sly : marketing

You Need Social Proof to Get Success – This is How

Social proof is more important than ever. The competition is fierce, no matter what business you are in. You probably already know that social proof makes you do crazy things, but most importantly, social proof makes you buy. It’s part of the psychology of influence

A few minutes ago, I bought a book from Amazon. It’s called Thinking, Fast and Slow and the author is Daniel Kahneman. The only reason I bought it, is because a friend of mine recommended it.

Every single time I’m going to watch a movie, I look for social proof. I either ask one of my friends, to get some feedback on the movie, before I go see it. Or, I look online, either on Facebook or websites with movie reviews. I don’t think that I have watched a movie the past year without looking for social proof first.

social proof

Most of the time, if I’m going to buy new things, things that I haven’t experienced before, I look for social proof first. The same goes for blogging. If I visit a new blog, and I don’t see any comments, or any sharing (retweets and likes), I get skeptical of the quality of the blog.

The reason I’m skeptical might be because I have a lot higher expectations than I used to. A few years ago, I would spend a lot of time, just browsing the web, looking for interesting content. I would spend hours reading low quality articles, looking for something good. Now, with the use of social media, I don’t go looking for content anymore. I get the content I want to read from people I trust. I believe most people are doing this. We have higher expectations, and we are looking for social proof before we do “anything”.

This is why, gathering evidence for why people should buy from you, is more important than ever. When it comes to digital social proof, there are at least five ways to get social proof and show it to your potential buyers:

The more positive comments, tweets/likes, reviews, testimonials and star ratings, the better. If you are selling, you need to focus on people providing you with social proof. It’s not just about attention anymore. I might not buy from you, if you have just one star less than your competition. I might not buy from you, if you have one more negative review than your competition. It doesn’t matter if your book is perfect for me. I’m looking for what other people are doing and what other people are saying, before I decide if I’m going to buy or not. Think about it; there are 12 reasons why you should comment on blogs – if you’re going to get customers and advertisers, you need social proof first.

3 Ways to Get Social Proof

You shouldn’t wait for social proof. Waiting is not a solution. Start engaging with other like-minded people. Offer people a bribe to get them to provide you with social proof. I’m not saying that they should give you a false social proof. Not at all. Your customers and your readers should always tell the truth. But, many times, people won’t do what’s necessary unless they get something in return. Or you can do reciprocity. If you provide social proof for one product, they’ll provide social proof for your product. The first sign of social proof is always the hardest. It’s like transforming a lone nut into a leader. Most of the time, you are looking for that one person to stand up and help you out. And, once that happens, the rest is history.

Do what you can, to get your first social proof. You might not have to offer a bribe. Many times, it might be enough to do any of the following:

Ask your customers for social proof

If you need social proof, sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Many times when I write a blog post, I end my post with a question, in order to get people to start commenting. Or, I’ll send an email to the people who have subscribed to my newsletter and I ask them to comment. The same goes for testimonials. Just ask.

Give them a sample

I love to test new things. I test software, I read the first chapters of books, and I am eager to taste new food or candy. That was what I was thinking about when I wrote about the potato chips marketing story. If I get a free sample of potato chips in the grocery store, I will most likely end up buying it. But, even more important, if I get a free sample of anything in order to provide social proof, I will most likely do it.

Make it available

Sometimes, you won’t need to ask to get the social proof. All you need to do is to make it easy to do and you need to make it available. For instance, I have installed Share Juice Pro, to get people like you to help me share my content. I don’t ask you to do it. I don’t bribe you. I just make the share buttons available at the bottom of my posts. If you enjoy what I am writing, most likely, you’ll share my content.
If I was selling anything on my blog, I would have added testimonials, and I have would have added a system to rate what I was selling. This way, more people would get the evidence that what I was selling was worth buying. But, since I’m not selling anything, I just keep writing and I rely on the numbers of shares as my social proof.

How do you get your social proof?

I have written a few testimonials. I have written several book reviews. And, every time someone asks me of my opinion, I tell them the truth. Do you give social proof, without anyone asking for it (for instance by adding stars on Amazon, or writing reviews)?

Do you get social proof from your readers and from your buyers?



24 responses to “You Need Social Proof to Get Success – This is How”

  1. James says:

    Social proofs are very beneficial for our business. These proofs help us increase the reach of our business.

  2. Tim Bonner says:

    Hi Jens

    I don’t have any products to sell yet but if I did, I’d definitely ask for testimonials and put a rating system in place too.

    In terms of my blog, I use the JetPack plugin to add the social media buttons. I tried Share Juice Pro but it didn’t work so well with my blog.

    I get a fair amount of comments on my blog still, even though I don’t do so much commenting these days myself.

    It can be a little hit and miss though if you don’t continue the endless cycle of blog commenting. I just got tired of doing it on a daily basis.

    I think I get a fair amount of social proof but I would always like a bit more!

    Tim

    • Hi Tim,

      You’ve got a ton of social proof. You’ve got a lot of comments, and you’ve got a lot of tweets and likes. Like you, I would have been focusing on testimonials if I had a product I was selling.

      I have been thinking a lot about creating my own product, but I still haven’t 🙂

  3. Howie G says:

    I like your post. But it is one of those things that is being forced into the online and social arena to much. Social Proof has been around for 1000’s of years. What is new today is how many sites have reviews and ratings and the fact we share a little bit online. The last part is important. Looking at my life 95-99% of my social proof is from real people I know in real life. I will check out ratings and reviews especially when deciding on certain big ticket items.

    But we also buy a ton of products with zero social proof just because we see it in a store and it caught our eye and we decide to try it. Though this would normally be lower ticket items (food, clothes etc vs cars, electronics etc).

    So the bigger the ticket item the more online social proof is important such as client testimonials.

    But what about when a product or service has 100’s or 1000’s of ratings and reviews. Don’t most of them just sit in the netherworld never to be seen or read just due to volume?

    • Hi Howie,

      You’ve got an interesting point. I also buy lower ticket items without any social proof, especially things like food and candy (cheap things). But, usually, when I buy anything online, I look for reviews first and how many stars they’ve got.

      Some of the books I have bought has 100’s of ratings. So, I just read a few of the good ones, and I read a few of the bad ones, and I decide based upon the reviews and the average score. Sites like Amazon and IMDB offers featured reviews and that’s usually the ones I read. Most of the reviews won’t get read.

  4. Les Wallack says:

    Jens,
    Your posts are always so refreshing and easy to read and a nice break in my day of toiling with high-tech stuff! You have a knack for telling it like it is and have a unique style of taking your thoughts and putting them on paper! I am stuck at present for comments on my posts and web site because it’s relatively new and my knowledge of getting my site our there and promoted in such an oversaturated market (health and fitness) has been tough. Bit I’ll be turning that around, In my last business that lasted almost a half of century – I had every client write out a testimonial…I simply asked for it. I even collect audio testimonials as well. With my new business in Health & Fitness…I’m still searching for my first customer!! You did “hit the nail on head” with your post. I always look forward to them.

    • Hi Les,

      Thank you so much for your awesome feedback. I really appreciate it.

      Are you a member of Triberr? If you’re not, I can send you an invite. This way me, and many other people will help you share your posts.

  5. Mark Ford says:

    Hi Jens

    Social proof is a massive part of my strategy. I use an industry specific review website to capture my client testimonials. I’m currently ranked 4th in the UK for web designers.

    That helps me massively when prospecting for new business.

    • That’s awesome Mark.

      Are you using video testimonials as well? Not many are, but it would be refreshing to see some new type of testimonials.

      • Mark Ford says:

        I haven’t Jens

        Funnily enough I did read an article about video testimonials this morning just after reading this article.

        I’d love to do it – but it’s already difficult enough getting a customer to fill in a paragraph of text, let alone getting them to record a video.

        • I absolutely agree Mark. I have tried to get customers to get to provide text testimonials and like you, it’s been really hard, even with very satisfied customers. Video is even harder. But, I believe that we don’t need that many, just a few is enough, and it’s worth the hard work to get them.

  6. Mark Vang says:

    When you say: “But, even more important, if I get a free sample of anything in order to provide social proof, I will most likely do it.” that sounds less like social proof and more like a compensated endorsement – which is not the same thing.

    I think that the concept of “social proof” is something unique and it is important to not let it become just another form of advertisement.

    • Hi Mark.

      I should probably have explained it better. I didn’t mean that I was going to provide them with positive social proof, it all depends on the product. I would be happy to give them feedback, and a testimonial, but I would always say the truth. If I didn’t like the product, I would have said exactly that. But, if I got the chance to try it first, I would have been happy to give the social proof afterwards.

      I hope this makes sense Mark. And, I absolutely agree with you. This shouldn’t be just another type of advertisement. It’s just that we need to take action to get the social proof. It’s hard to get customers, even the really satisfied ones, to provide the social proof.

  7. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jens,

    You are so right about social proof and I’m getting to the same point you are about reading just any old content. I appreciate everyone who stops by my blog and shares their thoughts with me but I don’t have as many hours to spend commenting as I use to so I have to make them count and I definitely prefer spending my time reading content I enjoy.

    I think that it says a lot if you do have a lot of comments and shares on your posts because this obviously means people enjoy what you share. I also have some testimonials from people who I’ve helped on my blog as well so I know that’s been a tremendous help for people building that trust factor with me too.

    Great tips for why people do need to pay attention to social proof. You don’t always have to worry about being the big guy out there but you do need to worry about what people think of you and your content. You definitely want people to recommend you to their friends.

    ~Adrienne

    • Hi Adrienne,

      You definitively have a lot of social proof, with all the tweets / likes and a huge amount of comments on every post.

      I’ve been thinking of adding testimonials to my blog, but since I’m not selling anything yet, I thought that I could wait. But, once I start selling, testimonials is what I’m going to be focusing on.

      • Adrienne says:

        Hey Jens,

        I had to come back and respond. You don’t have to be selling anything to get testimonials. I’ve helped people learn and grow so for that reason they’ve been eager to write a testimonial. So you can perhaps do it based on that. Your marketing advice perhaps and reach out to those who you’ve encouraged the most. It’s a darn great start.

        ~Adrienne

        • That’s very interesting Adrienne. I haven’t thought about getting testimonials to my blog, because I wasn’t selling anything and I thought that I didn’t need any testimonials. But, you are absolutely right. Testimonials will help me build a reputation, and it will help me build my future business.

          Thank you!

  8. Eric Wittlake says:

    Jens, I love your intro here and as you point out, social proof has become a filter of sorts.

    That said, I’m sad to see many smaller, divergent and super sharp voices fade away because they don’t play the social proof game. People who don’t care as much if their view is heard and aren’t looking to dive into the bubble of conversation around a topic.

    So as a marketer, get the proof. But when it comes to content, I hope you won’t give up on finding those divergent voices that haven’t subscribed to the game of social proof.

    • Hi Eric,

      I don’t like that social proof is the “only” filter people are using, because, like you said, many people and businesses will not make it, because they’re not at the top of the lists. When I buy books, I usually buy the book because I’ve heard some of my friends recommend it, or I buy it because it has received some great recommendations (5 stars).

      – Jens

  9. Lisa says:

    Jens, I find it sometimes hard to get reviews on products, any suggestions? I have offered a small discount on some and others just asked for a “quick” review. I would say I get about 2% return on them. I do have a testimonial page that I need to update as this post reminded me – thanks.

    • Sorry about the late reply.

      I agree. It’s hard to get reviews. I usually just ask or offer discounts, that’s it. But, many times, people don’t want to do it. So, my advice is just to work on how you communicate the question about the review; why they should do it, and what’s in it for them (a link back to their blog, a discount, being nice to you etc..).

      – Jens

  10. Brian D. Meeks ( says:

    This post is right on the mark. As a novelist I’m constantly checking my number of reviews on Amazon. If someone makes an interesting comment in their review, I’ll often reply, especially if it is something I messed up. I love thanking people for finding little mistakes.

    I don’t know how other people shop, but I suspect that more and more the number of reviews and how many stars factors into their decision even if it is only “Do I look inside?” If they do, I have a better chance of getting the sale.

    I’ve been thinking about reviews a bunch lately. Not only are they great helping people decide to buy, but they are a wonderful source of understanding one’s own brand.

    I see the word “fun” mentioned in review of my books a bunch. I also see people commenting that they are glad there isn’t tons of sex or violence, just a good story.

    Not only do we need social proof for our products, we need to use it to help us understand what we’re doing right and how we should move forward.

    At least, that is what social proof meas to me.

    In another note: What was that message that said I “Failed Criteria” something or other? It said I needed to be “white listed”. I’m not sure of the point of the notice, but it made me feel completely unwelcome here.

    • Hi Brian,

      I’m sorry about the late reply. I’ve had some serious issues with my commenting system and with spam lately, but it should be all sorted out. And, hopefully, you’ll feel welcome from now on 🙂

      I absolutely agree with you. When I buy something, I more or less always look at the reviews. I talk with my friends, and I check what others are saying. And, like you’re saying, reviews is a great way to get feedback and learn from what others are saying about you. This way you’ll understand what you should keep focusing on.

      Do you ask your readers for reviews, or how do you get the reviews?

      – Jens

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