Written by Koen Hoogendoorn, Business and Legal Analyst at Vurdere | October 2021.
In this article we will dive into what social proofing your brand means, what the four basic mistakes are that often ruin your social proof strategy as a marketeer and how you can prevent these mistakes by building a social proof strategy that is more effective. The article concludes with some words on the next generation of social proof and how you can introduce a way of reviewing that uses the power of social media to social proof your brand.
Social proofing your brand is basically the use of human group psychology in marketing, like neuromarketing. It means that there are multiple, real, people approving your brand and products. Think about it, if some radio DJ you hardly ever listen to recommends you a music band, you are not very likely to listen to them. However, if a close friend of you recommends you this same band and explains why they think you would like this band, you will be more likely to listen to them (if you are a good friend, that is ;-)).
According to psychologist Robert Cialdini, humans view behavior ‘as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it’. This means that we simply follow the behavior of people around us (experts, friends, celebrities) behavior when we are unsure about what to do. We therefore assume that they know more about what is going on than we do.
If you see multiple people stating that they like a brand and product, then you will believe them and therefore also like that brand. This is what happens all the time, when a certain product is in or trendy. This is what Apple is a master of. With the releases of the iPhones, especially the earlier versions, newschannels all over the world broadcasted how people were waiting in the line at midnight to get the new iPhone. By using scarcity (limited amount of iPhones), and playing into the hype, Apple got free promotion by all major news-channels. This causes the iPhone to be social proof (we will dive deeper into how the social proof strategy of Apple works in a later article). Hey, if it is on the news, it must be good right? The good news is you do not have to get on international news with your latest product to make use of social proof. You can use social proof for instance by e-mailing customers to ask for a review after they bought something.
However, what we are interested in with this article is the question what are the biggest mistakes companies make with their social proof strategy?
Of course it is nice to receive reviews like: ‘This is a great product, I would recommend it to anyone!’. However, it is empty in the sense that customers do not know why this person would recommend it to anyone. A far better testimonial would be: ‘This is a great product, I loved it because it helps my daughter to sleep longer through the night’. This testimonial is more useful, because it focuses on the why. Getting the why of a costumer is way more important than just getting the testimonial. Social proof only works if we know why somebody likes something.
By focusing on the quantity of testimonials, companies also tend to forget the social aspect of social proof. A testimonial is worth more when we can actually understand who the person is that leaves a review. If this person is similar to us, then the social proof effect will only be enhanced because it creates the assumption that we also probably would like the same product.
‘Hey (xxx), please tell us, did you like product (xyz)?’. Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you have come across (or you are using) an NPS-flow that is not using the full potential of creating a social proof effect. Customers would reply to such a question with: ‘Yes, I loved the product!’. Instead, if you ask open-answers questions, such as: ‘Hey (xxx), please tell us how product (xyz) solved some of your problems. Why did you buy this particular product?’. This question invites customers to talk about the why behind their purchase, which is what point 1) focused on as well. So, ask open-answer questions to your customers in your NPS-flow.
Okay, I get it. You do not want to get a bad review. Nobody does, right? However, research shows that a few bad reviews here and there actually improves trust in a brand. Apparently, seeing only 5-star reviews creates doubt in a customer’s mind whether or not all of these reviews are real. That is why you should not delete bad reviews. It would definitely kill your social proof strategy if a customer would find out that you deleted their reviews, and consequently would talk about your company on the internet saying that you delete bad reviews. So, play it safe and leave all the reviews. Do however handle the bad ones through customer-care, but that hopefully goes without saying.
It is easy to see how social proof works well through social media. We see people talking about a product they like, people we are already following. This creates a hype effect, which causes us to be curious about a product. If we like the person who is talking about this product, then this hype effect will only increase. However, when we look at reviews on eCommerce platforms, or through third-party online review-services, the reviews are often static. There is no social profile of the reviewer. They often use an anonymized name, such as Johnson384. Because we have no idea who the reviewer is, it becomes hard as a customer to value the review or to even trust the review.
We at Vurdere, have created a plugin that solves these issues. Our Social Suite+ transforms the traditional review-tool of your website, to a dynamic social media network where your customers engage in conversations about your product. Since customers use their social media profile, the plugin knows what their interests are and who they are friends with. That is why we can show a personalized product page for your customer, where they will see friends, friends of friends or people with similar interests as them interacting with the product. Our algorithms reward the reviews that are most well written, hence why people will start to write better reviews. For one of our clients, this has resulted in a 10x in reviews, and a 5x in the quality of reviews measured by a Text Quality Index-tool (TQI). On average, we triple conversion and the amount of reviews. This is all because of the social (proof) effect that is created when people with similar interests are linked together in the eCommerce sphere.