Recently, we had a client provide us with a dozen or so amazing testimonials she received over the last several months. This was an unusual case for us because most clients do not have a good system for gathering testimonials. The client then asked why we were so excited about these testimonials. Here’s what we told her:

YOUR WEBSITE PROBABLY HAS A CREDIBILITY PROBLEM

A lot of things go into a person’s decision to purchase a product, and social proof is certainly one of those important factors. Studies show that 70% of consumers say they look at product reviews before making a purchase, and product reviews are 12x more trusted than product descriptions from manufacturers.

People do not give you the benefit of the doubt online. They’re assaulted with scammers and spammers on a daily basis. So building trust with your web audience is mission critical. Using words from customers’ lips is one of the best ways to build trust.

SOCIAL PROOF

Social proof, the psychological phenomenon where people modify their actions to match popular behavior, is a powerful credibility trigger. Many studies have been done to understand this phenomenon, most notably with the Asch conformity experiment. In politics for example, social proof has been positively linked with a candidates’ likelihood to get elected into office. In online marketing, the number of Facebook Likes shown on a landing page has been positively linked to an increased conversion rate when all the other landing page elements were identical.

THE DANCING GUY

As more evidence of social proof, take a look at this 3-minute video from the Sasquatch Music Festival in 2009.

As you watch it, you’ll see that it starts with one innovator who takes a chance. Shortly afterwards, he is joined by a couple of early adopters. Only a couple minutes later, the power of social proof becomes self-evident.

Most businesses understand the importance of this online, but they do a poor job of leveraging it with their testimonials. They either don’t use them, or they use them ineffectively.

That said, it’s possible (but highly inadvisable) to fake a lot of your social proof. Stories about Yelp suing companies for fake reviews, to Mitt Romney buying Twitter followers leading up to the 2012 primaries are not uncommon.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

A few quick ways you can use social proof right away:

  • Add customer testimonials to your website or newsletters

  • Emphasize your follower and subscriber numbers on your blog

  • Automate follow-up with great customers or contacts to ask for referrals

  • Find experts who are interested in what you’re doing, build relationships and work together to find ways that they can help promote you

Keep in mind that simply listing out your testimonials will not likely get a lot of views. We recommend finding innovative and creative ways to display your testimonials so that they enhance the product or service you offer, instead of forcing your website visitor to read through a large amount of text.