The Psychology of Social Proof & How to Build Trust in Your Business

By , October 9th, 2013 in Conversion | 18 comments
7 Ways to Add Credibility to Your Landing Page

Everybody’s doing it. Sound familiar? It should. It’s brain science. People tend to do what other people are doing. Psychologists call this conformity, herd behavior, or the bandwagon effect. Marketers call it social proof.

The goal is to increase conversions by giving evidence that you are accepted by others. Visitors, influencers, subscribers, and buyers all trust you. This kind of “informational social influence” is a simple and powerful way to improve the initial value judgement of your landing pages, your site and your company.

Social proof makes any decision other than using your company seem outside the norm.

There are many web design tips based on brain science, but these seven are specifically designed to get your audience onto your bandwagon. Here is how to use social proof to improve your conversion rates.

1. Testimonials and Reviews

When you say it, it’s marketing. When your customer says it, it’s social proof.

This is why testimonials are so powerful. The substance is better; it’s an objective, third-party perspective. The style is also better; it’s more authentic, less polished.

Like all types of social proof, testimonials and reviews are great supportive content. Sprinkle them throughout the site. Ideally, add one to each page aligning the social proof with the product or service.

Never create a page of testimonials. They are far less effective when grouped together on a separate page. Why? Because no one visits websites to read testimonials. If you have one of these pages, just look at your analytics. It’s not a popular page, is it?

testimonial

The example above showcases a well-placed testimonial from an actual parent, building trust on a teen travel program website.

2. Endorsements from Influencers

Beyond the testimonial lies the expert and celebrity endorsement. The more relevant and influential the endorser, the more powerful the social proof.

If your business has ever received a compliment from a well-know person who is respected by your audience, go find it, and add it to your home page.

To make this more effective, add a picture of the person who gave the endorsement. Research shows that pictures (along with text) increase the credibility of the statement. This actually works for any testimonial.

Ian Cleary’s Razor Social prominently features endorsements, complete with pictures.

endorsement

3. Email List Subscriber Numbers

Signing up for a newsletter takes a lot of trust, so you need to build up confidence around your signup form. Of course, tell the visitor about the content and frequency (monthly advice for bounty hunters, weekly nuclear reactor safety tips), but also show some social proof.

If you have a big list, tell visitors how many people have already subscribed (join the 5,000 people who receive…). If you don’t yet have a lot of subscribers, use a testimonial quote from someone who got value from your blog and newsletter. You might find a few of these in your comments.

This really, really works. On the Orbit blog, improving the email signup form increased the newsletter subscriber conversion rate by 1400%.

subscriber numbers

4. Social Sharing Buttons

It’s easy to add these to your blog to show the number of tweets, likes, and shares for every post. Each of those shares is a vote of confidence for that content.

Don’t try this at home if there are few or no social shares on a typical post. Social proof goes both ways. How is this helping your business? It’s better to have no proof than low proof.

Tweets: 0 Likes: 0 +1: 0 Share: 0 Pin: 0

sharing_buttons

5. Social Media Widgets: Twitter Box and Facebook Fan Box

The Twitter and Facebook widgets can show three separate things:

  1. The size of your following
  2. Profile pictures of specific, relevant followers
  3. Recent posts and tweets

The first two are examples of social proof. If the widget shows the face of a follower that the visitor recognizes, it’s far more compelling. Suddenly, it’s about conforming to the behavior of someone they know!

Do not use these widgets (or even social media icons) if you are not active within that social network. Why send visitors to a dead social account? You’re just inviting them to leave your site. People don’t get onboard empty bandwagons.

social widget

The Moz Blog uses a social widget to show off their huge following to new visitors.

6. “As seen in…” Media Logos

If you’ve ever gotten covered by the media, you have a chance to improve your credibility and conversion rate. Right there on the homepage, show logos of news media and websites that have mentioned you.

This works great for businesses involved in PR, but guest bloggers also have this opportunity. If you’ve ever guest posted on a well-known site, add the logo to your homepage or your bio page.

media logos

The Edo Interactive home page shows both current and past press mentions.

7. Trust Boxes

Here’s a way to put a lot of credibility into a small space: create a “trust box” of social proof icons and logos on your home page. Here are some things you can put inside:

  • Association memberships: industry associations and chambers of commerce
  • BBB membership / ratings
  • Yelp ratings: local businesses
  • Security certificates: technical and ecommerce sites
  • Awards: any company that’s won anything
trust seals

By adding a trust box filled with awards to the footer, Nitel builds credibility on every page. Also notice the testimonials, which name the industry, but not the specific client.

Keep the Bandwagon Going

Keep a file of all the social proof you can find. Here are a few ways to not let the good stuff slip by:

  • Use an email folder to save emailed compliments.
  • Use the favorite button in Twitter to save complimentary tweets.
  • Take screenshots to save other complementary social media posts.
  • Use a big envelope to save those handwritten thank you notes.

Keep putting them out there. Try to put something on every page of your site. Pull quotes from LinkedIn recommendations, and add them to your team pages. Even your thank you page is an opportunity to build more credibility. The music on this bandwagon never stops.

– Andy Crestodina


About The Author

Photo of Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. You can find Andy on and Twitter.
» More blog posts by

Comments

  1. Indeed, the “me too” effect in social media can be tremendous, and often times we don’t realize that it goes both ways! I will definitely need to spend more time working on my social media sharing strategy. Thank you for the tips!

    • It’s super powerful. Once you understand it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere in all kinds of marketing: movie trailers, TV ads, billboards, etc.

      Glad you found this useful, Viktoriya. Make sure to make the social proof prominent!

      • Social proof is really everywhere. In most cases it is quite helpful, as it helps up save energy and time by just following other people’s decisions. I personally find it easier to share content that already has a considerable number of shares. Of course this approach can backfire if the social proof data is not genuine, for example if someone has a huge following that just shares everything he posts without reading.
        I recommend the book “Influence: Science and Practice” by Robert B Cialdini to those who want to dig deeper into the science of influence.

  2. Joanne says:

    For me, the most notable and popular tips are numbers 1 and 2. Endorsers and testimonials greatly influence the customers’ stance in buying. More often than not, they affect them positively.

    The rest of the tips presented are beneficial to catch the audience’s attention and lead them to check out your site.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I found and “kingged” the post on Kingged.com.

  3. Marie Widrig says:

    I”m asking for your permission to repost the article on our blog for dentists: small business owners. I think dentists could use these tips to build trust for their dental practices.

    • You are welcome to repost this, Marie. Thank you for asking.

      I suggest you link back to the original here and if possible, add a paragraph of commentary, possibly something specific to your audience!

  4. I’d like to offer proof that this Andy character knows his stuff. Every time I come across his article’s I learn a ton. Well done Professor Crestodina.

  5. Trust signals are all important. As well as the testimonials I think the ‘Association’ badges hold a lot of sway with customers too.

  6. Mike Kawula says:

    This is a great post.

    Loved this: Social proof makes any decision other than using your company seem outside the norm.

    I was talking with a local small business about this and they felt it was boasting, sending this to them now. Have an amazing week.

    • Yes, trying to be too humble on your own site is really another form of vanity. It’s not about you, it’s about doing whatever works best to connect you with people you can help. It might look like bragging, but it’s without conceit…

      Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Dinco says:

    Very Nice Post :) I love it .
    Thank you for sharing

  8. When it comes to testimonials, its important that readers immediately recognize them as authentic. There are a lot of companies that use highly edited (or constructed) testimonials, and this leads readers to disregard them as marketing in certain contexts. Copyblogger has some useful tips on how to make your testimonials more effective.
    http://www.copyblogger.com/testimonials/

  9. Here is an unusual tip. a Facebook like box decrease conversions because it’s actually an external link and people get easily distracted with Facebook. focus more on engaging and believable testimonials, they make the difference between wealth and misery.

  10. Amandah says:

    Great tips Andy!

    I’ve noticed the trend of video testimonials. Videos give visitors to your website to actually see and hear people speak about you and/or your company. They could make more of an impact than a regular text testimonial.

  11. This is an absolutely wonderful article in showing the value of social media sharing buttons, not just for content sharing but for building trust and credibility in your business or website content. From my experience I see social sharing buttons as being more effective at providing some sort of third party review about your content/business than a mechanism for sharing. I look at the number of social shares and use that to determine the value of the content and sometimes whether or not I should read it.

  12. Dan Carter says:

    Thanks a lot for the great info.

x
Get actionable optimization tips delivered straight to your inbox.

You'll learn:

  • What it takes to build successful marketing campaigns
  • Why your landing page design and copy might be working against you
  • How to increase conversions while delighting leads and customers