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The Social Proof is In the Testimonial Pudding

The Social Proof is In the Testimonial Pudding

“Don’t take my word for it, listen to what this guy’s got to say!” Even though this well-known sales mantra is extremely overused and comes off like a used car commercial, the marketing principle behind it is highly effective. Is your website taking advantage of testimonies to help sell your product or service?

The Psychology Behind Social Proof

Known as social proof, this marketing angle uses psychology to ease someone’s concerns about making a decision. By presenting a potential buyer with evidence that other people are happily using your service, you are in effect using peer pressure to get what you want. This is the same peer pressure that your parents warned you about; ”If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” “Well Mom, it all depends on how many people are doing it.”

Social proof tactics can be found everywhere, with television sitcoms being one of the most visible examples. Even though canned laughter feels rather patronizing when if first hear it, once you get used to it, it actually causes the jokes to be funnier. This is due to the fact that our feelings intensify when we feel like we’re participating in something.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini explains this phenomenon in his book The Psychology of Persuasion: “One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.” People who value critical thought don’t like to admit that peer pressure can influence their decisions, but to say otherwise goes against human nature. In fact, one can argue that a person’s stubborn desire for independence from peer pressure, may actually be the result of social pressure from peers who collectively value critical thought, but we digress.

Leveraging the Social Instinct for Your Online Marketing Campaigns

Peer pressure is a fundamental part of life and social proof marketing tactics tap right into it, leveraging the urge people have to belong. Your company’s website can take advantage of this natural social instinct by adding client testimonials. Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers explains, “Customer testimonials, influencer testimonials, embedded tweets, Facebook likes, short case studies, and data about users all nudge your landing page visitors closer to converting.”

Chances are, plenty of your clients have an opinion about your product or service. You can tap into and collect these opinions and use them as social proofs on your website. The challenge is to pick an appropriate opinion that speaks directly to the choice your website’s visitor is considering, with the hopes that it will be just enough to nudge them into making a sale.

You Can’t Fake a Good Testimonial

When faced with the prospect of having to interview people for their testimony, it’s easy to think, “I can just whip up a fake quote and add it to my landing page.” Granted, you could do this, and you might even be able to get away with it, but we think you’ll find that making up a believable quote is rather difficult to do; especially one that doesn’t sound forced and overly salesy. Remember, would-be clients are already viewing your website with skeptical eyes, so they’ll be able to distinguish if a social proof is real or not.

Plus, you don’t want to risk getting caught for using a fake quote or a made-up client profile for your website's social proof. We know of a case where this happened. A business owner made a fake client profile to leave positive comments about their business on social media and online forums. After one of their employees left the company on a bad note, they made sure to expose this lie.

In addition to fake social proof being misleading, it’s also a big no-no when it comes to SEO. If a search engine determines that you’re padding your website’s social signals with fake accounts, then your site’s search ranking will be penalized. Therefore, it’s better to take the extra time to find a usable and real testimony for your website.

What to Look for when Selecting a Good Client Testimonial

When it comes to picking out a good testimony for your landing page, there are three elements of convincing that you will want to look for. Demian Farnworth, Chief Copywriter of Copyblogger Media explains, “Persuasive testimonials do at least three things. First, they mention a specific benefit your product offers. Second, they substantiate a claim you’ve made. Third, they favorably compare your product to a competitor.”

Now, it’s unlikely that you will find a perfect testimonial that meets all three of these criteria. Therefore, if you instead add multiple testimonies to your various pages that collectively address all three of these elements of convincing, then the visitor will get the message and be impressed by the amount of people featured on your website who look favorably upon your business. Social proof used effectively like this will go a long way into converting a lead. After experiencing results like this for your company’s website, be sure to call your Mom and let her know that not all peer pressure is bad.

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