Anyone who has looked into sales and converting potential customers into buyers knows about the need for social proof. Social proof is basically the use of social cues to get people to trust you and behave in a certain way.
How is Social Proof Exhibited
Social proof can be exhibited through customer testimonials. If other customers are happy with your product or service, it must be good!
Social proof can be exhibited through the people you hang out with. If someone of the stature of Gary V or Darren Rowse mentions your blog or Twitter, their followers will automatically have a level of trust in you.
Social proof can also be exhibited with personal credentials. What makes you trustworthy? If you are a doctor a medical degree from a prestigious medical school would give you more social proof than one from a local community college.
When Social Proof Fails
The other day I ran across a “traffic system”. You know, one of those traffic systems that promise you thousands and thousands of visitors…and you don’t have to do anything!!!
But wait, there’s more! It costs less than $50!
So why should I trust a guy selling magic and rainbows and butterflies packaged in a simple, cheap, online system??
Well he tells us why in the “who the hell am I and why should you buy from me” part of his spiel. We should trust him because he studied to be a minister!
Social proof, right? You should trust a minister. Wait…he’s not even a minister, just studied to be one …even better.
Sorry, I mean no offense, but in my eyes heads of church lost all credibility when they started touching little boys.
But more importantly (at least in this case!), what does being a minister (assuming he actually was one) have to do with getting traffic to my site? NOTHING!
Social Proof That Works
I see what he is trying to do, but it’s not working. Social proof needs to be valid. This isn’t!
So how do you provide social proof that actually works?
1. Validity. I wouldn’t go to a mechanic to get a surgical procedure done. Why would I go to a minister to get traffic to my site. Don’t over-think the process. Show why potential customers should trust you in terms of what you are providing. Had this “minister” told me he is Google Adsense certified (not perfect, but better and more valid than being a minister), I would have had more reason to trust him in terms of traffic generation.
2. Testimonials. Do you have any happy customers? If this guy did I wouldn’t know about it! It’s easier than ever to get testimonials for your service or product. Give away a free sample of your service or product on your blog, favorite social network, or forum such as the Warrior Forum, and ask for feedback.
3. Social Networking. Start connecting with other people in your industry. It’s easy! Comment on blogs, follow people on Twitter, befriend them on Facebook and start interacting! Look into services like Triberr that give you instant social proof from fellow members (if you don’t know about Triberr feel free to ask me :)). It’s easier to trust someone else mentioning you than you mentioning yourself.
4. Free Content. This “minister” went straight from sales page to purchase page. But it can take up to 7 (or more) impressions for a potential customer to buy from you. While I don’t dispute the effectiveness of squeeze pages, you need to offer something for free! A newsletter, a free course, something! This is why blogs are so effective…your sale is already surrounded by free content. If you offer free quality content, people are more likely to trust that your product or service will be of high quality too. Don’t just assume someone will buy from you because you studied to be a minister!!!
Don’t be a minister if you’re trying to be a marketer. Do it right!
Your Two Cents:
Have you ever used social proof in a sale (or anything else)? What other forms of social proof are there? What is the worst attempt at social proof that you have seen? Would you trust someone just because they claimed to have studied to be a minister? How’s your day going?