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Untrustworthy Ministers: Social Proof and Selling

Selling with Social ProofAnyone 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!

Uhhh…  ?

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

Social Proof

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? :)


19 Responses to Untrustworthy Ministers: Social Proof and Selling

  1. Bell says:

    I would definitely not trust anyone with serious business just because they claimed they’d studied to be a minister.
    That’s like saying “I can fix your car. I’m good with machines. I almost graduated from dental school.”

    Disembodied testimonials on websites, brochures or whatever are a pretty lame form of social proof.
    Taste trials converted into TV ads are also very, very lame. You can’t lick your screen and try things for yourself.

    • Eugene says:

      Haha, true. I think we’re all becoming very numb to all of the marketing tactics that are so overused.

      But on the other hand we DO need some way to portray that we are trustworthy. Disembodied testimonials are definitely not the way to go.

      Nor is claiming you studied to be a minister!

  2. Well, first of all, my day is going well. There have been some interesting turns and twists – but overall, it’s been a good day. I’m learning a lot about myself, actually, and it’s helping me to see life in a different way. We grow -it’s what we do. We’re human. :D

    As for social proof – I was dying of laughter, reading your bit on the marketer claiming to have studied to be a minister. That’s funny. If it was working so well for him, why isn’t he a minister today? Maybe it’s because he just couldn’t be moral enough to hold the job, so decided to be an internet marketer…lol jk

    I do have to agree with Bell on testimonials. There’s a huge difference. Some testimonials, when disembodied, are almost pointless. Any business owner can use his Grandmother and friends on the street to write up a piece of positive text. HOWEVER, when you get a testimonial attached and linked to a prominent blogger, marketer, product user – along with a name and photo, they can be VERY powerful. I always enjoy those types of testimonials.

    I think that’s one of the reasons LinkedIn has found such a level of success. Recommendations are simply testimonials in YOU. And they’re linked to others, where you can find their credits and business experience. I’m going to trust the recommendation of someone in the same business as the product – versus someone who isn’t. It’s just easier to trust.

    Just a few thoughts. Thanks for letting me share. Sure hope you’re having a great day too.

    • Richinka says:

      Being a minister is often hard work, and usually doesn’t pay the bills – if the guy needs a second job to support fourteen orphans and an adult blindness center, then being an internet marketer doesn’t involve formal education and could be a perfect gig for a struggling hard working poor minister… or it could be a guy in texas wearing a chicken outfit who once saw [what he thought to be] an amish guy [but was really Danny Glover] and now has found Jesus… who knows…not the point

      What I do find interesting though is your suggestion that LinkedIn can be a good start for background research and referrals. Could you imagine a trust rating for each user entered by his LinkedIn Contacts? Co-workers or Clientes who hated the guy could give him a 1 star and leave a nasty comment, while friends could give him 5-stars and say “honest and trustworthy.” Ebay does it…BBB (Better Business Bureau) does it… iso 9001 is the same thing… moody’s does it for stocks… rating things is big business…

      • Ratings things is a huge business, it certainly is. That’s a great thought, too – to possibly have a “rating” over at LinkedIn. Being that LinkedIn is more on a professional “level” I guess they just suspect you’ll be doing your research.

        Anyone who’s willing and ready to hire someone on to their team for $50,000 plus each year – is going to be doing their research.

      • Eugene says:

        Wow Richard. I have no idea what you said exactly…but I think I agree?

        Lol, you never cease to amaze me.

    • Eugene says:

      I think that sums it up pretty well Christian.

      And sounds like you’re having a very interesting day :)

  3. Today was the best day of my life, Eugene! Thanks for asking!

    You want to know how I know that this guy really did study to be a minister? Because he, apparently, has never studied to be a salesmen. :) OK – I am so sorry. I usually don’t like to poke fun at situations like that but I couldn’t resist.

    Seriously though, I think the fact that he mentioned he was studying to be a minister was done so to in someone way project that he meant well and had no bad intentions with his product. While that may be the case, results its what count in business, not intentions.

    Can’t agree with you more that he needed to have a better landing page, some testimonials and just an overall better approach at closing the sale – not just straight from the landing page to the “give me your money now” page!

    I have to admit, I do like the fact that he took the action required to create and develop a product but I also know that he needs to invest a little more in himself (entrepreneurial education) , do more market research and test a little more before just throwing anything out there on the web and expect people to greet you happily with their credit card on hand.

    Awesome take-aways Eugene!

    • Eugene says:

      Well I hope today was better than yesterday then! :)

      Haha! Touche Hector. Maybe I SHOULD trust him then lol.

      I do understand what he was trying to do. But I think he accomplished the exact opposite of his intentions.

      Given what this guy claims in his sales page video, he should have extensive entrepreneurial experience. Or at least a lot of experience building very popular web pages. I would think at some point he would come across information about how to sell more effectively.

  4. Hey Eugene,

    Brilliant post. I have run in to a minister or two as well, and even a police and a doctor. They were all telling me to trust them, not because of what they had accomplished online, or the social proof, but because of their titles.

    I almost always look for social proof before buying anything online, well, unless I want to be the first one doing the testing (and it’s really cheap) :)

    • Eugene says:

      Yeah, I totally get what they’re trying to do, but it comes off as disingenuous, and actually accomplished the opposite result of what they’re aiming. But a discount is always a nice way to get around lack of social proof isn’t it? :)

  5. Annie Andre says:

    Hi Eugene,
    my day is going great. a little busy though. i was without internet access for almost 7 days and now i’m catching up on my blog reading, commenting, socializing.

    Social proof. I definitely think feedback and testimonials can be social proof. But you know what else seems to be social proof?

    Good pictures. Or is that social proof? Maybe it’s not but i’ll tell you anyways. My products sell so much better when i showed people wearing them (sleeping masks) vs just sitting on a plain white background. And the more artsy the photo’s were the better they sold too.

    social proof is also who is in your network. whenever i have a new twitter follower, i always look to see who is following them. If i know a few people whom i trust following that person, than i am more likely to follow that person too.

    And finally, NO! i would never trust anyone just because they said they were a minister. But if they tacked that on to the end of their qualifications than maybe it might enhance their social proof. It just depends i suppose.

    • Eugene says:

      Uh oh! 7 days??? When I leave my reader alone for 1 or 2 it gets out of hand. My thoughts and prayers go out to you :)

      I think the good pictures are social proof. First it shows that you care enough to put in the effort of providing good quality photos. And if you’re putting in that much effort into your photos, your product is more likely to be good as well. It is also easier to relate when you see an actual person wearing the mask as opposed to the mask as a stand-alone product. So yeah, I think that works as social proof.

      I do the same thing. Especially with Twitter because it requires more filtering unlike the other social networks.

      And I guess it could add to the social proof if they already listed their relevant qualifications. But then doesn’t it seem a bit out of place? Like…you just told me why I should trust you because of what you have accomplished and because of the feedback you’ve received…why do I care if you’re a minister or doctor or lawyer or dog trainer?

  6. Eugene,

    It’s cool that you talk about relevant stuff. Social proof couldn’t be more relevant right now. I’ve really been doing a lot of thinking and “strat stuff” around creating an environment where social proof benefits the bottom line.

    So huge. Well written post. You’re a good writer man!

    • Eugene says:

      Hey, thanks for the kind words Ryan. And thanks for stopping by. I just tend to write whatever pops into my head at the moment, glad it’s relevant though :)