In the past ten years, social media has grown into one of the largest industries in the world. Billions of people around the world use social media of some kind, making it a valuable tool for business around the world. Social media is valuable to business for a number of reasons: it can be used to reach new audiences and inform customers of new products and sales, it can be used to quickly establish a brand for your company, and it can be used to build a name for yourself. Social media plays a major role in your company's success, much like movie reviews in major news publications have an impact on new releases. When internet users read and discuss your products or blog posts online or offline, you gain what is known as “social proof.” Social proof speaks volumes about your company, making it important that you have a strategy to earn it. Social proof comes in a number of ways, but in every case it is extremely necessary if you are looking to succeed in today's online market.
Social proof can work for you and against you. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to tell when social proof is helping you grow, and when it may be turning potential customers or readers away. A perfect example of this comes from the comments section you likely have enabled at the bottom of each of your blog posts. If your blog attracts a large number of interactive readers that comment on your posts, enabling comments is a great way to establish social proof. These comments show that others are engaged with your content, inspiring others to becoming engaged with it as well. However, content with zero comments make give off the opposite impression, and may turn off readers immediately. Many times, readers will see that there are zero comments, and will feel that this takes away from the value of the content you are offering. Social proof gives you credibility, making it more likely for other readers to take you seriously and engage. When you don't have social proof, be sure not to brag about it. Disabling the comments section may actually prove beneficial until you have a loyal readership that leaves comments, as your new readers will have no lack of social proof to make judgement on – instead, their judgement will be drawn from your content alone, which is what you should be aiming for.
Much social proof comes from sheer quantity. The more comments, shares, and likes your content receives, the more social proof it has. An article with 5,000 shares will have more credibility than an article with 50 shares, in the eyes of the internet. Unfortunately, this kind of quantity can take months (if not years) to achieve, giving you a disadvantage until you earn more readership. That being said, there are other forms of social proof that can work for you, many of which having little to do with the numbers themselves. For example, having a celebrity endorsement can lend you incredible credence in the eyes of your readers, and may ultimately lead to more shares, comments, and likes in the future. If you sell athletic gear and a semi-professional or professional athlete agrees to endorse your product, you've immediately gained credibility. This can be one very efficient way to quickly earn social proof, however you will need the consent of a celebrity to make it happen.
While a celebrity endorsement may be unfeasible right away, you can use normal testimonials to your advantage. You don't need a celebrity to say your product is great when others can say the same, so take the time to get testimonials from your customers or readers. Featuring a great testimonial on your homepage gives your page credibility, as other readers will see the testimonial and use it as part of their judgement. If they read a positive testimonial, they'll be more inclined to have a favorable opinion of your company. Testimonials will come naturally as your customer base and readership grows, but they are also incredibly valuable while you are building your audience.
Think of your social proof as your resume. When you present a resume to a potential employer, its contents say a lot about who you are and what you are capable of doing. The same can be said of social proof, as it shows others your track record, and gives substance to your company's name. As with normal resumes, qualifications such as certificates, degrees, and experience are invaluable to your website, and are considered social proof. Readers will be more likely to take your advice or buy your product if they know you are educated in the field and have experience with the information or product you are delivering. For example, readers will be more responsive to a medical article recommending a certain medication if it was written by a doctor with years of experience, rather than someone in college without medical experience. For this reason, it's important that you include on your website any information you would typically put on a resume – degrees, experience, certifications, and even referrals – so that your readers know you are an authority in your field.
Social proof can be found in a number of avenues. We recommend reading SumoMe's comprehensive guide to social proof, as they greatly expand on many of the concepts mentioned here. Ultimately, your social proof should work for you, and should give your blog, store, or company credibility. While earning organic social proof may start slow, there are ways you can give yourself social proof. Testimonials, certifications, and endorsements are just a few of the many ways you can give your website, content, or product credence without an already existing audience. As you grow, your social proof will as well, which in turn will result in further growth and a larger following.
What are your tips for establishing social proof? How else can social proof be used to help your company grow? Let us know in the comments below!