendliness, professionalism, and good value scored highest in motivations to recommend a business to others.
When your goal is to earn recommendations from hype-weary consumers, the answer is simple: deserve their respect. Fulfill their expectations and go just a little bit further.
#2. Leverage Surveys and Data Mining
In terms of online businesses, this may mean surveying your customers to find out what their biggest concerns are, and publishing the results, or analyzing your data to spot trends.
Detailed reports not only get people talking, it earns more shares and organic linkbacks. Bloggers and journalists are far more likely to link to content that contains original research. Polling your customers and digging into your data provide valuable marketing insight impossible to determine in any other way.
#3. Amplify Content
Promoting your content is crucial to social proof. If that means cross-posting the same thing on different platforms, post it with different lead-ins to reach a wider audience. Try actionable tips or pull-quotes on Twitter, a preview discussion of what’s in the content on Linkedin, and pose a provocative question on Facebook. A reader who is not intrigued by one teaser may be interested by another.
#4. Resurrect Old Posts
When appropriate, link to older evergreen content to answer questions or add depth to a topic. Give a brief answer, and add “I wrote about that last year. If you’re interested, check out my post here [link].”
Promoting old posts can be surprisingly effective for driving traffic.
#5. Link to Other Sites
Another way to gain traffic is to link to high-traffic sites or mention industry experts. Ask for quotes, and then use their quotes in your social media posts. Most experts will respond and retweet when they are mentioned, and sometimes they will link back to your post on their blog.
#6. Encourag Comments and Reviews
Whether you’re selling products or trying to attract traffic, comments and reviews are conversation starters. Make sure your blog/site has the right tools for sharing, reviews, and comments. Ask questions and encourage visitors to give an opinion.
Why Earn Social Proof?
Social proof is an extension of herd mentality. Together, we behave more like a tribe than like isolated individuals. Study after study has shown that the behavior of a small number of people can influence a whole crowd. Check it out for yourself at National Geographic’s Brain Games website.
That doesn’t mean humans are mindless lemmings. It means we learn from each other. Ok, sometimes it means we use “everybody does it” to justify bad behavior, like littering or speeding. But it also meas that we trust the opinion of people who have already done something – like read a blog post and found it interesting enough to recommend, or tried a product they liked (or hated) well enough to spend time leaving a review.
In answer to “but my friend Suzy is doing it,” every mom used to say “if Suzy jumped off a cliff, would you do it?” Science says the answer, in most cases, is “sure, as long as Suzy thinks jumping off a cliff is awesome.” Social proof is a powerful motivator and the most effective marketing tool you can harness.