Most good PR professionals have at least some grasp of psychology. Knowing what inspires the decision to back a brand necessitates knowing what inspires decisions in the first place. There are numerous insights that psychology can deliver but one of the key ones is known as social proof.
We’ll look at what social proof is and see how it can be implemented in a social proof strategy that will get your public relations operation motoring and your sales soaring.
What is social proof?
There are seven principles of persuasion, according to Robert Cialdini’s seminal work ‘Influence—The Psychology of Persuasion’. Among the usual suspects, such as, scarcity (buy before it’s gone!) and authority (go with what the trusty seller is saying), there’s an odd sounding phrase: social proof.
Social proof refers to the manner in which people tend to look for and mirror other people’s behavior, especially if they’re uncertain just how to behave.
Take a job interviewee, really turning on the polish with their impeccable suit and silk tie, only to turn up to see the other interviewees all in chillout gear. Looks like this candidate may have misread the company vibe.
Of course, a confident individual would style it out, using their standout look to make a mark with the interview panel. But if the interviewee’s at all uncertain, there may be a quick dash into the lavatory to get that tie off and muss up that hair.
Put simply, there’s safety in numbers, so there is a tendency for people to huddle up.
Types of social proof and how to use them
How can we use this to improve a business’s PR and get its commerce moving? There are several ways social proof can deliver.
1. Customer testimonials
This is a big one. People tend to trust customer testimonials, especially customer reviews. In fact, it’s been found that online reviews are the most influential factor when it comes to deciding on a particular purchase.
You can get the product reviews coming in by taking some key steps. These include putting a review section into your website, or getting a presence on a review site like Google My Business or Trustpilot. Then you need to flag this up by doing a digital pivot around your estate, including your website and social media.
Then you can start instituting automated reach-outs to customers who have just purchased (or perhaps a few weeks after, depending on the nature of the product). You might want to get things off to a warm start by contacting some of your best customers, who, one would hope, will be inclined to give your business a positive review.
It’s nearly always a good idea to get busy with some affiliate marketing. There are many kinds, but the basic idea is to get others to do the marketing for you. Your products appear on other people’s, and organization’s, sites, and any sales that are made generate a commission for the affiliate.
It works from a social proof perspective because the more customers see your product out there, the more they will infer that it’s good quality: it must be, as it’s so popular.
You can get started with affiliate marketing software – this will make sure you join up with the right ones for your business.
Social influence can make a product.
The higher the profile of the user of your product, the better: celebrity approval counts for a huge amount. Celebrity comes in all shapes and sizes of course, so try to hook up with an appropriate one.
Don’t be shy to contact them directly (or via their agent) to see if they’ll give you a mention on their website, social media or podcast. If your product’s going to enhance their profile by association, or if what you’re doing chimes with their ethics, they might even give you a freebie.
We tend to give experts a heightened level of credence. See classic experiments such as Milgram (1963), in which students obeyed inhumane instructions because they trusted the expert telling them what to do.
Luckily, factors in public relations, marketing and sales are usually a little less macabre. In these fields, you need to identify a figure with credibility in your area. For instance, an industry expert, a critic or any professional in a field related to what you’re selling.
You’re selling communications packages? Get a successful CEO to give a message regarding that virtual receptionist of yours. You’re selling ketchup and barbeque sauce? Get a prominent chef to give compliments to your condiments. You’re selling microphones? Get a leading vocalist to sing your praises.
5. Crowd wisdom
This is the purest form of social proof. An individual sees others with one of your products and thinks they’d like one too. Yes, individuality sells. But a far larger determinant of behavior is the fear of missing out.
Of course, if it was easy to get everyone wearing your baseball caps or toting your phone cases then we’d all be doing it. For this reason, crowd wisdom is not easy to facilitate. One approach is to try to get it going with a cool and infectious TikTok or Instagram campaign. Maybe there’s some user-generated content you can use.
It’s not easy to get it totally right with social media, but worth a try. Then, if you do strike the sweet spot, your efforts will be spread by an army of unpaid helpers, all sharing as if their lives depended on it.
If your business has earned awards or certifications, crow about it. These kinds of affirmations generate social proof because they tell a customer that others think your business is great. Not just others. Others in the know. This can give your conversion rate a real boost.
So, get that rosette on show on your website. If you supply notable companies with your products, get them listed up there too. Like so:
Humility is a lovely thing to witness in an individual. In a company, it’s madness. Megaphone your achievements loud and proud.
We’re quite basic beings at heart. We like to be sure of things, and nothing gives confidence in a brand like seeing others enjoying it first. It’s what makes most advertising tick and what can turn potential customers eventually into brand acolytes. You can harness this group instinct to the benefit of your company with these cost effective and easy steps. Happy herding.