Blog cover: How to Use Social Proof on your website to sell more: 5 proven methods

Summary: 5 proven methods you can leverage to use social proof on your website to make customers trust you and buy from you.

Picture this.

You go to a webshop to buy one of those 'ring things' you can use to measure the amount of spaghetti you need to cook.

But then you see it has an awful rating of 2/5.

"Why would people rate it so low?"

You start reading the reviews to find out:

  • "It breaks easily"
  • "It doesn't portion the spaghetti correctly"
  • "It's clumsy "

A moment later, you decide it's not worth your hard-earned money and you don't buy it.

"I like my spaghetti in large amounts anyway" (Amen!)

You've just experienced the power of online social proof.

But what is social proof exactly? And how can you use it to sell more through your website?

What is social proof?

Social proof was first coined by dr. Robert Cialdini in his book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" (great read if you're into psychology and marketing).

[..] the principle of social proof. It states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Profile picture of dr. Robert Cialdini
Dr. Robert Cialdini
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

It's a psychological principle which states that we base our behavior based on what others think or do in the same environment.

Whether you are buying a product online, looking to get in touch with a service provider, you don't reallly know how to behave at a fancy dinner party or how fast you may drive on a certain highway, the actions of the people around you will have an imense impact on your own behaviour.

In other words: by using the past opinions or experiences of others on your website, you can influence the future actions of your potential customers.

5 types of social proof to earn the trust of your website visitors

But how do you implement social proof on your website? Here are 5 proven ways.

1. Testimonials

A screenshot of the homepage at Revolut.com
An example of social proof in the form of testimonials - revolut.com

A testimonial is a written statement of a person detailing their experience about a product, event, service... It's the perfect tool to give a potential customer an insight in what doing business with you is going to be like.

And they're extremely powerful. In Europe, a staggering 60% of people state that they completely trust the online opinions of others.

What's important to get right?

A testimonial that truly persuades potential customers is:

  1. Specific - A testimonial that says "we loved it" or "we really enjoyed it" is uselless. It's too vague. A potential customer can't empathize with that. To make them as effective as possible, they need to describe the experience of that customer in detail.
  2. Real - If it's not real or it can't be verified, there's a large chance that your potential customer thinks you're faking it and it will do you more harm than good. If possible, use the full name of your customer including a profile picture and use a system that verifies the authenticiy of the testimonials (such as Google my Business, Trustpilot, LinkedIn etc.).

How do you get testimonials?

  1. Ask customers via mail to write a testimonial about your product or service.
  2. Ask customers in a conversation (live or by phone) while you write their words down. After that's done, you can send them the text and ask them if they're ok with it.

To make your testimonials specific (and thus effective), ask your customer questions such as:

  • "What were some concerns you had and how do you feel about those now?"
  • "What were your expectations and how did we meet them?"
  • "What do you feel is the best aspect about our product / service?"
  • "How has our product / service helped you?"
  • ...

Create a habit of always asking for testimonials after a purchase or service provided. This allows you to make a selection of the very best ones to showcase on your website.

If you can, use a platform such as, Google My Business, LinkedIn or Yelp. When a customer leaves a testimonial, their identity is automatically verified. This comes across as more "real" and increases trust because the testimonial can be verified.

How do you implement it?

You might be tempted to create a separate page on your website and just place all testimonials there, but let's be honest... No one visits those pages.

Testimonials are best placed in as much context as possible. For example, add product-specific testimonials to a product page, project-specific testimonials on that project page, etc.

This way, the testimonial will have much more impact since it's directly related to what your potential customer is reading at that time.

2. Ratings

A screenshot of the homepage of urbanmattress.com
An example of social proof in the form of ratings - urbanmattress.com

Ratings are a quick visual way to show potential customers:

  • How much other people value your service or product.
  • That you are confident in your own product or service.

What's important to get right?

A rating that truly persuades potential customers is:

  1. Real - If it's not real or it can't be verified, your potential customer thinks you're faking it and it will do you more harm than good. Use a third-party system to increase trust (for example: Trustpilot, Google my Business etc.).
  2. Clear - Potential customers need to be able to quickly grasp the rating. Use a simple, visual scoring system. The best known example is a 5/5 rating system with star icons.

How do you get ratings?

  1. Look for a third-party system that you can use to start accepting ratings. Well-known examples are Trustpilot, Google My Business, LinkedIn recommendations, etc.
  2. Ask customers to leave a rating through that third-party system. Most of them offer a link you can share with your customer. This ensures that their identity is linked to the rating.

How do you implement it?

Most third-party systems have some sort of way to implement your rating on your website. Either through a plugin or a piece of code. This is the easiest method. You don't need to update your website every time you receive a new rating, it is updated automatically.

You can also manually add a rating to your website with a link to your review page on the third-party website.

As is the case with testimonials, ratings will have much more impact when they are directly related to what your potential customer is reading at that time.

Ratings can be placed on your website:

  • On your homepage
  • On specific service or product landing pages
  • ...

3. Customer logos

A screenshot of the social proof on the Trancend homepage
An example of social proof in the form of logos - transcend.io

When people see logo's from companies they know, they unconciously link your companies credibility to that of those companies. The better known the logo, the stronger that link. You can use logos from well known customers to increase trust:

"If company X trusts them, they must provide a good service/ offer a good product."

What's important to get right?

Logo's that truly persuade potential customers are:

  1. Known - If you use logos from companies your target audience has no clue about, they won't have any effect. At least some portion of your target audience needs to recognize the name of the companies.
  2. Context - If you just paste some logos on your website without any context, how can your potential customer know why they should care? You should always aim to at least add a title to your logo block to give context to your potential customer (for example: 'These companies already use our product').

How do you implement it?

Logos can be placed on your website:

  • On your homepage at the very top just below your main intro text.
  • On specific service or product landing pages.
  • ...

4. Publications

A screenshot of the homepage of maderenovation
An example of social proof in the form of publications - maderenovation.com

Just as is the case with logo's, customers will unconsciously link the authority of publications to your business.

"If publication X has written about them, they must provide a good service/ offer a good product."

What's important to get right?

Publications that truly persuade potential customers are:

  1. Known - If your target audience has no clue about what these publications are, they won't have any effect. At least some portion of your target audience needs to know the publications by name / logo.
  2. Focussed - If your business appears in a publication because of something that has nothing to do with your service or product, you shouldn't use it. Only include publications that directly relate to your products or services.
  3. Contextual - If you just paste some logo's on your website without any context, how can your potential customer know why they should care? You should always aim to at least add a title to your logo block to give context to your potential customer (for example: 'As seen in').

How do you get publications?

Is there is an important event coming up in your business? A new launch of a product, service...? Try and reach out to local publications. Why not send your product over to some publications and ask them for their opinion?

Be creative and kind when reaching out. And who knows, perhaps some publications will want to write about your product or service.

How do you implement it?

Publications can be placed on your website by:

  • placing them on their own unique pages (for example: a 'Press' or 'Publications' page)
  • Adding the logo's of publications on your homepage or specific context related page (product or service page)
  • On specific service or product landing pages.
  • ...

5. Case studies

Two females sitting at a desk reading a paper
An example of social proof in the form of case studies - mollie.com

A case study is an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of a particular case within a real-world context. That context is what makes a case study so powerful. It gives your potential customer a window in what working with you will be like.

What's important to get right?

A case study that truly persuade potential customers is:

  1. Focussed - Your case study has one goal: to show potential customers how your product or service has improved the life of a past customer. Focus on a problem you have solved and how the life of your customer has changed for the better.
  2. Detailed - If you make your case study too generic, it won't allow your potential customer to empathize with your past customer. Make sure to add enough details to create that emotional connection with your potential customer. If at all possible, add business results expressed in numbers (for example: increased revenue).
  3. Real - Don't make up stories or results. Just don't.

How do you get case studies?

Take a look at recent projects you've completed or products you sold. Get in touch with that customer and ask her if she would be interested in a case study. Interview them in person, by phone or by email and ask them questions about how your product or service has helped move their business forward.

If you don't really know how to write a case study, you can use this general structure:

  1. The problem - What was the problem that your customer needed solved?
  2. The effects - What were the effects of that problem on your customer? How did it affect her?
  3. The solution - How did your product or service helped solve the problem? What is the result?

You can also use this structure to ask specific questions when interviewing your customer.

How do you implement it?

Case studies can be placed on your website:

  • On their own unique pages (for example: a 'Case Studies' or 'Work' page)
  • Linking to them on parts of your website where it makes sense (for example: add a link to a case study about a product on that specific product page for example.)
  • On specific service or product landing pages.

Conclusion

Social proof is an immensely powerful psychological principle. By using social proof on your website, you can influence the decision of your potential customer. That in turn means you'll be able to sell more of your product or service.

In the examples above, often more than one type of social proof is used. You can mix and match two or more of the five types in this article together to create a stronger whole.

But remember, moderation is de key to life. Don't overdo it or you risk negating the positive effects of social proof.

So try out the 5 types of social proof, implement them on your website and see what works best for you.

Maarten Van Herendael

Maarten Van Herendael

Maarten is Heave's founder. His passion is to help businesses like yours do great things with a website that looks better and sells more. You can find Maarten on LinkedIn.