Using Social Proof to Attract and Retain Customers

“Social proof is more important than ever. Your customers are influenced by ‘real people’, so leverage this in your marketing,” – Say Quotable

Marketing and selling activities figure prominently among the core objectives of a business enterprise. These exercises help a business to sustain commercial activities, expand operations, create new products, and to stay relevant in competitive markets. Therefore, entrepreneurs and business operators have a duty to enhance marketing and selling operations. One of the primary means of selling to a wide range of customers is to leverage social proof to underline the various benefits and attributes of a product or service. A celebrity endorsement, a positive review on social media platforms, word-of-mouth publicity, recommendations from friends, customer testimonials, media mentions – all of these are instances of social proof at work. The technique is deployed by business enterprises to win the unqualified support of their customers, attract fresh customers to the business, and to generate new business opportunities. We must note that this approach to selling assumes critical importance in a world where customers are connected electronically and operate in an information-rich environment.

Expert levels of social proof can be attributed to the opinion of credible experts in a certain field. For instance, a manufacturer of industrial chemicals can choose to cite the laudatory words of industry veterans as social proof to vouch for the consistently stellar quality of its merchandise. This approach comprises an instance of advertising that is fact-based, because the claims can be verified independently by anyone. The said business operator can leverage this advertisement to claim the continuing custom of existing clients and customers and for prospecting new business opportunities. This approach to conducting business also helps the enterprise to gain deeper credibility in the market to the detriment of its commercial competition.

Social proof that hinges on the weight of sheer numbers can be called the wisdom of the crowd. For instance, a nightclub or an exclusive restaurant may choose to impose restricted dimensions to its reception area. This would force most patrons to wait outside the premises before they gain entry into the said establishment. The waiting crowd acts as an advertisement to pedestrian traffic, therefore offering social proof of the exclusivity of the business or establishment. We may state that the above proceedings may well create a public impression that the nightclub or restaurant offers high quality entertainment and this may guarantee a steady flow of patrons in the future.

When trusted people endorse a certain brand or product, we may state that this offers social proof that can be branded the wisdom of friends. For instance, a group of happy vacationers that has just returned from a holiday may ecstatically endorse the services of a certain tour operator on social media platforms. The friends and followers of the said group can be easily influenced by these heartfelt endorsements and certain followers may opt to use the services of the said tour operator during their next vacation. These acts would primarily be powered by the original endorsements on social media, and therefore demonstrate the power of social proof in business efforts to create and retain new customers. We must note that in most of such cases, it remains incumbent on the business or the enterprise to exert itself in a bid to preserve the quality of its services and the essence of its advertised brand image. These efforts would help the business to prosper in the end and add an extended list of customers to its books.

User-based social proof pertains to the experience of individual human beings that have tried a certain product or service. For instance, a young woman may have a persistently delightful experience in the use of certain brands of cosmetics and beauty products. We note that this woman may be an average citizen that chooses to wax eloquent to her friends and social acquaintances about her positive experiences. Some of her friends may choose to act on her advice and thus ignite a virtuous cycle of word-of-mouth publicity campaign that can bring outsize returns to the said beauty products business. We must note that this instance of social proof hinges on mutual trust and is bereft of any commercial considerations whatsoever. The publicity campaign may catapult the young woman to the status of an unofficial brand ambassador for the cosmetics manufacturer. At the same time, we could also state that the quality of the merchandise speaks for itself – this remains true for every product and service that emanates from commercial operations. Further, this instance illuminates the power of the spoken word because the business gains additional customers without expending any additional dollars on publicity campaigns.

Celebrity endorsements are a special example of social proof that stems from the celebrity status of a star campaigner. The business world has deployed this technique ad infinitum because audiences often identify closely with celebrity figures. For instance, a hip-hop star of moderate standing in the world of music can choose to promote a certain brand or product for a sizeable fee. The fan following would naturally be attracted to the said brand and this may inaugurate a short-term spurt in the sales figures of the said brand. The celebrity endorsement may have to be extended over multiple seasons to sustain the sales momentum for the said brand. We note that this type of social proof is inherently an investment-heavy approach because the star needs to be paid a hefty fee for every season. A second instance of businesses leveraging star appeal can be observed when a store or a business establishment displays photographs of celebrity shoppers in the premises of the said enterprise. This instance of social proof can be leveraged by businesses to assure regular customers that the products are first rate and therefore trusted by celebrities. The gains can be substantial for the brand owner because average people tend to trust celebrities as an innate expression of their human nature.

Social proof can be used to attract attention to a brand or a business in the online world. For instance, a price aggregator that offers comparisons of travel ticket prices can use the technique to attract new customers. The social media handle of the aggregator can be boosted using legally and morally acceptable techniques in an effort to highlight the presence of the business in the online domain and to expand the customer base of the business. A mix of media mentions, the wisdom of the crowd, and recommendations from happy travellers can be used to offer social proof to new users. In addition, the price aggregator may decide to operate a word-of-mouth publicity campaign to boost its business prospects. This clearly emerges as an instance wherein an online business is using both online and offline brands of social proof to promote its standing in the world.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have surveyed the importance of using social proof for businesses that want to attract and retain customers. Simply put, social proof helps businesses to win the battle for customers’ attention. We must note that social proof operates on the established principles of human psychology and therefore, every market operator should consider using these techniques to establish their brand and expand their business.


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