Social Proof and its Role in Influencer Marketing

Social proof is a psychological concept that is widely used by marketers, and which has a direct correlation with influencer marketing. Let’s examine what it is, how it’s connected to influencers and marketing, and how you can use social proof to enhance your campaigns.

What is social proof?

Social proof is a socio-psychological phenomenon in which people who are unsure how to act in a certain situation copy the behavior of the masses. In other words, when people are unable to make decisions, they see what the majority of other people are doing, and then base their decision on that.

A common example used to demonstrate social proof is one of a group of restaurants. You’re hungry in a city you don’t know, and you want to find somewhere to eat. On the current street, you see three restaurants: one with no one inside, one with a few people inside, and one that’s very crowded. Which do you choose?

Most people would say the third: if a restaurant is crowded, it must be for good reason, right? We naturally expect that restaurant to have better food and service, which must be what attracted the crowd in the first place. However, we’re also assuming that the crowd of people inside actually has more knowledge than we do in the situation, when in reality, they could have simply based their decision on social proof, too.

Social proof was one of the six principles of persuasion in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Talking about social proof, Cialdini says “In the process of examining the reactions of other people to resolve our uncertainty, however, we are likely to overlook a subtle but important fact. Those people are probably examining the social evidence, too.

So, while social proof may not be the most logical way to decide, we can’t deny that it is commonly used to make decisions.

How does social proof relate to marketing?

Psychology is used in marketing all the time. Buyer personas, loyalty rewards, and even the marketing funnel itself play off of principles of psychology. We use these elements in order to better understand and connect with our target audiences.

Social proof is just another one of the psychological concepts that get applied to marketing. And marketers use it in very much the same way as the aforementioned example: social proof in marketing relies on people purchasing your brand’s products because they see other people doing the same.

Imagine a potential customer finds your brand, and is interested in your products, but isn’t 100% sure of going ahead with their purchase. How can we convince them to keep progressing towards a conversion? If we as the brand tout the advantages of our product, it will come across as obviously biased to the potential customer. 

But, if they see other people like them talking about how great our product is, social proof may just kick in. And this is where influencers enter the mix.

What does social proof say about influencers?

Influencers deal directly in social proof. They make a living off of promoting products to other people in order to hopefully influence their actions in some way. Think fashionista Instagram influencers gushing in Stories to their followers about the new dress they just got from their favorite brand.

When influencers are considered experts in their field, the chance of social proof taking off goes up even further. We tend to look to others when we’re unsure about our decisions, and when the person is someone we respect or admire, that adds extra weight to their credibility.

So, if you have a championship athlete promoting a new line of sneakers, the people who follow them are more likely to believe in their opinions. Because clearly, a successful sports professional would know a thing or two about quality footwear. 

How can I use social proof in my influencer marketing?

Now that we’ve talked about what social proof is and how it relates to marketing, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use it in your influencer strategies.

Increase and maintain your social media follower counts

Stepping back from influencers for a moment, examine your own social media accounts. The more followers you have, the more people are essentially in your restaurant (remember the example from the beginning of this post). 

To increase your follower count, focus on exposure. Get your brand name out there to as many people as possible. Influencers can help here, and especially micro influencers who work in dedicated niches.

As for the followers you already have, maintain them. Quality content comes to mind here. Why should people stick around if you’re not offering anything new or exciting? Again, influencers can help with the content creation process, but more about that below.

Find influencers with high engagement and the right audience

First up, find the right influencers for your campaign. You want to prioritize engagement, as it shows how interested the influencer’s followers are in their content. The more interested they are, the more the influencer may be able to affect their decisions.

Second, check into audience demographics to make sure that the influencer’s audience is interested in the same topics as they are. Also look into other demographics like age, gender, location, and language. Obviously, followers will be more swayed by someone who speaks the same language as them. And likewise, having a similar age, gender identity and location can help.

Repost influencer-created content 

When an influencer posts something for your campaign, get the most out of that content. Repost it to your social feeds, your website, and if you have an e-commerce angle to your brand, on your online shop.

There are tools that can help you embed social media content into your e-commerce, like TagTray if you’re using Shopify. You could embed influencer photos to the product pages of the items that they’re featuring. Or, you could set up something like the Instashop by Swedish e-commerce BubbleRoom that’s seen below.

A screenshot of Bubbleroom's Instashop, one way the brand leverages social proof using social media content.

 

Invite your followers to participate

Okay, maybe they’re not exactly influencers, and they may not have a ton of reach. But your followers can be leveraged into content creators who add to the social proof you’re trying to, well, prove to new potential customers.

You could set this up with a branded hashtag, and a call for your customers to take photos when they’re using your product. Invite them to use the hashtag, and offer to repost some of the hashtagged content in exchange. This is a win-win situation. 

A screenshot from a nano influencer who used fashion brand Monki's branded hashtag. This strategy can create social proof among your followers.
@elsa.lyck, who has 2.8K followers, tagged fashion brand @monki in this post. The brand then reposted the content to their own feed, which has 798K followers.

From the brand’s perspective, they’re getting free content, as well as social clout from real people who own their products. From the follower’s perspective, they feel more included in the brand experience and may see their content reposted by an account that has a significantly higher number of followers.

Get testimonials

Pretty pictures may be enough persuasion for some categories of items. But oftentimes followers are going to want more when deciding whether or not to buy a product. Enter the testimonial.

Ask influencers to highlight what they like about your product, or explain what they think it’s best for. You want content that has a clear opinion behind it. This way, followers can learn from the information provided and hopefully relate to the influencer experience.

You can also ask for testimonials from your followers, too. 93% of people read online reviews before purchasing something, so get your followers to write reviews on Facebook, Google, or other social networks. Just, stick to honesty here. Don’t pay people to write falsely positive reviews, lest you end up being caught by the FTC.

Conclusion

Social proof is a concept that affects all parts of our lives, from choosing what to order at a restaurant, to figuring out when to clap during a performance, to deciding what products to buy. In the end, human beings are social creatures that have a certain level of pack mentality.

In influencer marketing, social proof means leveraging influencers in your favor to affect the actions of your social media community. But like any influencer strategy, using social proof successfully depends on choosing the right influencer. Thankfully, Heepsy can help you find influencers and analyze their profiles to make sure you make the right choice.

Kate works on the Marketing team at Heepsy as a content writer. When she's not online she can be found traveling or trying out a new recipe.
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