Social proof is a term that is increasingly used in business. It was first used by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book 'Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion'. But what is social proof, and why is it important to your business?  

What is Social Proof? 

According to Wikipedia ''social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.'' 
Another way to phrase it is the bandwagon effect - we are more likely to engage in an action, buy a product etc, if we see that other people are doing (or buying) it.  
Have you ever decided to eat in a busy restaurant because it 'must be good' if it's busy? Or maybe you bought a product that was endorsed by a celebrity because you felt that suggested it was a quality product. They are both examples of being influenced by social proof.  

Examples of social proof include: 

Product reviews 

Product reviews are very powerful. It might be on a specific review site such as Trustpilot, a customer review left after buying a product online, or a review on a social media platform - reviews provide shoppers with more information about your products. They also help build trust, and help shoppers feel more confident that they are making the right choice. 

Testimonials and case studies 

Testimonials and case studies about the successes your customers have had using your product is a vote of confidence in the product's value.  
Whether it's a customer review on your website or on a third-party website, or an in-depth case study, this content creates positive feedback from actual users. 

Approval from a thought leader or industry expert 

Approval from a thought leader or industry expert is proof that they approve of your product. It could be a blog that they write, a post on social media, or them being quoted as a user of your product.  

Celebrity endorsement 

Celebrity endorsement would usually involve them using a product and promoting it on social media or in public. This is particularly powerful if the endorsement is unpaid. 

References and positive reporting by third party media 

Positive reporting about your business by media, either online or in print, is a great way to provide proof that your business is worth paying attention to. And if they include backlinks to your website, that could benefit the SEO of your website, and increase traffic with click-throughs to your site, as well as endorsing your brand. 

Social media shares, likes and comments 

Social media has a massive influence on people's decision making. Shares, likes and positive comments on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram provides proof that people can be confident in using your product or service. 


Data, such as 'x number of people bought our product' or '4.9 out of 5 rating from 1,500 reviews' demonstrates that others have successfully bought your product or used your services, and it will give them greater confidence that they are making the right decision to choose you too. 

'Word of mouth' referrals and recommendations 

Word of mouth is probably the oldest form of social proof, and is still one of the most powerful because people trust and value the information they get from people they know more than anyone else. 

Why is social proof important for your business? 

Here are some useful facts about social media that BrightLocal published in their Local Consumer Review Survey last year.  
90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, with 33% looking every day 
82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews 
The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business 
Only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than 4 stars 
The average consumer spends 13 minutes and 45 seconds reading reviews before making a decision 
Among consumers that read reviews, 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews 
67% of consumers have now been asked to leave a review for a local business - with 24% of these being offered a discount, gift or cash in return 
People clearly take note of what other people think of a business or product before making a buying decision. And if your business, products, or services are not supported by positive social proof, you run a very high risk of losing out to your competitors that are. 

Take action 

How strong and readily available is your social proof? Are potential customers/clients likely to see lots of positive reviews of your offering before they make a decision? Does your website include case studies or testimonials from satisfied customers? Are you confident that if people talk about your business, either in person, or over social media, that they would speak highly of you and recommend you?  
While celebrity endorsement or approval from a thought leader or industry expert may or may not be realistic for you, there are plenty of actions you can take to ensure that your business is supported by social proof.  
Reviews. Start with the platform that your potential customers are likely to use, and ask them to leave a review. For instance if you sell to consumers, Facebook could be the ideal place to be supported by reviews. If you sell mainly to other businesses, your Google My Business may be the place to start. And to make it easy for people to leave a review, send them the link that takes them straight to where they need to leave it. 
Testimonials. Ask your customers how your products or services benefit them, and why they were better off after they bought them from you. Then ask if you can add that to your website as a quote from them. 
Case studies take a bit more time than testimonials, as you will need to tell a story about your customer, and how your product/service benefited them. Ideally it will also include a quote (testimonial) from them. 
Word of mouth. If you do a lot of networking, make sure your network knows how you help people and what benefits they gain when buying from you. Educate them so that if they are asked to recommend someone that does what you do, they instantly think of you and that they speak highly of you.  
So, now you know all about social proof, we would love to know what works for you in providing social proof, and also what social proof you tend to take most notice of when you are buying a product or service. Please let know your thoughts in the comments below.  
itseeze Web Design Horsham offer affordable web design services that are ideal for local businesses, and we provide ongoing website support for all our clients too. If you're looking for a reliable Sussex web design company, we'd love to hear from you. 
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