Way back in 2011 (which, in the ultra-fast paced world of online advertising, might as well be 10 years ago) TechCrunch was touting social proof as “the new marketing.” We know that social proof continues to play a major role in spending habits of both consumers and businesses today. So now that these concepts have been floating around for a couple years, how can marketers capitalize on social proof in their online advertising practices?
Let’s start by revisiting the concept…
As Aileen Lee explained in the article, social proof is essentially the influence that is created by a collective group that directs the assumptions of an individual regarding correct situational behavior. The example Lee provides of social proof in action is that of a line of people waiting outside of a club behind a velvet rope, which creates interest among those passing by about what the wait is all about. But there are also examples of this concept nearly everywhere you go online. How often have you purchased one product over another because of consumer reviews? Or felt slightly influenced because there was a glowing testimonial about a service you are considering? Probably more often than you think.
Social proof is a bit like word-of-mouth advertising with a snowballing effect: the more people whose idea of appropriate situational behavior is influenced by the actions of a collective group, the larger the group becomes—thus increasing their overall influence. Lee then goes on to outline five specific types of social proof, briefly described below:
So now that we know what social proof is and have a basic understanding of how it is related to general marketing strategy, how do we apply its principles to the practice of online advertising?
In order to develop a comprehensive online advertising strategy that incorporates the principles of social proof as much as possible, it’s important to dig into your existing data. Look at various online metrics influenced by social proof, including: website traffic from social sources (Facebook is a good example), page views, time on site, social media followers, fans, likes, customer testimonials, product reviews, etc. Do a Google search and figure out what people are saying about your products or services around the Internet.
Next, try out some strategies that leverage social proof for advertising influence:
Finally, go back and review the results of your socially-imbued advertising collateral and landing pages. You’ll hopefully find that not only are you getting better overall results (be it more conversions, traffic, shares, etc.)—you are also better able to influence the decisions of your site visitors towards the behavior you want them to take (more sales of higher profit items, bundling purchase options, etc.).
At the end of the day, social proof in advertising will only work as well as the product or service you’re promoting. If you “social-ize” ads, pages, or products that are especially poor in quality or service level, social proof can backfire on you because your customers will influence others based on negative perceptions of who you are as a brand and what you produce. But if the product or service you’re offering is looking good enough to sell itself, adding the element of social proof can be one of your biggest catalysts.
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