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What is social proof? (+ 5 types of social proof and examples)


Last week I needed to buy flea and tick shampoo for my puppy, Quinn. It was a busy week, and I didn’t take the time to research shampoo brands before I ran to Tractor Supply Co.

Can you guess how I chose which brand to buy? I picked the brand that only had two bottles left on the shelf because the other brand had eight bottles left. You’ve probably used a similar method when purchasing a product. This method is called social proof, which refers to the theory that people typically adopt the opinions or actions of people they trust.

 But what does it have to do with your business? And is it useful for you? Let’s find out.

What is Social Proof?

Social proof helps you make a choice by using other’s behaviors (or actions) in the same situation. It’s often used in situations where people don’t know how to act.

Companies, large and small, use social proof every day. (You might even contribute to some of them!) Examples include:

  • Yelp
  • Amazon
  • Netflix
  • Facebook

In my example above, I used the behaviors of the others to help me pick which shampoo to buy -- also known as “wisdom of the crowds” social proof. There are four other types of social proof. Let’s check them out.

5 Types of Social Proof

1. Expert Social Proof

When an industry thought leader or influencer approves of your product in the digital space -- through blogging, gushing on social media, or providing a testimonial.

2. Celebrity Social Proof

When a celebrity uses a product on social media or in public. This form of social proof is even more powerful when the endorsement is not paid for. If you see #ad in an Instagram post, for example, the celebrity was paid for that endorsement.

3. User Social Proof

Consists of positive feedback from actual users, like Amazon reviews, Google reviews, Facebook reviews, testimonials, and YouTube product reviews. If I love a product, I’ll post about it or leave a review. I know my reviews make a difference. On Amazon, buyers ask questions about the product that the description can’t answer or they’ll “like” my review. This means they found it helpful and it influenced their purchase decision.

4. “Wisdom of the Crowds” Social Proof

Have you seen CBS’ new Wisdom of the Crowd? Yes? No?! Basically it’s a drama about a tech innovator who creates a crowdsourcing app to solve his daughter’s murder. The app is used by the general public to help solve crimes.

Here’s a clip:



“Wisdom of the Crowds” social proof also appeals to our sense of fear of missing out, also known as FOMO. You can see an example of FOMO at 2:53. Josh asks, “Why aren’t they listening to us? Why aren’t they running away?” Jeff responds, “Because people want to be a part of something meaningful.”

When lots of people are using or buying a product (or using a crime solving app), others want to do the same.

5. “Wisdom of your Friends” Social Proof

The recommendations from the people we know and trust, friends, family, co-workers, etc., carry more weight than other types of advertising. Research shows that 81% of people say posts from their friends directly influenced their purchasing decision.

High-Performing Social Proof Types

Social proof can have a huge impact, but what types work best?

As always, this depends on the type of product or service you’re marketing. ConversionXL (P.S.: I recently became a certified CXL optimizer) recently researched which types of social proof works best. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Testimonials work best when they include a picture of the person quoted
  • Prominent client logos in testimonials are memorable
  • 66% of consumers trust reviews online
  • 86% of female shoppers trust product recommendations from real people, industry bloggers or people they know, more than celebrities [Can I get an amen?! :)]
  • 77% of consumers say that word-of-mouth from family and friends is the most persuasive way to get information about new products
  • Excessive negative customer reviews in Google search results can result in a loss of up to 70% of potential customers.

 In Short

Yes, you should include testimonials on your website. Your website visitors trust the reviews they read online. So use your happy customers to move your prospects and leads further down their buyer's journey!

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