Using Social Proof To Become A Thought Leader
You may have heard the term “social proof” pop up every so often when marketing is discussed, but what is it? Simply put, it is support for your marketing that you get by borrowing influence to add to your initiative’s. Social proof gets its power from the actions or opinions of an influential force--usually another person or their experience.
While social proof can be an exceptionally powerful tool to help build up your marketing, you have to acquire some before you can put it to use.
What Qualifies As Social Proof
There are a few different categories of things that count as pieces of social proof.
- Case Studies: These documents are data driven and comprehensive analyses of the services you have supplied to selected clients, demonstrating the benefits that come with what you have to offer your prospect.
- Testimonials: Testimonials are statements from pleased clients, offering praise for the service you have provided them with. If you use testimonials, make sure they can be confirmed as credible by including not only their name, but also their company and role, as well as their picture (if they agree to sharing as much).
- Social Media: This form of social proof covers everything said about you online by your clients on social media, whether it was tweeted, posted, commented, or even shared. Naturally, positive statements are good, which isn’t to say that negative things are all bad. Rather, they are opportunities to respond and resolve the problem (providing another positive social proof, which we’ll mention again later).
- Trust Icons: These are the logos of industry thought leaders and heavyweights who had something positive to say about you. Adding a snippet of their reaction to the logo will help to add some credibility and influence with your audience.
- Data and Numbers: Data and numbers can be used independently for considerable impact, or can be used in combination with other forms of social proof, quantifying an otherwise qualitative statement.
However, not all social proof is fair game without permission, and a lot will take some work to gather.
Collecting Your Social Proof
There are a great many ways that you can go about gathering social proof. First, make note of which of your clients tried a particular service and ask them for their impressions and feedback. You can use online tools to track your online mentions with Google alerts, or social media mentions and discussions via Hootsuite. Speaking of social media, start conversations with some of your satisfied clients and customers there.
Of course, you may be able to encourage a more organic social proof acquisition by simply working closely with your clients and their teams. Live events can be filled with potential social proof, as you can gain some from the audience as well as other speakers, the event organizers, and your hosts. You can even give away a deliverable in exchange for feedback.
When it all comes down to it, when it comes to collecting social proof, all you have to do is ask. Putting it to use, that’s another matter.
Putting Your Social Proof To Use
After going through the process of collecting social proof, it is only natural that you want to get the most out of it. This means that you’ll have to do some A/B testing to land on the optimal means to use your social proof.
Remember, you’re looking to figure out how to best use your social proof. As a result, it makes no sense to test messages with the social proof against messages without it. You will want to instead test how that social proof is presented, and when to use it.
This will allow you to establish:
- What kind of social proof works best at a given point in the marketing funnel
- What the social proof should be in reference to, whether it’s a particular service, the overall experience, or something else
- Where it is located on the webpage, if it works better as a sidebar element, or when it’s incorporated into the page’s copy.
Your website should give you plenty of opportunities to share your social proof. For instance, your testimonial page is an ideal place to share a quick blurb--or, if possible, a quick testimonial video. You should also share your social proof next to content that is relevant to the message of the social proof itself. Social proofs can even help support your calls-to-action.
You will also need to ensure that your social proof is defensively credible, or that your audience can tell that they are legitimately from one of your clients. This means that you shouldn’t just identify the source by name, as it seems less authentic that way. Instead, provide as many details as you can about them. With their permission, use their picture, identify the company that they are representing, link to their professional social media accounts, whatever you can do to confirm that this person is real, and not a fabrication.
Dealing With Negative Social Proof
Unfortunately, not all of the social proof you collect is going to be positive. If left unaddressed, poor reviews, complaints, and other examples of negative social proof can very quickly tarnish your reputation. Therefore, it is better to address these concerns head on. To do so is a relatively simple process:
- Identify the issue. What is causing your clients, contacts, and other audience members to be unhappy? This is likely to be the easiest step, as they are likely to have referenced the issue in their negative social proof.
- Figure out the resolution. What is the core reason that this issue is bothering these members of your audience? Is a technical issue influencing their experience with your website or service? Do they have a problem with your content, either with the subjects you discuss or the context in which you discuss them? This information is key to successfully completing the next step, as it shows you the root of the problem.
- Solve the problem. Once you’ve identified the issue that is leading to your clientele’s unhappiness, the natural next step is to fix it. Make sure that whatever led to the poor reviews is attended to, and will not continue to be an issue in the future.
- Share the solution. Let your audience know that the problem has been seen to and resolved by sharing a brief statement with them. Ideally, you should also respond directly to the original complaint, informing them that the issue has been resolved and that you appreciate that they brought it to your attention.
It is important to remember in these cases that the customer (or client) is always right, and therefore, you need to make sure that their concerns are addressed to the best of your ability. Even if the issue is out of your control, tell them--it will show that you are willing to be honest and transparent with your clientele.
Properly utilizing social proof is an excellent way to strengthen your company’s reputation among your audience, as well as their confidence in you and your services. The key is to identify and establish what works best with your particular audience. We can help you collect and utilize social proof. Reach out to us at 888-546-4384.