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Social Proof: What It Is and Why It's Great for Digital Marketing

What is Social Proof, and Why is It Important for Your Small Business?

Social proof refers to how people make decisions based on what others are doing. For example, if many people like something, it must be cool, right? How do businesses use social validation in digital marketing? Social proof can be used in digital marketing to help customers decide about buying products or services. Social evidence comes in many forms, including (but not limited to) customer testimonials, case studies, media mentions, and influencer marketing.

Back-Up, Let's Define Social Proof

According to Sprout Social, "Social proof is a term coined in 1984 by author Robert Cialdini in his book Influence. This phenomenon is also called informational social influence, and essentially it's the idea that people copy the actions of others in an attempt to emulate the behavior in certain situations."

Is this kind of social validation significant to prospective and current customers? You bet - it affects all stages of the buying decision and can make a difference with apprehensive customers. How important is it for business owners?

  • 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations. (

  • 57% of consumers will only buy or use a business service if it has at least a 4-star rating. (

  • 91% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. (

What are the Types of Social Proof used in Marketing?

I touched on several types of social validation earlier; let's look at those and other types.

Customer Testimonials & Customer Reviews

Customer testimonials and reviews from real customers are quick blurbs that explain how they used your product or service and that they were happy customers. They are often included in websites, brochures, and other marketing materials. These testimonials aim to act as a stamp of approval, helping to establish trust with customers and encourage potential buyers in their purchasing decision. For me, and like many of you, reviews are where I now start when I'm in the consideration phase of the purchase journey.

Case Studies

A case study is a detailed description of how a particular business problem was solved using a specific solution. They provide a clear example of what worked well for a client and why they chose that approach instead of another one. They also give insight into the challenges faced during implementation and lessons learned from mistakes made along the way.

Media Mentions

A media mention is when someone mentions your company name or product in a news article, blog post, video, etc. This helps increase awareness about your business. You often see "As seen on..." and list prominent websites, channels, and magazines.

Stamp of Approval from Industry Experts

Before social networks, this was one of the most commonly seen forms of social validation. Brands endorsed by outside organizations reassure consumers that the product is worthy of purchase.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is when brands use popular influencers for marketing their product. Brands usually pay influencers to promote their products, and the goal is to create awareness about the brand through the influencer. Companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Samsung have used this method successfully. Social media influencers might give product reviews, share on their social media platforms, or even endorse a product. The past few years, in particular, have shown influencer marketing campaigns to be more of the most potent forms of social validation in marketing.

User-Generated Content

Along with influencer marketing, brands and companies don't necessarily need mega influencers (or even micro-influencers) to provide social validation. Brands that encourage user-generated content often have great success from these campaigns. This social proof in action is a highly effective form of boosting engagement and cutting through the noise on social media channels.

Examples of Social Proof in Marketing

Let's check out a few excellent examples of social validation in marketing.

1. Customer Testimonials and Product Reviews

On the product page for this HUM vitamin product, reviews are just a tiny scroll away - placed within easy range for consumers to see the experience of others. Note: they also (smartly) include social media buttons to share the review - encouraging that content to move outside their site.

2. Case Studies

Hubspot has a case study directory featuring (at the time of this writing) over 300, which demonstrate how their product solved a consumer's particular problem or pain point.

3. Media Mentions

Back to HUM vitamins (I'm shopping while writing this :). On the main page of their website, they prominently feature media mentions. This communicates that their product is good enough that it's been featured in prominent and familiar publications, so it must be great.

4. Stamp of Approval from Industry Experts

Consumers are becoming savvier; they understand that industry experts can help shed light on a product's impact/validity. This brand, Safe Catch Tuna features an MSC Certified label, which means, "When you see the MSC blue fish label on our products, you can be sure it comes from a well-managed, environmentally sustainable fishery."

screenshot of safe catch Msc certification
A stamp of approval from an outside certification company can be a powerful social proof tool for your product or service

5. Influencer Marketing

I, like many of you, love skincare and makeup. I can't say I follow many influencers outside that space, but I follow many inside. (Rose - below- is just ONE of my favorites). For me (as long as it's not an affiliate post, and they're upfront about if the product was free for them), their word goes a long way in building customer trust and driving my decision to purchase from an online retailer.

6. User-Generated Content

I stumbled on this one last week when I had to live on Canva to complete a project. Canva's design challenge - encouraging users to submit designs to be featured on a billboard if chosen. In checking how many posts, the hashtag #Canvadesignchallenge accumulated (to date) over 125,000. That's a lot of UGC traction.

Key Takeaway

In short, there are many ways to get your message across, and social proof tools are a powerful driver of helping the customer journey and getting to conversion.

What do you think? How do you use social proof in digital marketing? Let us know!

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