Whether or not you realize it, you’re influenced by social proof all the time. Do you read Amazon reviews to help decide which item to buy? Do you feel better going to a restaurant with good Yelp reviews? Have you assumed the YouTube video with more views is more worth your while?
What is social proof?
“Social proof” is the phenomenon where we pay attention to what other people are doing or saying in order to help us decide what we should do.
You already know what you have to offer, and you should always express that well on your website and print pieces. But letting other people hype you up too can do amazing things. So be bold! Collect good testimonials that happen naturally, ask for testimonials when appropriate, and then share them!
Always let other people talk about how awesome you are.
Types of social proof
Investor and thinker Aileen Lee defines five different types of social proof:
- Expert: When someone credible and impressive approves of something, we trust their opinion.
- Celebrity: Somebody famous is talking about you!
- User: Regular people are talking about what you have to offer.
- “Wisdom of the crowds”: Showing numbers and stats that show a swell of support, like play counts, or saying “over 1 million happy customers!”
- Wisdom of our friends: When someone you know recommends something, that carries a lot of weight.
(Note that negative social proof is real too — if people are vocal about not liking you, then that makes others less likely to want to work with you.)
So collect those testimonials!
Let’s be real. Most of us haven’t been written about in the New York Times, and most of us aren’t being talked about by Instagram influencers. We might not have sold millions of books or had thousands of happy clients (yet).
But I bet when I ask you, “Who would be willing to say something nice about you?” you can think of somebody.
The best quotes allow you to brag about yourself, without being the one who said it.
We use testimonials on our own site, and we encourage all of our clients to collect them too. The best quotes are specific, positive and clear.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Sometimes people share feedback unprompted, but often all it takes is a gentle nudge. Some ideas of who to ask for testimonials and permission to share them:
- If you’re an organization or company that provides a service, ask the people you serve to talk about how you’ve made their life better.
- Are you doing something creative? Ask the people who love your work how it makes them feel and why they love to listen, read or look at what you’ve made.
- If you’re a maker, pay attention to your Etsy reviews or in-store feedback, and ask permission to use positive comments in public ways.
The worst thing someone can say is “No,” or that they don’t have time. The best thing that can happen is that you start to build a collection of awesome testimonials that you can start to use right away.
Now share them!
Testimonials can be used in lots of ways. Be creative! Here are some ideas.
- Website home pages and landing pages are a great place to include some positive social proof to help with first impressions.
- On the web page about your book/album/product/service, put a quote or two from people who love what you do. If you can get them to say specifics, awesome! “Loved it,” is nice … but “This book gave me the tools and courage to ___” is even better.
- When you get a great testimonial that you have permission to share, make a social media graphic to share.
Above all, always be sure to share your testimonials in authentic ways that don’t mislead or misrepresent your users. As long as you’re using it right, social proof can do you a world of good.