One of the most important concepts in digital marketing is the idea of social proof. In an era where customers are bombarded with ads and promotions for thousands of products, social proof serves as a crucial point of difference that can turn the tide in your favour.
In this article, we’ll dive into what social proof is and why it’s so important in the digital age, before exploring some excellent examples of social proof that you can use to inform and enhance your own digital marketing.
What is Social Proof in Digital Marketing and Why is It So Important?
In marketing, social proof serves as evidence to potential customers that other people have purchased and found value in a product or service, and can be a valuable tool in converting new customers that are on the fence. Social proof can come directly from people you know, such as a friend or family member, or indirectly, through a customer testimonial or product review. Whichever form it takes, all social proof contains the same message: this product works and is worth it.
So what’s the value of all this? Firstly, simple psychology dictates that people are more likely to purchase a product that others have already purchased – this is known as the bandwagon effect. Secondly, social proof serves to build trust in potential customers that might not know your business. Think about it from your own perspective: are you more likely to trust a business with 50 reviews, or one with none? Unfortunately, scams are all too popular in the digital age, and social proof helps alleviate these concerns.
Finally, social proof conveys authority and indicates the quality of a service or product. It’s why businesses display the logos of their big-name clients on the home page of their website – if it’s good enough for them, the idea goes, it’s good enough for you.
What Are the Benefits of Social Proof in Digital Marketing?
Social proof has many tangible benefits that make it a valuable addition to your digital marketing.
Increased Conversion Rates
Social proof helps improve your business’s conversion rates (the rate visitors or browsers become customers) Both online and offline. Customer reviews, testimonials and social media posts all serve as valuable social proof that can convert a customer who likes your business likes your product, but just needs a little encouragement.
A More Diverse Digital Strategy
When it comes to your online marketing, there’s a tendency to fall into a habit of aggressive self-promotion to stand out from your competitors. But sometimes, a quiet approach is the most effective, and a few well-written reviews can have a greater impact than flashy videos and boastful social media posts.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a well-documented digital approach and one that you can leverage through the use of social proof. The more social proof you can offer, the more your potential customers will fear that they are going to miss out on your product or service. Greater urgency leads to greater demand and better results for your business.
Build Customer Relationships
The path to purchase can be a long one, especially in the automotive industry, and a successful conversion relies on building a relationship with your potential customers throughout that journey. Whatever form it takes, social proof helps you develop customer relationships by building trust and brand awareness over a long period of time.
The average car or caravan buyer doesn’t just wander onto a yard and purchase the first model they see; in fact, the average buyer will spend anywhere from 6 to 12 months researching their options and developing a shortlist. Throughout this time, they are looking to see not only which models meet their needs, but also which brands they can trust and connect with.
From the first time they visit your website to the first time they step onto your sales yard, you want your business to be at the top of their list, and social proof is how you get there.
Common Examples of Social Proof Strategies in Digital Marketing
As we have mentioned, social proof comes in many forms. Some of the most common examples of social proof that you see day-to-day include:
Photos and testimonials from real customers
Company names and logos on a website, especially from recognisable or ‘big name’ brands
Customer or client case studies
Celebrity and influencer endorsements
Follow counts on social media platforms
Third-party ranking/review sites, such as Yelp or Google
While there is a time and a place for each form of social proof, they all serve the same purpose and should be used to support each other in your digital strategy.
How You Can Use Social Proof
There is a time and a place for each form of social proof, and while they all serve the same purpose, learning how and where to use them can improve their effect drastically. Below are some examples of ways to use social proof.
Use Customer Reviews on Product Pages to increase sales
The product or vehicle details page is the most important page on a website. It is on these pages that purchase decisions are made.
Placing positive reviews on the product page is a very effective way to give customers that extra bit of convincing at the most crucial stage of their path to purchase.
In the example shown above, this first bit of text is a customer review, followed shortly after by the 4.7-star rating from over 50,000 reviews. Well over 50% of the text area is dedicated to social proof.
The actual write-up of the product has less space than the social proof and it is followed shortly afterwards by the CTA (in this case, “add to cart”) button.
Adding the CTA immediately after the social proof is very effective as trust and credibility are high.
Highlight Demand to Create Urgency
As we mentioned before, social proof can increase customer demand by creating a sense of urgency. Airlines and travel websites are the worst offenders for this, calling attention to the limited number of seats or rooms to make you lock in your booking faster.
In vehicle retailing, Westside Auto uses this same tactic by showing how many people view each car.
It also has a little icon that signifies interest is rising. This creates a sense of urgency with buyers, particularly on used vehicles with only 1 model with that colour, mileage, features, etc. If the model gets a lot of attention (views), potential buyers will need to act fast.
Another example from one of our clients was Pentakill. We were having a problem in that the chair kept selling out. When it sold out and went to pre-order, the cost per sale almost doubled.
We launched the below ad with the CTA “Find out why we’ve sold out 8 times”
This social proof created curiosity (“find out why”), highlighted the high demand for the product and created urgency. It also conditioned people that it may be out of stock and that they can’t wait for it to be back in stock to order.
We started selling chairs when they were out of stock at a lower Cost Per Sale than when they were in stock. This ad became one of the best performers for the account and was kept live even when the product was in stock.
Create urgency with 'Sales Pop' Notifications
Sales pop notifications are a real-time form of social proof that are highly effective on e-commerce platforms. These notifications show that other shoppers are actively buying products, which can increase a potential buyer’s confidence in the quality and popularity. These notifications can create a sense of urgency and encourage visitors to purchase more quickly, fearing they might miss out.
While common on e-comm, they can also be used on dealer and OEM sites to show enquiries. See below for an example from the site Machines4u.
User-generated content and social media
OEMS and dealers sell high-emotional investment lifestyle products. These cars, bikes, boats etc. become part of their owner’s lives, and often they share their lives on social media. As such, social media platforms, especially Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and TikTok, are great for finding and gathering User-Generated Content (UGC) from your customers.
This content often reflects genuine experiences with the product or service and increases credibility, as it is perceived as authentic and trustworthy.
An effective use of UGC here can be to use authentic content from your current owners that addresses any common doubts and questions potential customers may have by us.
For example, in the caravan industry, a common concern can be warranty. If there are reviews (maybe on the GMB) or other UGC that specifically concern a customer’s experience with a warranty issue, turning this into a post or paid ads can be very effective.
Use Current Owners to Influence Potential Customers
Facebook is full of owner groups. Jayco, for example, has over 20 owners groups on Facebook.
These are real owners discussing the caravans they own and how they use them, including their benefits and features. Driving potential customers into these owners groups can be highly influential in a number of ways, including:
Real ownership experience from current owners. Potential buyers can gain insights into the day-to-day realities of owning and using a product beyond what is typically found in brochures or sales pitches.
Honest reviews and feedback: Owner groups are known for their candid discussions and honest reviews. Potential buyers can get unfiltered opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of various models, which can aid in making an informed decision.
Understanding common issues: Discussions in these groups often revolve around common issues or problems faced by owners. Awareness of these issues beforehand can help potential buyers set realistic expectations and prepare for ownership.
Emotional assurance: Seeing the enthusiasm and satisfaction of current owners can provide emotional reassurance to potential buyers, affirming their choice and reducing purchase anxiety.
Using UGC found on social media
UGC can be very effective in social media ads or organic posts. It adds a layer of authenticity to your ads and can improve engagement and conversion rates.
The Impact of Handover Images at the Dealership
Handover photos help build trust and credibility. It shows potential customers that other people are buying from the dealership and are happy with their purchase.
These photos also add a personal touch to the dealership’s brand image. They showcase real people and real experiences, making the dealership more relatable and approachable, while also showcasing different models and features of vehicles, subtly promoting the dealership’s inventory.
For the customers featured in the photos, this can enhance their buying experience. It makes them feel special and valued, potentially increasing their loyalty and likelihood of recommending the dealership to others.
These photos are typically used on the dealer’s website and as posts on a social media platform. When posted on Facebook or any social media platform, these posts often encourage engagement (likes, comments, shares) from the customers’ friends and family. This increases the post’s reach and visibility, seeding the dealership within buyers network.
Use Stars and Symbols to Make Comparisons Easier
The overwhelming majority of customers use reviews to help inform their purchases, but trawling through dozens of written reviews is a time-consuming and imprecise process. Star ratings provide a quick and easy way for consumers to evaluate a product or service. A glance at the star rating can give a general idea of the quality or popularity of the item making it easy for customers to inform their purchase and make a decision.
The average car buyer only visits 2 dealers on the patch to purchase. Star ratings on the dealer’s GBP can hugely influence a buyer to visit one dealership over the other.
In the below example, two Harley dealers in Sydney have 300+ reviews while one has only 16.
In a competitive market, GBP star ratings can be a significant differentiator. A dealership with higher ratings (both by the number of reviews and the overall star rating) can stand out among competitors, attracting more customers.
Create an In-Group or Owners Group
Creating an in-group is a time-tested strategy that creates buy-in and brand loyalty in your customers and has been used in the automotive world for decades. How often have you heard people say, “I’m a Holden/Ford/Toyota man”?
In-groups create a feeling of exclusivity and desirability. Once customers are members of that in-group, they tend to be fiercely loyal, serving as another walking, talking form of social proof.
Each Harley dealership is expected to create a Harley Owners Group (H.O.G. chapter) associated with the dealerships. Owners in these H.O.G. chapters build connections and friendships within the group and are locked into the brand. Once in a H.O.G. chapter, members tend to talk about the brand and have a high propensity to buy merchandise, parts and accessories (and repeat purchases once it’s time to upgrade their bike).
Tag Popular Options to Avoid Decision Paralysis
One of the risks of e-commerce is that customers become overwhelmed by the options in front of them and make no decision at all. Tagging best-selling products is one of the simplest ways of avoiding decision paralysis in your customers, especially if, like in the image above, you can show how many times it has been purchased in the past day/week/month, thus hitting your customers with two forms of social proof at once.
Show Awards & Affiliations
Awards and affiliations are a high-authority form of social proof that positions you as a standout amongst your competitors. The MG4 was the 2023 Carsales Car of the Year. The award serves as an endorsement of the car’s quality, design, performance, and value for money, helping to reassure customers about their purchase decision.
MG immediately updated their homepage and marketing to highlight this prestigious award.
In a highly competitive market, this award can differentiate MG from its competitors, potentially swaying purchasing decisions in its favour.
Get Expert Reviews & Endorsements
Professional endorsements are one of the most powerful forms of social proof. This can take the form of industry expert endorsement (“Can you tell me which toothpaste “9 out of 10 dentists recommend…?”). In our industries, this is more likely to take the form of reviews from respected industry journalists.
A great example is Kenwith, who has the reviews of each truck on the relevant truck details page. A potential buyer will look to find reviews on the path to purchase. This way, a potential Kenworth buyer can read what the manufacturer says about their truck, view photos and specs, and read 3rd party reviews of their product without leaving the Kenworth site.
Provide 'Frequently Purchased Together' Recommendations
Similarly to best-seller tags or sales pop notifications, displaying products that are frequently purchased together is a great way to offer social proof that can have an immediate impact in encouraging customers to make larger purchases increasing the average order value.
Influencer Marketing with Social Media Influencers
Influencer marketing is one of the most notable and widespread examples of social proof, with influencers of all sizes in seemingly every industry imaginable. Influencer marketing is a smaller, more focused version of a celebrity endorsement that relies on an influencer’s popularity and trust with their target audience to communicate the value of a product.
While influencers exist on almost every social media platform, the two most popular influencer platforms in 2023 are Instagram and TikTok. When it comes to using influencer marketing, your best bet is to find influencers that align with your brand and product: family influencers promoting family caravans, off-road influencers promoting camper trailers, and so on.
This alignment and integrity is essential to the success of an influencer marketing campaign, as modern audiences don’t connect with campaigns that feel inauthentic or irrelevant to their interests.
Social Proof in Digital Marketing in 2023
As you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to showcase social proof in your online marketing. However you choose to use it, the most important thing is that you do use it. The digital landscape is crowded and competitive, and to stand out you need to both win the attention of your customer base and gain their trust.
Whether you use testimonials, case studies, endorsements or e-commerce features, social proof needs to be a cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy and something that you are gathering at all times.
If you’re struggling to stand out from your competitors, read our Insights for more digital marketing tips and tricks, or get in touch with a member of our team to arrange a free, no-obligations consultation.