Imagine you’re shopping for a new bedside table. You’ve found three that you love, based on the pictures alone. One has over 500 reviews with an average rating of 4.8 stars. The second has 140 reviews and a 2 star rating. The third has no reviews. Which do you buy?

Of course you’re drawn to the bedside table with over 500 satisfied customers.

Why is this? It’s due to a psychological phenomenon called social proof.

Throughout this article, we’ll dive into what social proof is and how you can use it in marketing to make sure that people are choosing you over your competitors – like in our bedside table example.

What is social proof?

Social proof is a term that was coined back in 1984 by author Robert Cialdini in his book Influence. This phenomenon is also called informational social influence, and essentially it’s the idea that people copy the actions of others in an attempt to emulate behavior in certain situations.

For example, if someone isn’t sure how to act in a social situation they may not have encountered before, they take clues from the people around them. If someone is at a gala for the first time, it’s natural for them to observe their surroundings to ensure they’re fitting in and acting the way everyone would expect them to act.

In marketing, social proof covers a similar idea – when people shop, they look for reviews, recommendations and ways that others have used a product before making their decision.

This is why online stores work so hard to get people to review their products – it’s a form of social proof that works wonders for increasing the number of people making purchases.

Social proof in marketing takes the form of online reviews, existing customers, media coverage and more. Let’s learn a little bit more about why social proof is so important and the various types of social proof your business should go after to improve brand reputation.

Why is social proof important?

Now that you know what social proof is, why do you need to incorporate it into your marketing? Why is it a valuable component to your business strategy?

  • 83% of consumers recommend a brand they follow on social to friends and family.
  • 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase.
  • 82% of Americans ask for referrals and recommendations from family and friends before making any kind of purchase.

In a few words: social proof gets your business more sales.

How to use social proof in marketing

There are several ways you can incorporate social proof into your marketing to showcase your satisfied customers to potential customers. Knowing that people have been happy with your business and its products or services before is one of the best marketing tricks.

1. Case studies

One great way to showcase satisfied customers is by writing a case study about their experience with your business. Identify one or several clients that you’ve had significant success with and reach out if they’d be willing to participate in a case study along with preliminary questions.

Typically these are deep dives into how you and the customer worked successfully together, so ensuring you have their enthusiastic participation is key.

There are many different ways you can showcase your case studies, whether you choose to offer downloadable PDFs or host them on your blog like Visme.

A screenshot of case studies shared on graphic design software Visme's blog.

At Sprout Social, we have an entire page dedicated to customer stories where we share both testimonials and case studies. Creating a page like this that’s visible in your main site navigation is a great way to showcase social proof.

2. Testimonials and reviews

Your business might receive testimonials and reviews online, but have you ever thought about sharing those on social media? Reviews are the quintessential example of social proof. And including ratings and reviews on your website as well as sharing on social media lets your audience know what others think.

Take a look at this Tweet from Leadpages sharing a TechRadar review of their SaaS product.

Sharing content like draws potential customers through the door. And once you master how to ask for reviews, you’ll have plenty of posts in your arsenal.

In fact, using Sprout for review management will streamline your engagement and improve your online presence. When you respond to reviews and testimonials, you’ll show that you care about prior customers’ experiences. Sprout has integrations with Google My Business, Trip Advisor, Facebook and Glassdoor, and all customer reviews are aggregated into a single inbox.

Sprout Social's review management tool pulls in reviews across multiple sites into one inbox.

3. Existing customers and clients

If you work with some well-known brands, sharing that information publicly is another great way to get people interested in your product or service. Obviously if big brands like Google like your business, that must mean you do good work, right?

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of this in action. The first is from the homepage of Envato’s website.

A screenshot of Envato's existing clients logos on the Envato website.

These are some big names, right? Showcasing this information is a great form of social proof.

Biteable has a similar approach on their homepage. The “Used by” caption above their customers’ logos highlights the big, well-known brands that people love and trust. A screenshot of Biteable's existing clients' logos on Biteable's website.

Especially with a video maker like Biteable, this bodes well for anyone looking to create the level of work that brands like Shopify and Disney are putting out.

4. Awards and accolades

Has your business won awards or been ranked on top lists in your industry? Show that stuff off! It’s a great way to let people know that your business is known for its excellence.

Take a look at how we at Sprout have displayed these types of awards and accolades on our homepage.

A screenshot of awards and accolades on Sprout Social's homepage.

Most lists and awards will give you a badge image like the ones you see above that you can use in your website footer or on your homepage to showcase your brand performance.

5. User-generated content (UGC)

People will know you have happy customers when you share user-generated content on your own social pages. Instagram is the perfect platform for this. Simply create a branded hashtag, include it in your bio and encourage users a chance to be featured.

Take a page out of Aerie’s book, and share UGC on your brand’s account and tag the original poster.

This strategy can work on nearly any platform, but is most common and most effective on Instagram.

6. Influencer marketing

Similar to user-generated content is influencer marketing. This tactic involves compensating influencers for showing off your brand in their photos.

Here’s an example of fashion blogger Venita Aspen collaborating with Express in an influencer marketing campaign.

People follow influencers because they like seeing what kinds of products and services these content creators wear, use and love. That’s why influencer marketing is a great example of social proof and can expose your brand to a wider audience.

7. Integrations

Another form of social proof is integrations. These are typically seen with SaaS tools, especially in the marketing industry, that want to offer their customers the ability to make tools they already use work together.

In this example below, we see Calendly tweeting about their new integration with Slack (and Slack Retweeting it).

A screenshot of Calendly tweeting about a new integration.

Knowing that your software is compatible with another software that a potential customer uses is a great selling point, but it also makes your business seem more robust and trusted.

8. Customer love

What better way to show off social proof than to share your customers’ praises and kind words? While this can come in the form of reviews or testimonials, customer love can also be a simple mention on social media.

We see this example in a Tweet below that mentions Notion, a project management software.

A screenshot of a customer tweeting about their love for Notion.

Notion Retweeted this, sharing genuine feedback with their own audience without it seeming at all promotional or salesy. This is the perfect example of how to put social proof in front of your customers.

Besides tagging and @mentions, social listening is an important way to get in on the conversation way as well. In Sprout, you can use the Listening tool to build Queries based on keywords and topics to monitor your brand or industry. These insights then give you an understanding of the sentiment around your brand and areas for your brand to focus on.

Sprout Social's Listening tool tracks conversations around keywords and topics close to your business and industry.

9. Customer base

Our last example of social proof is showcasing the number of customers you’ve served, products you’ve sold or users you have. This shows that your business is seasoned and knows what they’re doing since you’ve worked with so many people.

We can see this in action on Udemy’s Twitter bio, displaying that they’ve helped millions of students learn new skills.

A screenshot of Udemy's Twitter bio.

Similarly, Teachable’s homepage shares that they’ve had over 100,000 creators host online courses with them, generating over $1 billion in collective revenue.

A screenshot of Teachable's user base on their website, stating more than 100,000 creators who've sold courses and coaching.

Sharing these numbers is powerful in proving how many individuals have taken advantage of a business’s service and the success they’ve seen as well.

Start using social proof in your marketing strategy

Learn how to incorporate these types of social proof to enhance your brand reputation. To help you understand even more about what customers want to see from brands, download the most recent Sprout Social Index™. Using this data can help you further manage your reviews and social proof.