What is Social Proof? Definition, Examples, & How It Works

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

Read our review guidelines.

Human behavior has been studied extensively since the dawn of civilization. 

The ability to understand (and even predict) how people will act and react is sought after by professionals in nearly every public-facing field.

One breakthrough in this area of research is the idea of social proof, which is practiced through testimonials, reviews, and endorsements by trusted sources. 

In fact, 86% of businesses consider social proof marketing to be essential to the purchasing decisions of their customer base. 

If you’re curious about how you can implement social proof marketing into your business, this article aims to give you all the necessary tools to understand this phenomenon. 

We’ll define social proof, provide examples, discuss benefits, and more.

Let’s answer the question: is social proof marketing really all it’s cracked up to be?

Key Takeaways

  • Social proof is a psychological idea that people tend to mimic the behaviors of others in order to remain safe and included.
  • Social proof works by relying on the idea that people depend on guidance from others to make decisions.
  • Whether you’re strategizing to increase client loyalty or are looking to entice more customers, social proof can be tailored to your business goals.
  • Social proof marketing boosts website conversions, increases engagement, provides personalized content, influences purchasing power and decisions, and helps you understand your audience.
Proof

Proof lets you easily personalize your website for every visitor to increase conversions.

Try for free

What is Social Proof?

social proof definition

Social proof is a psychological idea that people tend to mimic the behaviors of others in order to remain safe and included. 

Interestingly, the concept of social proof is especially obvious in situations where people are unsure of what to do. 

Social proof is often used in business, marketing, and other professional or social settings.

Whether you’re strategizing to increase client loyalty or are looking to entice more customers, social proof can be tailored to your business goals.

How social proof works

Social proof works by relying on the idea that people depend on guidance from others to make decisions. 

This guidance is especially important when situations arise that are unpredictable or come with a lack of information.

Examples of social proof

There are several forms of social proof, which will be discussed later in this article.

There have been countless experiments over the years that have tested how people respond to the behavior of others, even if unconventional. 

To understand how social proof works, here’s an example scenario:

A person is asked to sit in a waiting room full of people. In this experimental setting, if everyone began to stand up (for no reason), social proof says that the new person would also stand up. 

There is a tendency by humans to trust the majority when there is a lack of information.

Types of social proof

Social proof marketing can be done in a few different ways. Take a look at these 6 types of social proof, all of which can be used to promote a product or service to the public:

1. Expert

This type of social proof often requires the endorsement of a product or service by well-known experts or influencers in a specific field.

For example, a doctor who promotes a supplement engages in expert social proofing.

2. Celebrity

Similar to expert social proof, celebrity endorsements fall into their own category of social proof.

A celebrity that discusses using a product or service is using their public image to persuade.

3. User

User social proof is based on lived experience or testimonials given by regular users of a product or service. 

Users can be social media influencers with a small to medium following, or they can be hired by a company to appear in a commercial or other promotional materials to discuss their experience.

4. The wisdom of the crowd

The wisdom of the crowd is a tactic that involves listing the number or percentage of users that regularly use a product or service.

If many people use a product or service, it must be worth trying.

5. The wisdom of your friends

The wisdom of friends is all about personal recommendations and social circles. 

This social proof tactic encourages people to invite their friends to buy and try a product or service based on a recommendation from a trusted source.

6. Certification

When businesses obtain certifications, it adds credibility for buyers. 

For example, a snack company that is “certified dairy-free” is much more likely to be tried by lactose-intolerant people than a snack that just claims not to use dairy products in their food.

Social Proof Marketing: Use Cases

So, how can you implement social proof marketing into your current or future campaign(s)? 

While there are countless ways to socially encourage sales and customer engagement, here are a few high-impact uses of social proof:

Curating user-generated content

User-generated content is well-loved by marketers, as 75% of these professionals believe that it increases engagement. 

By encouraging customers to share their experiences with your business, you are able to curate user-generated content that can be impactful to people who value the opinions of others like them.

Perform customer surveys

Customer surveys can be created and sent to people in many ways, including by email, through social media, or after a customer receives your product/service.

Share customer experiences

Alternatively, you can share customer experiences and combine them into a section on your website or brochure that will give new customers a sense of the community’s experience with your business.

Use influencer marketing to create brand awareness

Influencer marketing is a powerful and contemporary way to spread brand awareness and create sales.

Influencers range in popularity and fanbase, so finding a creator that your business can align itself with should be easy.

Launch promos and giveaways

Giveaways are a really fun way to increase customer engagement with your product or service, as well as create excitement over the potential of winning an item or experience.

Giveaways can produce a conversion rate of over 30%, so they’re considered an elite marketing strategy.

Display testimonials on your website

Sometimes, it just makes sense to put positive customer testimonials front and center on your website. 

With this method of social proof marketing, there will be no confusion about whether customers enjoy what your business has to offer.

Use social proof in ad campaigns

Social proof can be used in ad campaigns, such as on billboards or in commercials. 

Commercials that include testimonials are trusted by 76% of consumers, which surpasses those without user input.

Get verified on social media

Verified accounts on social media are more approachable and credible than those without verification.

If you’re able to obtain a blue check mark, go for it.

Benefits of social proof

If you’re still on the fence about social proof marketing, check out this next section.

Social proof marketing has a lot of benefits; some may even surprise you.

Boost website conversions

Implementing social proof strategies can boost website conversion.

For example, if a potential customer sees that your company is a certified distributor of a product, this may increase their confidence in the brand and lead to their purchase

Increase engagement

Customers are more likely to engage with a digital space (or website) that they feel comfortable with. 

For example, clothing brands that use the input of models or influencers of varying sizes will make consumers feel more at home

Provides personalized content

Testimonials rely on personal experience, but their backstory may resonate with someone who is in a similar situation. 

For instance, a single mother who relies on comfortable sneakers may appeal to others in her situation

Influence purchasing power and decisions

Social proof marketing can influence the decision-making process for new or returning customers. 

If a person sees their favorite influencer consistently using a product, the customer is more likely to add it to their cart

Understand your audience

A major theme of affecting marketing is understanding your target audience.

Brands that do not understand their audience often struggle to make sales, as their customer interactions will frequently fall short.

Why is social proof important for marketing?

Social proof is important for marketing because it draws on the expertise of communities, rather than brands. 

With so many brands at our disposal, it can be difficult to choose the right product or service.

However, if a well-loved influencer or a group of regular consumers vouch for your company, it is sure to make an impression.

Best social proof tools & apps

Social proof tools & apps have been created to meet the increasing demands of companies trying to engage in this marketing tactic.

Here are three great options:

1. Proof

Proof homepage

Proof is a marketing company that helps over 25,000 businesses to convert their website visitors into sales and leads. 

The company is well-versed in personalized content. Additionally, you can try this service for 14 days, free of charge.

Try Proof for free today!

2. Nudgify

Nudgify homepage

Nudgify aims to increase trust and sales at your company by using social proof.

If you sign up, you’ll be part of a company that services almost 140 countries worldwide with their marketing goals. 

Try Nudgify for free today!

3. Fomo

FOMO app homepage

FOMO (fear of missing out) provides live social proof for your site, with access to customer interactions as they occur in real time. 

In other words, customers can see when people are actually shopping!

With 108+ integrations, your company can begin to show social proof of a product or service.

Stat your 14-day free trial today!

Will using social proof help my business?

Definitely! Whether your business is hiring new employees, creating curiosity in your customer base, or breaking into a new market, social proof can elevate the number and kinds of interactions your business has. 

In summary, we’ve discussed the meaning and benefits of social proof marketing, as well as provided real-world examples of this phenomenon. 

If you’re interested in social proof strategies for your business, head over to any of the three websites mentioned in this article to begin your social proof journey. 

Also, be sure to check out the FAQ section to answer any last-minute questions you might have following the end of this article.

Wishing you all the best in your marketing and business endeavors!

FAQ’s

How do you show social proof?

Social proof can be shown through user-generated content, customer reviews, influencer endorsements, and other methods.

How do you measure social proof?

Social proof can be measured through engagement trends, conversion rates, and brand surveys.

All of these approaches combine information on customer use, purchase, and experience.

Does social proof work for eCommerce companies?

Absolutely! Social proof is highly valuable for eCommerce businesses, as consumer trust can be swayed based on the experience of others with your business.

Related reading:

Proof

Proof lets you easily personalize your website for every visitor to increase conversions.

Try for free

Donny is the founder of SMB Guide. He is a seasoned small business owner and entrepreneur, with over 17+ years of experience growing and building companies. He is a well traveled and multi-faceted individual with several successful six figure business exits.