Social Proof in Marketing: Basics, Pros and Cons

April 11, 2023

There are a few nuanced concepts that often play a big role in the success of digital marketing plans, and one of these is known in marketing circles as social proof. What is this psychological effect, and why should business owners and marketers be thinking about it when it comes to advertising brands, products and services?

At Be Locally, we're happy to provide numerous SEO services and other digital marketing programs to help bring your brand in front of more digital eyes. In this two-part blog series, we'll define what social proof is, both the positive and negative effects it can have on brands depending on how it's used, and some ways of using it to your benefit.

social proof marketing basics

Defining Social Proof

For those unfamiliar with it, social proof is the concept that people (and consumers) will recognize actions being taken by lots of others as being a valid and sound behavior to imitate. This can be in the form of purchasing decisions, endorsements, reviews, or even just simple statements about a product or service.

Social proof has been around for centuries; think back to the days when word-of-mouth referrals were all that was available for consumers who wanted to make informed purchasing decisions. Consumers would hear about a product or service from friends and family, and then make their purchase based on what they had heard.

Today, with the advent of digital technology, social proof has taken on new forms and is much easier to leverage in marketing campaigns. Businesses can now use everything from customer reviews, influencer endorsements, and “likes” to demonstrate that their products or services are desirable at a glance.

Positives of Social Proof

Here are some of the beneficial ways social proof can be used within marketing:

  • Subtly adding to your programs - for free: Using social proof allows you to build a story around your brand and products, helping to subtly add value without having to spend extra money on advertising. It also helps build trust with potential customers by showing that others have already given the product their stamp of approval.
  • Boosting social media marketing: Leverage social proof to drive more attention and engagement on your brand’s social media channels. This can include running contests, campaigns, or even just regularly sharing reviews from happy customers.
  • Increasing conversions: According to research from Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of media.

Possible Downsides of Social Proof

At the same time, you have to be careful with how social proof is used. It can have some downsides:

  • Over-reliance: Relying too heavily on social proof can be a mistake; if your product or service isn’t actually good, then it won’t matter how many “likes” or recommendations you have.
  • Manipulation: There is always the potential to manipulate reviews or ratings to give the impression of higher quality than what exists in reality.
  • Wrong audience: If you're directing your marketing message about social proof to the wrong target audience, it won’t be as effective.

In part two of our series, we'll go over some of the ways businesses can use social proof to their advantage and how to be aware of any potential pitfalls. Stay tuned!

For more here, or to learn about any of our SEO or other digital marketing solutions, speak to our team at Be Locally today.

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