Why Your Social Proof Doesn’t Work

Nowadays, when anyone can publish a website, trust is hard to come by. One of the most powerful ways to increase your business credibility and conversions on your website is through social proof. Why does it work? 

The reason is quite simple: people are highly influenced by what others are doing. Businesses can use this phycological phenomenon to increase conversion rates by demonstrating to potential clients that their services or products are being used frequently by other consumers. In addition to increasing revenue and credibility, social proof increases website traffic and lets you charge more.

Despite the potential benefits which social proof offers, the following situation may arise: you adopt social proof on your website and… nothing happens. And here comes many questions. How does social proof work? What are the reasons for its effect? What causes its inefficiency?

In this article, we give more details on how to adopt social proof successfully and convince customers to choose you over the competition. Get interested? Let’s dive right in!

Social proof types

Let’s define what we’re dealing with when it comes to social proof on the example of Trust. This tool implements social proof in testimonials and ratings. In a nutshell, our platform uses the existing satisfied customers’ experience to acquire new ones.

Trust offers various types of social proof:

  • Testimonials
  • Video Testimonials
  • Star Ratings
  • Real-time user activity: Conversions and Visitors Count

All of these tools are a good addition to your growth strategy because they help in building user trust and credibility. When they are done right. But what if social proof methods you’ve adopted don’t dramatically boost your number of new clients and company growth? What could possibly go wrong? Let’s get this sorted out.

Did something go wrong? There are reasons for that

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Social proof is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Its ultimate goal is quite simple: when someone is uncertain about what they should decide in a situation, social proof proves that a company is credible and, as a result, increases the number of acquired leads and closed deals. 

If your conversion rate does not grow, the ground reason is a no-brainer: people don’t believe you when you put a social proof message on the website. Why does that happen?  Because your social proof seems fishy and unbelievable or remains unseen.

Delving further into the issue, there are many reasons why social proof won’t work even if your audience believes the message. In order to maximize the impact of social proof on your website conversion rates, you need to avoid the following mistakes we’ve described in the article.

Context

Context is a king. Don’t expect high conversion rates if you have a single testimonial page that is lost on your website. There is another common situation: we’ve all seen the three helpless testimonials at the bottom of the landing page. These three testimonials can even be the same on every website page. It’s not how social proof actually works.

On the contrary, you will make most of the social proof using it at those moments of the user journey on your website when prospects may feel fear, uncertainty or doubt. Considering that, don’t hide your social proof away because your pages are designed for conversions. Instead:

  • Use social proof as a supporting element near a call-to-action button.
  • Use social proof as a supporting element near a point of friction (for instance, your cart).
  • Use social proof to counter objections. What are the reasons prospects might not convert? Be proactive and feature counter-arguments.

Design 

It’s a well-known fact that design affects conversion. 75 percent of people say a website’s design is the top reason for deciding if a company is credible or not. What’s more, almost 40 percent of visitors will leave a website with outdated design elements. Considering these facts, it’s extremely important that your design looks fresh, smooth and professional, including social proof design. 

Simplify forms, reduce text, make things look easy. All these actions aid in conversion. Luckily, usingTrust, you can fully customize different types of social proof to match your website look and feel. You can also choose one of the predefined templates to save time. 

Speaking of design accents, consider placing your call-to-action in your notifications for immediate conversions: when website visitors click on the widget, they will be taken on the specific page to leave their emails, sign up, make a purchase, etc. Trust offers this functionality as well.

Missing the proof in social proof

Nowadays prospects are skeptical. You should put effort into making your social proof credible. For instance, let’s take a look at the probably the most trustworthy type of social proof – testimonials. Testimonials that link back to a customer website, Twitter or Instagram account (it depends on your business niche) is more believable than an anonymous one.

Also, it’s a good idea to use testimonials from recognizable names. Then, using stock photos instead of real ones can potentially hurt your conversions. People demonstrate a preference for human faces when evaluating a purchase. Sure, it can be challenging to gather high-quality images from each person you’re citing, but it’s definitely worth it. What’s more, there are tools like Trust that can automate the whole process of gathering testimonials and save your time. 

Let’s sum up this section. Ideally, the testimonial should:

  • Be about 100 words long.
  • Include the client’s name and broad location.
  • If it’s needed, you might include their occupation or company name.
  • Display a client’s picture of the client (the photo should be high-quality and friendly).

Don’t be perfect

Balance of enthusiastic and calm reviews is crucial because it increases prospect trust in the credibility of the content. So, don’t be scared of receiving neutral and even negative testimonials.

Then, carefully consider the words. Don’t feature testimonials that sound like they’ve been hand-crafted by a marketer. Customer testimonials are not word-perfect sales copy – you simply need to sound human.

The same applies to the social proof type called star rating. Don’t chase the highest 5.0 ratings. The studies claim that mainly the meaningful content of the testimonials impacts conversions, not just the number of stars. There’s one more thing to remember: the perfect 5.0 rating looks suspicious and shouts out ‘I’m fake!’. Yes, Star Ratings on your product pages should be above the average. One study has found that the ideal star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 because it is more realistic than a perfect 5.0 rating. 

Feature social proof correctly from a technical standpoint

There are a few technical aspects when it comes to social proof. First, when displaying testimonials, there is a common mistake to show them as a homogeneous image. This content can not be read and indexed by the search engines. So, show testimonials as a plain text. 

Second, f you have plenty of positive reviews, use schema markup to encourage Google to show your overall ratings in the search results. Doing so can really help your brand stand out against your competition. That leads to increased click-through rates and website traffic.

Unconvincing numbers

There are a few types of social proof that may hurt your conversions if used wrong: Social Count and user activity like the Visitors and Conversions features.

Let’s start with Social Count. This feature is advantageous, but it can backfire. Social Count shouldn’t just serve to make it easier for website visitors to follow you on social networks. This widget should also show how many people have already followed you. If someone sees that no one else has followed you, they may be deterred from being your followers themselves. There is a solution to face this issue: avoid implementing Social Count until your social accounts have a strong number of followers.

The same principle applies to Conversions. Seeing the number of sign-ups and purchases already made will convince prospects that purchasing yourself is a good idea. But if you have only a dozen sign-ups this month, the low numbers featured prominently may turn people off.

Fake followers

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This section mainly concerns Social Count. The number of followers is a vanity thing, but buying fake followers is a huge no-go for very business. Even if you worry that social proof work against you because prospects see how few followers you have, resist the urge to purchase bots.

First, fake followers will never convert. Second, if your prospects figure out that your social accounts are built on fake followers, it’ll ruin your credibility and reputation. If you’ve got 1,000,000 followers, but no likes or shares, it’s pretty suspicious, isn’t it? The tools like HypeAuditor can quickly leave your ‘crime’ exposed.

Instead, spend your money on Facebook ads, for instance, to promote your company to potential prospects who may become your followers. Doing so, you pay to gain followers who are real people and who can convert. 

The number of testimonials

Don’t stop gathering social proof (text and video testimonials, star ratings, etc.) once you have filled the slot which consists of three testimonials. Having only a few testimonials, you can’t rotate them and test for the best results. Also, people will think that your product isn’t hot and trustworthy.

Always be mining for social proof. And ideally, for different types of it. Speaking of testimonials, gather customers’ opinions that address different things: customers’ objections that have been reached, the benefits of your products or services, and so on.

Endorser-persona mismatch

Let’s illustrate this concept with a simple example: if you’re an enterprise business owner, the testimonials from a small business owner will mean nothing to you. In other words, the testimonials on your website can be great, but if the buyer persona doesn’t match the endorser’s persona, social proof is useless.

Considering that, don’t simply feature the first dozen testimonials you can get your hands on. Instead, search for testimonials that align with your buyer personas. The ultimate goal of social proof is to tap into the prospects’ sense of identification. Let’s face the truth: people don’t care about the opinions of random strangers. But if your testimonials make the case that the endorser has a lot in common with the website visitors, then they are far more likely to pay attention.

Inaction is a sin

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The biggest mistake in using social proof is … actually not using it. There are still many business owners who have not even tried to benefit from social proof. They cite an ocean of reasons for such inactivity as ‘My clients don’t want to help me’ or ‘I don’t want to bother my clients’ or (our favorite one) ‘Is it really necessary?’.

In our experience, these ‘reasons’ are not true. And all of them disappear at the moment when business owners see the first purchase acquired with the help of social proof. The fact is that people are more likely to buy products or services from well-rated companies. If businesses don’t harness the power of social proof, they will be left behind.

Where to start while optimizing social proof

Companies can face prospects’ uncertainties with the help of social proof tools. Testimonials, recent conversions, real-time user activity, star rating, and social count can boost credibility and increase conversion rate if done correctly. Alternatively, business owners won’t experience any increase in revenue and the number of new clients.

Variables like context, design, endorser-persona mismatch and others affect the results you will get. The only way to make most of the social proof is to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. 

First, start adopting social proof if you still miss this opportunity to boost conversions.

Second, implement social proof by adding testimonials and ratings to your website with platforms like Trust. 

Third, always A/B test single social proof techniques to increase their performance. 

Have you ever tried any of the above-mentioned tips to increase social proof effectiveness? Has this had a significant effect on revenue?

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