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How B2B Marketers Can Use Social Proof To Bag More Leads

B2B marketers who skillfully leverage social proof can increase website traffic, leads and sales. Here's how your social proof can take flight.

social proof duck hunting

Recently I went duck hunting with some friends. One of the guys was new to duck hunting and asked a lot of good questions it. On the subject of how duck decoys work, one of the experienced hunters explained that ducks are social animals. They want to be with one another and look to large groups of other ducks for guidance on where to land.

On that day in the bay where we were hunting, there were other duck blinds with no hunters and no decoys placed near them. Our blind had a variety of decoys floating on the water nearby.

Where did the ducks land? Near the blinds with the decoys. The ducks didn’t want to be alone.

The same principal applies to social proof.

"Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation." – WIKIPEDIA

Examples of social proof include

  • Night clubs with long lines outside (even if there are few people inside) to convey that it is a popular place.
  • McDonald’s signs that proclaim “Billions and Billions Served.”
  • A bartender who fills her tip jar with her own cash at the beginning of her shift.

Social proof is not a new phenomenon, but with the ascent of Internet marketing and social media, it has become more important.

Google reports that 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase. Similarly, according to a CompUSA and iPerceptions study, “63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.”

While product reviews are not everywhere in the B2B world (yet), the statistics illustrate that even strangers can heavily influence people’s purchase decisions. This is why social proof is such a powerful concept for companies to understand and leverage.

A TechCrunch article identifies 5 categories of social proof:

  1. Expert social proof – Approval from a credible expert, like a magazine or blogger, can have incredible digital influence.
  2. Celebrity social proof – Approval or endorsements from celebrities, especially when they aren’t paid.
  3. User social proof – This includes customer reviews mentioned above, but also testimonials from current customers.
  4. Wisdom of the crowds social proof – This is done with McDonald’s and night club lines.
  5. Wisdom of your friends social proof – This has worked throughout history with sales and referrals, but now is seen increasingly in social media.

Here are just a few ways that social proof can be easily incorporated into your B2B marketing:

  • User Reviews and Ratings – Especially helpful in ecommerce marketing. And studies have shown that a few less-than-perfect ratings can actually improve the overall credibility of your ratings. Otherwise, people think you might be gaming the system.
  • Testimonials – Make sure to include a picture of the person offering the testimonial – it boosts persuasiveness. And if you can incorporate short videos, even better.
  • Social Plugins – These put the social proof front and center, showing how many others have liked, recommended, subscribed, etc. If any of your prospect’s social connections are in there, they are usually made most visible.
  • Social Media Sharing/Follow Buttons – If people are sharing your content, that’s an excellent form of social proof. The trick is to make it as easy as possible for people to share you content, so add social sharing buttons everywhere.
  • Embedded Tweets – On your website, you can embed actual tweets from happy customers, serving as a bite-sized endorsements.
  • Social Advertising – This is an example of “wisdom of your friends” social proof. These are ads in social media that leverage the context of the viewer using them. So when you see an ad, it will mention which of your friends/contacts already “like” or have come in contact with that product.

What other ways are you using social proof to get your ducks in a row and increase leads and sales?

Douglas Burdett
Douglas Burdett
The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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