If you’ve been blogging for a while (or reading about blogging) you may have come across the term “social proof”. Social proof is what you show others to prove that you’re good enough to do business with. Bloggers do it all the time by displaying how many followers or subscribers they have. Let me share with you a few tips on using social proof effectively and how to get it if you’re just starting out.

How Social Proof Works

Social proof works on the true principle that we as humans all abide by (whether or not we’re aware of it.) We simply trust that other people know better about something than we do. When we see a lot of folks participating somewhere, we naturally assume it’s because they are having a good experience and we predict the outcome of our actions by the perceived experience others are having. We want to have good experiences, especially when doing business online, so we look to see where others are going to satisfy their needs and we do likewise.

How Social Proof is Manifest Online

Offline, social proof takes the form of crowded restaurants, long lines and word of mouth promotion. Online however, it may be hard to see where the masses are doing business. Luckily, it’s become all the rage for website owners to share that information with us. In the early nineties, hit counters were all the rage on the web. Now social proof online takes the form of subscriber numbers, Facebook fans, Alexa Ranking, Klout score and Twitter followers. It can also be found in online reviews and joint ventures with other known brands. Even blog comments will work. Anything that displays a website’s popularity with the public can be used as social proof.

How to Develop Social Proof

If you’re just starting out with an online business or building a website from scratch, you may not have enough social proof to show off. Don’t worry, there are ways you can build it. But before we get to that, let me explain another concept – negative social proof. If you don’t have any social proof to build upon, displaying that will have the opposite effect. You’ll be basically proving to others that nobody likes you. So take the time to build it before you display it.

One of the best ways to build your social proof is to connect and engage with people. This could be easily done by providing value via your blog, or using sites like Twitter, Quora, Google+, any popular Q&A site, etc. Find people asking for questions and answer them the best way you can. Helping people triggers a sense of appreciation from their part and builds you trust and credibility. In time, they will naturally engage with you, follow you, like you, etc.

If you have a blog, make use of the tools that are widely available for people to easily share your content. Use social buttons, install the Alexa toolbar, and consider using social plugins such as CommentLuv Premium. CommentLuv premium is a great social plugin because, it rewards readers that leaves comments on your blog with a link to their posts, whilst giving them incentives to retweet, like, +1 your posts, and even “call to action” to follow you.

Now, we all know that naturally building social proof can and will take time. There are however other methods to quickly get you started. One quick way to start building your social proof is to reach out to your existing networks. These can be on or offline. Talk to your friends and family. Get them to visit your site, comment on your blog, and follow your social media profiles – anything to build up those numbers. Contact past customers or others you’ve built relationships with. Ask for reviews of your business that you can display.

Another method of building social proof is by offering a freebie of some value that others can get by sharing you with their social networks. This can be done with easy services like PayWithaTweet or CloudFlood. These work by requiring some kind of social media share before they get access to your free treat. This is an acceptable method but may not work well, particularly if you are in the very beginning of building your social proof. Some people would not want to share anything before they actually see what it is they will be spreading around. You can always give it a try though. It works for some.

If those methods aren’t going well for you, there’s a marketplace you can take advantage of. It’s called Fiverr and it’s a place for people to list jobs they’re willing to perform for $5. Many people are willing to share your website with their popular social networks. This can be a cheap road to some great exposure. Be careful though, many offers involving social networks may turn out to be garbage. Be sure to read any reviews and make your choices wisely. Remember, this probably won’t build your business; it is a social media optimization technique and will just serve to build that initial social proof you need to get started.

Now you’re ready to go get some social proof of your own! Using these techniques can help you overcome the initial hurdles so many new online businesses face. If you provide quality content or a valuable service, you’ll find that your social proof grows continually faster and you’ll be glad you started building it when you did.

So what techniques have you found useful in building your social proof online?


Brandon runs Big Dogs Internet Marketing - a company helping small businesses build an affordable and effective online presence. He enjoys providing free online marketing advice though the Big Dogs blog to help out the struggling non-marketer.

24 thoughts on “How to Harness Social Proof

  • Great post – will definitely check out the premium CommentLuv plugin!

    • Glad you liked it! Tanks for reading!

  • Hello Brandon. I see that ComLuv is going to cover most of the basis here to help you develop social proof. All you need to do is display them.

    • CommentLuv is great for exposing people to your blog, but don’t forget the basic principle – social proof is showing others that their peers do business with you. Don’t neglect your social networks. If you sell products, work to get positive reviews. All these work together to increase the power of your social proof. Thanks for the comment!

  • Hi Brandon,
    Thank you for all those insights into methods of ‘social proof’. Being a newbie, I’m just learning as I go along. Your article certainly answered several questions for me. I do like the Comment Luv the best! (and I have been wondering what ‘Fiverr” meant, many thanks for that one!!).

  • Happy to help Ann, glad you got something out of it. You can let me know anytime if you have other questions. Thanks for the comment!

  • Social proof is usually used to impress your readers or normal visitors while it’s also helpful for SERP. Social Media engagement now considered by all big search engines very seriously to rank your site. It means you can’t think to live without social media proof. 🙂

    • So true! Glad you pointed out the SERP benefits of it. It’s not enough to have the fans, we gotta use them! Thanks for the comment.

  • Thanks for your interesting post. I particularly liked the classification of creditability as social proof. Excellent twist to the subject.

    • Thanks, glad you liked it. Nothing makes you look as good as showing off how many people already do business with you! Thanks for reading.

  • Social Proof is important, I once learn a very powerful tactic to sell online using Facebook Fan page, nowadays those ppc ads are link back to the fanpage where there lies all kind of proof and also a sign up form, proof such as people commenting and talking about the stuff that is promoted in the fanpage.
    Actually when I heard about PayWithaTweet or CloudFlood, I personally didn’t like about it because it sounds tricky and tricky is not really a very kind word especially in the marketing world, so I had never use it.

    • I actually don’t consider PayWithaTweet or Cloudflood tricky at all. They are very straight forward to use and provide a good alternative to the regular “opt-in to download”. It requires no ongoing commitment from your readers so you might want to give it a try! You never know what will work. Thanks for reading!

      • Yes, I will give it a try, I mean no ham trying!

  • Hi Brandon,
    I think people are becoming smarter about social proof. It used to be very impressive to see a blog with umpteen thousand subscribers or twitter followers, facebook, etc… But now, I think people are more aware that social proof doesn’t necessarily equate to authority. Based on that, I don’t think it’s necessary to pay for one of those services to build up social media followers, as that just generates social proof without building real followers. It’s more important to gain real followers to spread your message around.

    • You’re right, fake social proof won’t do anything for your business. And if you only have social proof in one area, say “Facebook fans” then your perspective customers will notice and it will do more harm than good. You need a nice balance of social proof in all aspects (FB fans, good reviews, lots of comments, etc) for it to work in your favor. Thanks for commenting!

  • Hey Brandon. Sorry for the delay in thanking you for putting this up. Social proof is extremely important nowadays and, with the exception of known and established brands, anyone who is doing business online should not neglect this. Like you said, having social proof is an indication that there is a community behind you that gives you the “thumbs up”. Building on it, slowly and surely, will definitely pay off in the medium to long term.

    • Well thank you for letting me write it. I appreciate your input! With so many scams on the internet everybody is wary of newcomers, and rightfully so. It may take a bit to build up, but it could mean the difference between success and failure for any online business. Thanks for the comment!

  • Social proof is very essential for any online business these days. Great writeup.

  • Social proof is very essential for any online business these days. Great writeup

  • Paywithatweet model works great. I’m using the Tweet2Download plugin which serves this very purpose. All I’ve to do is upload the file and click “This file will be downloaded with Tweet2download” .

    Fiverr is a great place, but as you say we have to be bit careful in choosing people 🙂

  • Brandon, I liked what you said about negative social proof, “take time to build it before you display it.” It’s sad but it’s the truth. People are inclined to follow the bandwagon. They will follow you if you have many followers already — pseudo or not. So I’ll also go for what you and Richard said on building real followers instead of not-so-real ones. People/businesses asking you to like their pages or ‘follow’ their blogs are rampant nowadays. But after liking their pages, pseudo-likers don’t come back; unlike real likers from whom they get free promotion of their sites. The latter is much preferable. 🙂

  • Great tips. I never really thought about it that way. I do need to pick up on my social campaign.

  • Other than commentluv and fiverr, I had never even heard of most of these..and I was never really sure what fiverr was all about, so thanks for clarifying!

    I love the free commentluv plugin and as soon as I can afford it, I am definitely investing in the CommentLuv Premium.

  • Nowadays, social proof is getting more and more important: business wise and traffic/ranking wise. Great stuff you shared Brandon!

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