As of 2018, there are nearly 3.2 billion people (42 percent of the global population) who are active social media users. Aside from connecting with loved ones and keeping up with news, one of the top-ten reasons billions of people use social media each day is to research new products to buy. For marketing teams around the world, this should be some encouraging news. Brands today have direct access to large numbers of people, many of whom could be turned into new customers-- as long as their teams are strategizing correctly. One key way to turn some of those social media users into happy customers? Social proof.

Social proof is the best way to ease customers minds. It provides assurance to both potential customers and current customers alike that your product or service is as great as you claim it is. Social proof gives people something other than your word to go off of when making a purchasing decision.

But not all social proof is created equal. For example, psychologists Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin, the authors of “Yes!” found that negative social proof is not all that persuasive. Negative social proof attempts to persuade people to do something by saying that others are not doing that thing, i.e. “Other businesses are not collaborating with our company for their marketing, so you should in order to stand out!” In fact, this type of persuasion often makes people do the opposite of what was intended. Seeing that a large number of people are not doing something (whether that something is buying a product or using a service) directs people to think that it’s okay they’re also not doing that thing.

On the flip side, positive social proof (letting others know how many people already are doing something) has been proven more effective than marketing that attempts to demonstrate how much money you’d save by doing that same thing. More people are enticed by knowing that 75% of the market trusts your product over a competitors’ than knowing they could save $50 buying your product over a competitors’.

There are a handful of things that can be done to make positive social proof even more trustworthy:

A visual aid: Potential customers respond better when they can put an actual human face with the endorsement, so photos placed alongside an online review, or video testimonials improve engagement rates.

Recognizable personas: Potential customers also are more inclined to trust people who seem similar to them. Brands who are most successful at using social proof in marketing nail down the specific personas of their customers (gender, age, race, religion, income level, etc.), and ensure that the online reviews they choose to highlight match the personas of their clientele.

Social media numbers: It’s been demonstrated that the larger your social media following is, the more people view your brand as trustworthy. The opposite is true for small followings-- people tend to view brands with only a few likes on Instagram and Facebook as not very reputable.

At the end of the day, using social proof is one of the best marketing tools out there. Positive social proof can have almost the same influence as a personal recommendation for most shoppers. If you ’re looking for more ways to incorporate social proof into your marketing efforts, read how social proof in your marketing can drive sales.