Social Proof and the Business of Social Media

Practical Social Proof examples with a focus on how to leverage them for your website via testimonials, reviews & social media in business.

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There are a lot of contributing factors when it comes to a person’s decision making process, and the opinions of others is most definitely one of them.

If I’m thinking of making a big purchase I seek the advice of people I know and trust, and I will certainly read around to find out as much about said purchase as possible before I take the plunge. The opinions of others – those I trust, those I identify with and those who have experienced the purchase previously – play a big part in helping me make an informed decision. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. 69% of consumers search for reviews online and while these aren’t the only kind of Social Proof, they are a great example of how the actions of others can impact our own decisions about “correct behaviour”.

So, how do you create a positive influence and show visitors to your website that other people have partaken in your product? Here are some examples of Social Proof:

Social Proof: From The Expert

Credibility or approval from an expert or a perceived expert

These experts have established reputations and are often seen to be an authority in their industry. Anything else they might be associated with will therefore also be held in high regard.

A practical example: Also known as “influencer marketing”, this approval for your brand or product takes many forms: acknowledgement in the press, on an industry-relevant blog, or simply a mention via Twitter:

Social Proof - Smart Insights embed tweets - Browser Media

Try featuring Social Proof from an expert on your landing pages. Does embedding that Tweet help persuade your visitors to convert? A simple A/B test will confirm whether or not that expert is as influential as you think.

Social Proof: From A Celebrity

Credibility or approval from a celebrity

Statistics show that at least 25% of TV ads in the USA successfully featured celebrities. In the same way that an expert’s reputation can influence the perception of a brand they are associated with, the popularity of a celebrity can also have an impact… Kind of like when you thought twice about listening to Faster Pussycat because Nikki Sixx implied they didn’t party hard enough. No? Just me?

A practical example: One of the most well-known examples I can think of would be using William Shatner to endorse their discounted travel rates. Other examples include Brian Blessed’s love of mayonnaiseSnoop Dogg’s obsession with cheap car insurance and who could forget this diamond?

Not sure they get much cooler than’s collaboration, though.  

Social Proof: From The User

Approval from other users of a product or service

This can come in the form of a testimonial, a case study or just a review. It’s like word-of-mouth online. Visitors to your site are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of users when they read the story of how they already successfully tried your product or service. Stories are persuasive and are seen as more trustworthy than a mere product description.

A practical example: uses reviews, star-ratings and even invites users to upload images to add another dimension to their story, making it more believable.

Social Proof - TripAdvisor example - Browser Media

Gathering reviews from your users can be a slow process, but when you’ve got them, test different ways of showcasing them. Embedding a TrustPilot widget or having a page for testimonials/satisfied customers are both possibilities. If you’re running a PPC Campaign, those reviews can be pulled into your ads for even more clout:

Image credit to
Image credit to


Social Proof: Wisdom of The Crowd

Approval from a large group of people, rather than just one expert

Telling your visitors that tens/hundreds/thousands of others have tried your product or service can be very persuasive. It actually plays on a form of social anxiety known as Fear of Missing Out, which is the concern that an opportunity to be involved in something interesting passes us by – highly relevant in today’s social media dominated world in which we’re constantly comparing our lives with others.

A practical example: Social Media Examiner encourages email sign-ups with a call to action showing that you’ll be joining over 340,000 others if you subscribe to the newsletter:

Social Proof - Social Media Examiner example - Browser Media

It’s a great way of prompting potential ‘customers’ to partake so as not to miss out on valuable information their peers already have access to.

Social Proof: Wisdom of Your Friends

Credibility and approval due to endorsement from friends

Think of this as a sort of referral scheme. The personal nature of the relationships between friends means that their recommendations are seen as more credible. We value the opinions of our friends, people we often have a lot in common with, which is why things like another person’s ‘following’ list on Twitter are successful.

Social Proof - Twitter follow example - Browser Media

A practical example: Including your organisation’s social media activity on your site can be a great way of showing how other, like-minded people feel about your brand. Consider Facebook’s “Like” box and  how other people’s stories crop up on your timeline, and in graph search.

A testable form of persuasion

Although the concept of Social Proof isn’t anything new, if you’ve yet to leverage any of the methods above, there is much room for testing and exploring those that could work on your site. Using analytics, identify the point at which your visitors question the decision-making process – this could be a high bounce landing page, or a steep drop off in the customer journey – and introduce a form of Social Proof.

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