18 Ways to Use ‘Social Proof’ to Boost Your Marketing

In this post, we’ll focus on the use of social proof on social media to boost your marketing effectiveness. Examples: an Instagram post or tweet about your product by a celebrity or influencer. Examples: seeing their friends use your product or follow you on social media. For example, when an expert takes over your Instagram account to post an educational content, tell Instagram Stories, or go live, people who know her might like your brand more as her presence on your social media creates a positive influence on them. There are many ways to share such social proof on social media. Brands would sponsor micro-influencers -- people with a strong social media influence in a niche area and who aren’t celebrities -- to post about their products. They could be industry experts (expert social proof), social media influencers (celebrity social proof) or passionate users (user social proof). A fun way to generate user social proof is to share these shout-outs on your social media profile, showing others the love your users have for your product. You could choose among the various types of social proof: Expert social proof: Feature an expert recommending your product Celebrity social proof: Feature a celebrity or micro-influencer endorsing your product The wisdom of the crowd: Mention the number of customers you have In their recent Facebook ad, SkillShare, an online learning platform, mentioned that there are more than two million students learning on their platform. Good ratings and reviews are a great form of user social proof.

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18 Ways to Use 'Social Proof' to Boost Your Marketing

Science plays a key role in marketing, especially the science of psychology.

We have written about the 15 psychological principles in marketing and studied seven social media psychological research. This time, we’d love to dive deeper into one of the most powerful and prominent psychological phenomena… Social proof.

The use of social proof can be found in many areas of both offline and online marketing. In this post, we’ll focus on the use of social proof on social media to boost your marketing effectiveness.

Let’s get started!

6 Types of social proof

Before we go through the strategies, let’s go through what social proof is and the science behind it. Here’s how social proof is being described on Wikipedia:

“Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

According to Robert Cialdini, who studied the principle of social proof in-depth in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, “We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.” So often in situations where we are uncertain about what to do, we would assume that the people around us (experts, celebrities, friends, etc.) have more knowledge about what’s going on and what should be done.

On top of that, we often make judgments based on our overall impression of someone — a.k.a. the halo effect (named by psychologist Edward Thorndike). For example:

  • We think anything that experts use is great because they are probably more knowledgeable than us in their area of specialization.
  • We buy products endorsed by celebrities because we want to look like them.
  • We trust user reviews because they have experienced the product or service, unlike ourselves.

In general, there are six types of social proof¹.

  1. Expert: Expert social proof is when an expert in your industry recommends your products or services or is associated with your brand. Examples: a Twitter shoutout by an expert or having an expert on your Twitter chat.
  2. Celebrity: Celebrity social proof is when a celebrity endorses your products. Examples: an Instagram post or tweet about your product by a celebrity or influencer.
  3. User: User social proof is when your current users recommend your products and services based on their experiences with your brand. Examples: praises on social media or positive ratings on review sites.
  4. The wisdom of the crowd: This type of social proof is when a large group of people is seen to be endorsing your brand. Examples: having thousands of customers or millions of followers on your social media profiles.
  5. The wisdom of your friends: This type of social proof is when people see their friends approve your product. Examples: seeing their friends use your product or follow you on social media.
  6. Certification: This type of social proof is when you are given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure in your industry. Examples: the blue checkmark on Twitter or Facebook.

Now let’s dive into how you can use social proof in your marketing…

18 Easy ways to use social proof in your marketing

1. Invite experts to take over your social media.

Having industry experts take over your social media profiles can be a great way to tap into their influence and the positive association their followers have with anything they do (i.e. halo effect).

For example, when an expert takes over your Instagram account to post an educational content, tell Instagram Stories, or go live, people who know her might like your brand more as her presence on your social media creates a positive influence on them.

The best part of such collaborations is that they are often a win-win situation as the industry experts also benefit by getting to reach your audience.

Every now and then, we invite experts or influencers to take over our Instagram account to interact with our followers and share educational content. Recently, Ryan Hoover and Niv Dror of Product Hunt took over our Instagram Stories to share how they use Buffer and give our followers a tour of their new office. Here’re some snippets of their story:

As a bonus, Product Hunt also tweeted about the takeover to tell their Twitter followers about it.

2. Collaborate with experts for a social media event.

Similarly, you could invite experts as guests for your social media events, such as Twitter chats or Facebook Live video discussions. Such collaborations can allow you to tap into the experts’ positive influence and give your social media audiences an opportunity to hear and learn from experts in the industry.

Almost every week, we host someone knowledgeable about social media, marketing, or workplace culture on our Twitter chat, #bufferchat. We’d ask the guest (and the community) a series of questions to get her insights on the topic.

Recently, we had our Director of Marketing, Kevan Lee, as a guest to discuss the topic of being a T-shaped marketer.

3. Show appreciation for mentions.

Every so often, you might receive a nice mention from the press, a big brand, or an influencer in your industry. This is a great form of expert social proof.

There are many ways to share such social proof on social media. At Buffer, we like to show our appreciate for such mentions and avoid coming across as being boastful. Here are some phrases we like to use:

  • “Grateful for the mention”
  • “Honored to be featured”

Earlier this year, Tesla received the Best Car Award in Germany for the third year in a row, and they showed their appreciation with this tweet:

I like that they also showed their gratitude to the 124,000 people who voted for them.

4. Share milestones.

Another quick way to create social proof is to show gratitude for your user or follower milestones. Reaching milestones is a fun occasion to celebrate and a great time to thank the people who have helped you achieve that.

Here are some of the milestones you can celebrate with your audience:

  • Reaching X users
  • Reaching X customers
  • Reaching X downloads of your app
  • Reaching X followers on your social media profile
  • Anniversaries

When Piktochart turned five, they celebrated the occasion and thanked their users with this tweet (and a giveaway contest):

5. Experiment with (micro) influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing can be a cost-efficient way of getting celebrity social proof.

This is usually more prevalent on Instagram. Brands would sponsor micro-influencers — people with a strong social media influence in a niche area and who aren’t celebrities — to post about their products.

Because of their social media influence, these people are often deemed as celebrities within the niche area. When others see them with a particular product, they would transfer the positive attributes they see in these “celebrities” to the product.

Daniel Wellington, a Swedish watch company that is known for their elegance and minimalistic watches, often sponsors micro-influencers on Instagram to promote their watches. They would usually offer a unique discount code to each micro-influencer, too.

6. Explore having brand ambassadors.

Social media ambassadors provide a mix of expert, celebrity and user social proof, depending on the ambassadors you select. They could be industry experts (expert social proof), social media influencers (celebrity social proof) or passionate…

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