I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for what other people have to say.
When I’m planning a trip, I hound TripAdvisor.
When I’m thinking about reading a book, I spend a shameful amount of time pondering over Amazon reviews before I spend $10.99 to download something onto my Kindle.
When looking for a new recipe online, I won’t even bother with one unless there’s at least one person proclaiming it’s the best [insert food] they’ve ever eaten.
As much as I like to pride myself in my individuality and being an independent thinker, the flat truth is this: I’m not.
And neither are 99.9999% of the rest of you. (Sorry to burst your bubble.)
But rather than denying this fact in favor of the preconceived notion of total individuality, smart businesses embrace it.
What do you think the real reason is behind restaurants running lunch specials that are unbelievably cheap?
To get people in the door to attract more people… because people follow the crowds.
They very strategically create the social proof they need to get more people in the door, and therefore make more sales.
In SaaS and other types of online business, we can deliberately engineer this psychological trick to get people to jump on the bandwagon using social proof.
(Even if we can’t get people to physically line up outside our door.)
For example, if I land on a page for an author’s book and it doesn’t tell me anything about how many people have bought it or left five-star reviews on Amazon, I’m going to be a lot more skeptical than if they throw it in my face that 31,576 people have already bought it, 94% of them have left a positive review, and they’ve been on the New York Times’ Bestseller list.
When I see those numbers and that kind of proof that the book is good, I’m almost immediately sold.
And even if your product hasn’t reached the NYT Bestseller-level fame yet, you can still get what social proof you do have to work for you.
And the more strategically you place it?
The more it works.
1) During the Checkout Process
Even if someone’s already “sold” and is going through the checkout process, a testimonial on the checkout page where they push that final “purchase” button only strengthens the decision they’ve just made.
Resulting in less shopping cart abandonment or last-minute funnel dropouts.
You make sure you the money you’ve already worked so hard to get goes into your bank account, and that it doesn’t just get left on the table.
The pieces of social proof that usually work best here are quotes from previous customers saying that purchasing from you was one of the best decisions they ever made.
On Ancestry’s signup & free trial checkout page, there’s a testimonial right next to the chart comparing account-level features.
Rather than focusing on the price, they focus on how much value someone can get from just two weeks, pushing people who are still a little unsure over the edge.
2) On Your Blog
Beyond selling and making money, social proof is essential to marketing.
Essentially, you need social proof to get more social proof (in the form of even more shares & comments).
So make sure you flaunt how many shares and comments you’ve been getting on your hottest posts.
Just be careful not to curate negative social proof.
For example, advertising that you’ve got one comment on a three-week old blog post, just 17 email subscribers, or only 4 tweets isn’t going to do much to make everyone else want to jump on board.
But there are ways around it, even if you do have embarrassingly low numbers.
One way to turn negative social proof into positive social proof, as pointed out on ProBlogger, is to show the total count of all your shares, not just dividing them out by network.
To get around negative social proof and show all your shares combined as one number, you can use a plugin like Mashshare on your blog posts.
3) Within Your Newsletter Signup Call to Action Box
If you have the numbers, you better show them off.
If someone signs up, are they joining your tribe of 13,124 subscribers that have increased their revenues by an average of 13.2% using the tips you share in your newsletter?
Flaunt that shamelessly.
And if you don’t have those numbers quite yet?
Add a testimonial about how good your newsletter advice is and how it helped one person do their job a million times better.
Social proof placed here will take those people who are on the fence about signing up and push them over.
Jeff Goins probably has a decent amount of subscribers to his email list, but he gives a great example of finding other types of social proof (beyond just displaying numbers) to entice people to jump on his bandwagon.
If he’s written a national bestseller, then he obviously knows what he’s talking about when it comes to getting attention to written work, right?
4) Personalize the Social Proof People See
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly about placement, but it’s a big one.
If you’ve got information on your visitors about what industries they work in or what titles they hold, only show them testimonials from their same (or very similar) industry or in-office working situation.
When they see people who are just like them talking about how great you are, they’re much more likely to get on board.
Yes, non-personalized social proof works too, just not as well.
For example, if I see a social media sharing tool testimonial from a corporate marketing manager, I might think it’s cool.
But what’s really going to push me over the edge is seeing a raving review from a fellow solopreneur.
The science behind it is called implicit egotism, which basically means that people tend to gravitate towards others that resemble themselves in some way, favoring the self-associations they can see on a surface level.
And according to HubSpot, displaying personalized content gives you a 42% better on-page performance rate than displaying the same thing to everyone.
5) In the Sidebar
On most sites, sidebars are typically used for ads.
But you can ditch the smaller amount of revenue you’d get from showing ads and use that valuable real estate to boost your own product instead.
Pardot suggests displaying a rotation within your sidebar widget to either show client quotes or enthusiastic tweets about your company.
Vegan Outreach, a site focused around the online vegan community, shows social proof in their sidebar by showing off their 298,000 Facebook likes and their 48,200 followers on Twitter.
Attached to those numbers, they make it really easy to join their online communities by adding “Like” and “Follow” buttons that only require one click to jump on board and join everyone else in their online vegan community.
6) On Your Home Page
A lot of companies have figured this out in some respect, but many are so clueless as to what to do with their home page design that they just default to using their blog.
A blog as a homepage isn’t altogether bad (especially if you’re running a business based on a blog, but most of us aren’t).
You might have a prominent link to your blog and even some teasers of your most recent posts, but having a home page that’s heavily focused on social proof can add instant credibility.
And if a happy testimonial is one of the first things people see, especially if there are faces attached to that testimonial, it’s golden.
And if you’ve got enough testimonials to be picky, you might want to do some research on whose face will have the best impact.
For example, this article in the Daily Mail suggests that we’re more likely to trust strangers with prominent cheekbones and high eyebrows.
These types of things help disperse some of the distrust that’s so inherent in us every time we do an internet search.
Setting the discussion on design aside for a moment, this Georgia-based wellness studio shows their real clients who’ve achieved real results (rather than opting for edited stock photos).
They show a variety of people with a wide range of weight loss success to appeal to anyone who might be interested in their services.
7) In Your Hero Image
One of the most popular landing page practices these days is to use a huge image that fills the first full screen of your homepage.
Rather than using a plain, solid color, or some form of your brand’s name and logo, you can use this real estate to show a use-case scenario so visitors automatically project themselves onto that image, imagining the good feelings of using your product.
Even a staged picture or scenario will work for social proof in this instance.
The most important thing is to have the feeling of seeing what you’re offering in action to trigger the desire to make a purchase from you, rather than your competitor.
In MailChimp’s hero image, the desktop part is animated to show how easy their drag-and-drop email builder is to use, giving real-life ‘proof’ that it’s something their visitor would enjoy using.
Welp, there you have it.
My personal favorite tip is the first one about adding social proof to your checkout process.
Whenever I buy something online and the seller has been smart enough to add a testimonial to the checkout page, it’s like I can’t get my credit card information in fast enough.
Plus, it reinforces my idea that I’m making a really good decision.
What are some of the most convincing and creative ways you’ve seen to add social proof to a website?
Any urls you want to share? We want to hear in the comments below!
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