People are skeptical nowadays.
Understandably so. We live in a “headline culture,” where click bait exists everywhere. Before we believe any claim, we need reassurance — especially when we’re browsing a website or considering a purchase.
Enter social proof.
Generally, social proof relates to situations in which the actions/choices of others influence our own decisions. According to social psychologist Robert Cialdini, it has a powerful effect on people, serving as valid evidence that it’s okay to do something, if only because others are doing it too.
When used on a website, it can dramatically boost conversions.
There are many different forms of social proof. Each one has its own unique merits. In this post, we’ll be looking at some of the most potent forms of social proof you can use to boost conversions. We’ll investigate the benefits of each form, and show you how to use each one the right way.
A testimonial can be a powerful form of social proof. That is because it shares benefits as seen by people who have already worked with you or purchased your products.
There are two types of testimonials: video and text. Picking the right format often depends on the time and ability of your customers.
Some businesses use both text and video testimonials. However, they won’t place both forms on the same page. Rather, they might have a short, precise testimonial on their homepage, right above the fold. Then they’ll also have a page detailing “success stories,” in which you’ll be able to see many other testimonials in video form.
This approach can work well, as you’ll be able to draw from the best of both worlds.
The homepage testimonial
A homepage testimonial is probably the most important form of social proof you can include on your website.
But your home page is valuable real estate. Don’t pick any old testimonial — you need to pick one that speaks to new website visitors, and you need one that will turn them into customers or subscribers.
Ideally, a homepage testimonial should fit these criteria:
- It should address the biggest problem/concern of your ideal customers.
- It should clearly state that you solved the problem.
- It needs to come from a past customer. (Visitors should be able to relate to them.)
- It may also mention other issues the new visitor wants to solve.
For instance, a great testimonial would be, “Before X company, I had to do Y. Now, thanks to them, I no longer have to focus on Y and can finally focus on Z.”
Y is the painpoint and Z is what the customer wants to be doing instead. This is a very simple formula. Nevertheless, if you can find a testimonial that follows this format, you’re going to be in a good place.
Here is an example of how a testimonial can be used on a homepage.
Notice how the testimonial does a great job of reassuring those who might become potential clients. And it perfectly fits the 4 criteria of a powerful homepage testimonial.
It addresses the biggest problem of Bidsketch prospects, the time it takes to create a proposal. In this case, it also addresses a secondary concern, how good it looks.
Notice that it not only says the problem was solved, but documents the time saved — 2 hours and 15 minutes saved. That’s significant.
And it comes from a believable source. If anyone is going to be picky about the appearance of a business document, it would be the Creative Director, so this carries some weight.
When detailing testimonials, you need to be as granular as possible, in terms of the people who provided the testimonial.
- Who were they?
- What company do they work for?
- What were the exact benefits they got?
- Try to include a picture too.
Here is a nice example. This comes from a Groovehq blog post. It follows a lot of the points mentioned above.
Video testimonials are powerful because the voice and expression can often convey more than mere words. Keep in mind the 4 criteria above. They work for video testimonials too.
However, a lot of people often feel the need to over-edit their testimonial videos. This often does not matter. Website visitors just need to feel as though the person in the video is relatable and has faced some of the same problems as them – until your company helped them sort the problems out.
Where to use testimonials
Testimonials can (and should) be used throughout your website.
If you have a checkout page, consider using it there. If you’re using a subscriber box, implement it there too. Use different testimonials for different parts of the funnel.
Here is an example of a checkout page that does something similar. The example shown is not actually a testimonial. However, it still does a job similar to that of a testimonial. It reassures people during the last mile of the process.
For each placement, ensure that the testimonial used, deals with a common objection at that stage of the conversion process.
For instance, above a subscriber box, you could use a testimonial of someone saying, “This is the only newsletter I haven’t unsubscribed from,” or, “Using just one tip from the newsletter I managed to do X” — or something like that.
Another key point to mention is that a testimonial from a big name in your niche will have a bigger impact. If you’ve been endorsed by someone that people already know, like and trust, by all means, leverage it.
Check out the example below (from backlinko.com).
Notice the testimonial from Neil Patel. A lot of people who visit Backlinko.com will also know of Neil Patel. The fact that Neil endorses Brian reassures everyone that this guy is not just out to sell you something — he’s legit.
If possible, create a system whereby you ask people for testimonials on a regular basis. It might come in the form of a survey, after a sale has been completed and the service has been delivered. You won’t get testimonials if you don’t ask for them.
Either way, remember, don’t doctor your testimonials. Instead, find one that says what you need it to say or ask for one.
2. The Results Earned or Clients Served
Another form of social proof is number related: total number of years in the industry, dollars earned for clients, or number of subscribers. The idea is to tell prospects that hordes of people trust you and are getting the results you promise.
To be honest, there are varying reports on this. Some people find that it can boost subscriber/client numbers and some say it doesn’t. Either way, it’s a good tool to have in your arsenal.
Sometimes people feel intimidated by the big results and don’t feel they’ll get the proper attention from such a big company. Other times, people are impressed by a big number. Either way, it’s something you might want to test.
Here’s how you might use it:
As you can see, Bidsketch places a homepage testimonial above the fold. Just below it, they make the numbers claim. It details the results customers have attained using the service.
There’s an implicit assumption here, that the Bidsketch platform helped customers earn this figure. But who knows? The customers might have achieved those results either way.
Nevertheless, the logic is powerful:
A – Bidsketch has allowed for people to earn this much money.
B – Bidsketch clients are winners and big players.
Therefore C – If you want in on this success, you might want to use Bidsketch.
You might not notice those thoughts going through your head, and that’s part of the reason why social proof is so powerful. It leads you into making assumptions.
Here is a similar example — it does not detail the results of clients but rather the company.
Can you see how below the button it mentions that 5,137 companies have signed up for the service just this week? This number lets potential users know that the service is popular.
Heck, it must be popular for a reason — why not check it out? Social proof often dictates that if a lot of people are doing something, it must be the right thing to do. This figure alludes to that mentality.
3. Case Studies
Some people might be impressed by the numbers you can throw around. But some people will only be impressed when they see the actual work that you (or your clients) did.
By providing examples of past work, you can take care of that problem.
Now, there is a fine line between showing examples of past work and showing case studies. Ideally you want to integrate the two and create a powerful form of social proof.
Past work might just be very surface-level. Case studies detail the story of the client.
- Who were they?
- What were things like before using your product?
- How were they after they encountered you and your company?
Be specific and get into the nitty gritty.
If you offer a service that provides slide decks for companies pitching, show what the slide decks of your client looked like before. Then show what the slide decks looked like after. Most important, share the results of what happened and the journey to the end result.
Ensure that the story is relatable and that your ideal customer identifies with the narrative being told.
If you head over to basecamp.com/tour, you’ll be able to see an effective case study example. It is extremely detailed, and covers the use of the product at a granular level.
Does quantity matter when creating case studies? The basecamp example shows that it probably does not. As long as you envelope the whole use of the product into a great story that people can relate to, you might only need one case study.
A lot of businesses don’t have that many ideal customers, since they’re quite niched. It’s a thing to experiment with, though one detailed case study often provides a great deal of social proof.
4. Press mentions
It can be very effective to mention that you’ve been featured by some impressive press outlets.
Here is an example from a recently funded company called MyTime.
As you can see, the image shows that a lot of big name media outlets are talking about this company. This, in itself, is a very big deal for a lot of companies, especially those just starting out. The endorsement from these names can therefore boost social proof.
However, as with the testimonial section, there are a few things you’ll want to take into account when using press mentions for social proof.
If you’re appealing to a niche demographic, it might help to include any mentions you received from big players in that small niche. People might know and trust a big player in your small niche more than a big media company.
Sure the big company is impressive, but the big player in your small niche probably has an awesome relationship with their fans.
Obtain your social proof from people that matter. Those who are relevant to your customer are more important than those who are not.
5. Tell your own story
There might be some debate as to whether this counts as social proof, since it’s actually coming from you, not anyone else. So you could say that this is technically not social proof.
However, it almost does what social proof does. When you speak about yourself, you’re emphasizing transparency. If you’re detailing business results, you gain some form of social proof because you’re now showing people that you’re someone worth listening too.
The added layer of vulnerability that comes with such a task also goes on to boost the relationship you have with people, and the level of relatability you allow for. By being honest and upfront, you can create results that are eerily akin to textbook methods of social proof.
So, you might have seen a few examples where people have detailed their own journey. Pat Flynn over at Smart Passive Income does a great job at this by mentioning his income reports every month.
Another example I find interesting is the Groovehq blog, found here.
Groovehq is a company that shares the journey of growing their revenues. Of course, growing revenue comes with a lot of failures and maybe even embarrassing moments. However, the fact that Groovehq is willing to detail it all really helps them to stand out.
As they share the story of their company, they build a relationship with their readership. Due to the nature of their posts, potential clients actually belong to their readership. This can, therefore, boost revenues.
After all if you are vulnerable with a story that is real and honest, people feel like they can understand and relate to you. They therefore feel as though they can trust you.
A lot of exposure is done in retrospect and almost from a third-person perspective. This degree of objectivity explains why it could potentially count as social proof.
If you click here, you’ll see exactly how their blog has contributed to an increase in signups. A lot of the email excerpts mention how people trust and want to support them because of their story.
Proof that Social Proof is Legit
Social proof is a huge factor when it comes to influencing our decisions, especially those around buying or subscribing to an email newsletter.
For a lot of people, it’s the relevancy of the social proof that matters most. Is it from someone like them, or someone they already know and trust? Social proof can also depend on a number of other factors, such as how recent it was.
Nevertheless, as with all other website elements, it is important to split test. That means split testing the different forms of the same kind of social proof, and also different forms of social proof altogether.
So get to it. Implement a system that allows for you to regularly obtain examples of social proof. Test each one and see how it affects your conversions.
From there on, you just have to ensure you’re doing a great job so that people want to recommend you!