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?