Six Types of Social Proof and How to Use Them

Social proof is a powerful tool that offers a business big impact for a nominal cost. But what exactly is social proof? Otherwise known as informational social influence, it is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. In other words; we are influenced by our peers’ experiences.

Social proof can help potential customers discover your business.
Social proof can help potencial customers discover your business.

Peer influence has always been a powerful persuasion tactic. Word-of-mouth marketing has been around since people have had something to sell. In the old days, shop owners had to wait for customers to rave about their services to friends and family, who would eventually be persuaded to try it for themselves. Aside from providing amazing service, the shop really had no control over what happened when the patron left the building.

Today, we live in a world where Google, Facebook and Amazon dominate our culture. Consumers have become conditioned to look online first for an answer to a problem. We can instantly find information about a brand based on a multitude of criteria in a split second. The purchase process for many businesses is not a straight line. Often customers will say they’ve learned about a product “online” but can’t identify specifically whether it was on social media, a search engine, a review site, or advertisement. Oftentimes, it is a combination of these appearances that contribute to the eventual purchase.

With the blurring lines of our digital world it is important that a firm employs social proof to help clientele make decisions about their brand quickly. Organizations need to provide proof of their excellent products and stellar service in the places that a potential customer would naturally look during the research process.

The good news for entrepreneurs is that websites and social media networks have become great outlets to spread the word about their work faster and farther than ever before. Business owners now have an active role in encouraging and building their online reputation with social proof.

Three Common Types of Social Proof

A positive statement from a client about their experience using your product or service. Testimonials are a great way to share what your happy consumers think about your organization. The best way to highlight these is to sprinkle them throughout your website, so that no matter what page potential customers land on, they can see that others are already raving about your brand. Remember to occasionally rotate your testimonials to keep it fresh for repeat visitors.

To get the best testimonials, just ask! Get feedback from your best clientele and find out why they would recommend you to others. Don’t forget to ask them for their permission to publish their thoughts on your website and on social media. If privacy is a concern in your industry, offer to use only their first name or initials.

Social Media Shares

Another way organizations can gather social proof is through social shares. An active social following and great, shareable content are the keys to this concept. While gaining social shares is an art form; interesting content, attention-grabbing headlines and easy-to-find share buttons on your site are essential for more social media shares.


A statement about a product or service on a third-party site. We all rely on them as consumers. Amazon, Yelp, Google; often before we make a purchase of any kind, we look at the reviews. We don’t know the reviewers personally, but psychologically we feel better about our decision after reading about how others feel about their experience.

Now imagine you are your own customer. Where would you go to find reviews about your offerings? Make sure you have reviews in places that your clientele would naturally look.

Reviews are a great way to provide social proof
Reviews are a great way to provide social proof

Not enough reviews? Remind your patrons to review you. While you can’t bribe your clients for positive reviews, you can make it easier for people to write one. Send links to the review sites via email or connect sites, like Yelp, to your own website with a button that directs the viewer to your business listing.

Once you receive a review, make sure to respond quickly with a reply. Respond with gratitude and appreciation for the positive comments. What about a bad review? No one is perfect, we all know that. But if you happen to get a bad review, handle it with your best customer service and grace. Respond quickly to fix the situation and respond online to the negative review so others can see your timely and graceful response. Most consumers just want to know that if they have a problem, you will work hard to fix it.

Other Types of Social Proof
Press Mentions

A news story in the local paper, on the radio or on the local TV news can expose your organization to a wider audience from an objective source. This type of social proof can lend credibility to your business through mainstream media, which provides a much larger and more diverse audience than the typical social media mentions.

While everyday events may not be worthy of a press release; product launches, events and other big happenings may be worth contacting a public relations expert to help your firm gain exposure to a new audience.


Defined as someone (celebrity or otherwise) lending support to a business in exchange for money, free products or services. While an endorsement from an A-list celebrity can be a boon for business; for many, it really isn’t likely.  Most savvy consumers recognize a paid endorsement when they see it. For example, we’ve all seen ads for skincare products that feature a well-known actress espousing the benefits of the product, though we know she had nothing to do with the production or development of it and most likely doesn’t use the product in her everyday life.

Influencer marketing is a different type of endorsement. While a celebrity may not be related to the product being sold, influencer marketing relies on an accomplished person in your field to tout your company’s virtues.  For example, if I’ve written a cookbook focused on healthy eating, I may send a copy to a prominent food blogger for her to review. When she raves about my book on her blog, she is introducing me to a much larger audience. They are influenced by her opinions and ultimately this will increase my sales. It’s known as the halo effect.  Influencer marketing can be very effective if done properly.

Influencer marketing can impact your firm's bottom line.
Influencer marketing can impact your firm’s bottom line.
Certifications and Awards

Industry awards and certifications can highlight the depth of your organizations knowledge and talent. For new clients, this may help to cement the idea that your firm is an industry leader. It validates that you are a thought leader in your field. Certifications in combination with other social proof can become a strong influencer and may tip the sale in your favor. Any certifications or awards should be proudly displayed in your place of business and on your website.

Using technology to focus potential clients’ attention on what others are saying about your firm is a smart move. Savvy business owners know it is a cost effective way to spread the word but it is also a powerful persuasion technique that allows consumers to make smart decisions quickly. Make sure your potential patrons have all the information and plenty of social proof to help them make the right decision about giving your organization a try.