What Is Social Proof Online?

Marketing, Social Media

Here at Oak City Technology, located in the heart of Durham, NC and RTP, we understand that the perception of a company online carries quite a bit of weight. But why? The answer to this is rather simple and it’s called “Social Proof”. Humans are pack animals and the psychology that goes into this is ever present online. People generally tend to trust what they read online about products and companies from complete strangers. While some of us may find it hard to believe, people sometimes trust online reviews MORE than a recommendation from someone they know. Let’s find out why!

What Determines “Social Proof” Online?

Take this situation; you’re at work and you ask a friend where a good Chinese food place near your office is and they say “Random Chinese Restaurant Inc” about 2 miles down the road. As many of us would, your next step would be to Google the restaurant name to look at the menu. The first thing you see is 78 reviews and a 2 star rating, do you still go there for lunch? Odds are no.

Social proof is a much deeper topic of conversation with far reaching implications that is studied by psychologists all over the world. However, for the purposes of this article we are going to reference social proof as it affects people’s decisions online. In full definition, social proof is:

“Social proof, also known as “informational social influence,” is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.“

Basically, what this means is that people gather information from others around us in order to determine how we should feel or act in a certain situation. When it comes to online, social proof can be an extremely effective method of marketing as it is already heavily ingrained in the way people use the internet today. Think about it, when is the last time you made a purchase on Amazon that had a 2 star review or ate at a restaurant that other people in your local area said was “rude staff and bad food”? We make our purchasing decisions today based almost entirely on the opinions of other internet strangers.

Online Reviews And Social Proof

One of the clearest and most prominent forms of social proof online are reviews. Whether it be a product sold on Amazon or a local landscaping company people take online reviews seriously. In fact;

88 PERCENT of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation“

This can be hard for some people to accept but the data is clearly there to support this. What happens is the social proof of online reviews make users have a sense of “Perceived Trust” in a company they might never have heard of until their Google search 20 seconds ago. Perceived trust is the level of trust a user can expect to gain through your web presence (e.g. reading reviews, looking at social media, visiting your website, etc.)

Positive reviews of a company displayed prominently on Google in the form of Google reviews go a long way in convincing a user to take that next step and either contact you or visit your physical location. While there a several other trusted review sites, we prefer Google Reviews as they have many advantages over other review sites like Facebook and Yelp. Learn more about why Google Reviews are special here!

Does Social Media Impact Social Proof Online?

While social media isn’t weighted as highly in a user perspective, it is still an incredibly valuable tool for any business interested in social proof. Just like with reviews, people tend to trust what they read online and that includes social media. We live in a world today where “gotcha culture” has seeped into our online environment. This can terrify businesses away from social media where bad PR online can do real damage to a company.

While that reason may be valid, I think the benefits far outweigh the concerns. When a user of your service or product tweets or posts something like:

“had a great time at Flying Burrito tonight with @xxx can’t wait to go back next week for #taco #Tuesday!”

This is extremely positive for social proof online. A business now also has a digital record that you can embed on your website as a testimonial and promotional material like this:

Incorporating these types of social shares about your product or company on your website or other online marketing, email for example, you directly show a user that real people thought enough about your business to tell their personal networks.

Social Proof And Online Marketing

Since humans are trained to accept the opinions of others online, this benefits crafty businesses who take time to carefully craft that public appearance. This type of marketing can be incredibly effective in taking that next step of growth in a business. By spending marketing dollars that would otherwise go to low conversion rate options like (email, direct mail, or even PPC ads) a businesses can invest in a long term solution. Using social proof for marketing doesn’t fade away like short lived advertising and it only gets stronger over time. If you have dozens 5 star reviews dating back to 7 years, the perceived trust in your company can be MUCH higher than your other local competition. Users trust a long history online, especially if you have a modern website as well. It’s important to note that a positive history is great, but if a user gets to your website and it looks like it’s from 2006, odds are you’re going to lose that lead. You can spend all the money you want on marketing, but if your website is hard to use and isn’t mobile friendly, you’re better off investing in that first. Learn more about Mobile First Indexing here.

But What About Bad Reviews Or Negative Social Posts?

As noted earlier, this is a major reason why many companies stay away from social media and online reviews. As a business, we understand that sometimes customers or clients can have unattainable expectations or requests. In the unfortunate but rare situation that a person does leave a negative review, whether out of spite or misunderstanding, it’s important to follow a few simple rules;

  • Respond Promptly
  • Be Polite
  • Address The Situation
  • Offer To Fix The Problem

Just the sheer fact that you’re responding in a prompt and polite manner is often enough to convince an online reader that your business, most likely, was not at fault for that person’s unhappiness. While humans take social proof seriously, we also understand that some people are just…….ridiculous……and this can be made very clear in reviews.

On the other hand, bad reviews can also be a good for a business as a learning opportunity. Unfortunately in any business that has consumer facing side, customers who receive bad service are far more likely to leave a negative review about your employees than a product itself. It’s important to still address these negative reviews in the same way explained above but they can also be used to better serve your customers. Use them to better train your staff and see where problem areas may be in your business. Feedback is important, don’t underestimate it!

Why Choose Oak City Technology

At Oak City Technology we specialize in building these lead generating websites, that draw in the users who are looking for you and convert them to leads, through a simple user experience and answering the users’ basic questions. We pride ourselves in generating business for our clients and making sure you stand out against your local competition. Contact us today to get started generating leads and clients for your firm’s website!

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