By Amy Molthan.
Writer, Chief Vision Officer at uSocially, and Social Media Management & Public Engagement nerd.
Social Proof, do you need it? Word of mouth is very important, and whether you realize it or not, social proof has been happening, well, forever! Word of mouth is very important. It is very significant to understand the impact that a person’s opinion has on other people’s views of a business. Let’s take a look at how this works in real life. Then we will move on to how this works online, specifically with social media.
EXAMPLE: Jennifer visits a cute little shop that just opened in her town. It has a catchy little name and it is full of the unique decor, all hand painted and created by the shop owner. Jennifer is greeted by the owner warmly when she arrives and is told if she has any questions to please feel free to ask. Soon enough, she has questions about the unique items and kind of paints she uses. The owner is friendly and engaging and shares her techniques and shows her the supplies she uses, and also offers them for sale. Jennifer falls in love with a unique sideboard and makes her purchase, as well as some supplies to give some items she owns the same treatment. She is absolutely delighted with her purchase and new hobby. She immediately tells her family, her best friends, and all her coworkers about this surprising shop and its owner, who not only sold her this amazing piece, but explained how to do it herself and sold her the supplies! This peaks several people’s interests, and they rush down to visit this new shop and experience all of its wonders and great service for themselves, and the process repeats itself.
Through just one interaction a business has the power to make a lasting impact on a customer, turn them into a repeat customer, and build a reputation that will continue to build forward momentum. Of course, this can also work in reverse, if a customer comes in and is not helped, or is unhappy with their service and goes out and complains to everyone they know it will harm a reputation.
Most businesses understand this concept easily in the community and strive to bring excellent experiences and products to their customers. But, what about online? Many small businesses hear they should be online, so they make a Facebook page, maybe even a Twitter, or Pinterest page. But how does it work online?
It works pretty much the same way. Word of mouth online operates like it does offline except that it is a lot faster, further reaching, and around for people to find forever. It has a type of permanence that the real world lacks. So if John is upset about his service and posts a complaint on Facebook, that complaint will pop up on Internet searches, on others social media feeds connected to him, and if he posts it on the businesses Facebook page, it will be available to all the business’ current Facebook followers as well. It will reach hundreds or thousands of people in a matter of moments. So word of mouth is still very important.
Let’s take a look at how Social Proof can help build up and protect that precious reputation.
Understand How Social Proof Works. You may ask, well what IS Social Proof? Social Proof is not new. This is a psychological term, and this concept has been around since it was first studied in 1935, now listen up this is an important concept. This first study showed people a dot of light in a black room that did not move. Individuals reported it was stationary; however, they found that when they added two other people that said it moved the person would conform to group opinion.
This was just the beginning. Many studies have proven that if many think or feel a certain way about something, others will tend to think or feel that way. This works no differently online and with social media.
Now that you are armed with this little nugget you understand why a Facebook page with 1000 likes means that business must really be great in the eyes social media users. Don’t give up if you have only 10 likes, or 1, but now you know the importance of likes, and it goes the same for shares online.
Social Proof is credibility, with each like and share and good review you will build a loyal fan base that will recommend and defend you. This will attract more customers and increase sales. This can also help maintain an overall positive view of the business when someone makes a complaint. Of course, knowing how to use complaints to your advantage will help. Quick tip: Never ignore a complaint, and under no circumstances should you reply with a canned reply! Always be genuine and prompt with your attempt to resolve issues!
EXAMPLE: If you sell houses, and post an informative article about the 10 largest mistakes, people make when buying a home, people will view this as advice from an expert. People will like it and share it. You then interact with these people, thank them for sharing, ask them questions, encourage discussions! Hold info sessions and webinars. The interaction, likes, and shares will serve as Social Proof to others who come along later that you are looking out for the best interests of your buyers, and that you are an authority in your area.
The evidence is provided by interactions with your articles, posts, and conversations with customers and potential customers. They will read more about your business, articles, peoples’ opinions and comments, look into your testimonials, background, your followers, and quality of your articles and interactions to decide whether or not your business is credible, trustworthy, and worth their business.
Top notch content, creative engagement, and customer testimonials will provide them with proof that they should do business with you. Social Proof provides people the evidence that you are a credible business that provides good products and services.
All of this is directly related to your reputation. Social Proof is merely the science behind how that reputation is established. Of course, reputation is also about the quality of your products and services, the experiences you provide your customers, and your commitment to excellence. Some businesses worry about reputation more than others based on how they operate, but times they are changing. Everything is about reputation, and the experience that you can deliver to customers. It is no longer enough to bring the lowest price. Customers are now seeking a personal connection and great service with that lower price.
Customers no longer want to just be right. They want to matter, and they want to be acknowledged individually. This seems like a lot of work, and it can be, but it will help you develop bonds with customers that are stronger than they have ever been before.
Social Proof has a major impact on the buying journey. Today the average person has done up to 80% of their decision-making process before they even approach the business. If you cannot be found online, and they cannot research what people think they will likely move on and continue research elsewhere with a company who does have the Social Proof they are seeking.
When people go online, they are looking for proof now. People are strongly influenced by the power of Social Proof. This will come in many ways. The wisdom of the crowd is more powerful than ever, and it is the new marketing. The experiences of the users who already engage with your business, the judgement of the crowds who share and like your content, and the wisdom of friends who hold a lot of sway with others buying decisions all combine to make Social Proof.
This is why it is absolutely imperative for businesses to get out there and make Social Proof happen. There are many ways to approach this, but the most important aspect is to make sure you have a solid foundation and strategy to work from. Strategy is the key. You can’t just be slap dash in your approach, and you cannot start and then abandon your post! Remain consistent! Do your homework and if you can, consult with a professional service to help you do it!
uSocially. Connect. Engage.