5 Ways to Use Social Proof to Increase Sales

One of the most powerful ways to get people to buy what you have to offer is by using social proof; as with every other powerful tactic, there’s the right and wrong way to use it.

One thing is without doubt, though, social proof can be very powerful and the impact it can have on your sales can be phenomenal.

To show how much of a driving force social proof is in today’s e-commerce work, recent data has revealed that  90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know and that 70% of people trust recommendations from people they don’t know. It was also revealed that 70% of people consult reviews or ratings before purchasing online; in other words, even if you don’t use social proof on your website it doesn’t mean people won’t consider it. You might as well take control of things and let people see that you’re trusted and widely appreciated by others.

One of the most powerful studies that explains the psychology of social proof and how powerful it can be is a 2008 study by Robert Cialdini for the Arizona State University that demonstrated the effectiveness of social proof by trying to get people to reuse towels.

4 different placards designed to get people to reuse towels were placed in different hotel rooms to determine how people respond to social proof. The 4 messages were:

  • Help the hotel save energy
  • Partner with us to help the environment
  • Almost 75% of guests reuse towels
  • 75% of the guests who stayed in this room reused towels

The most powerful message of all 4 messages was the 4th message, with a conversion rate of 49%. The second most powerful message was the 3rd one with a conversion rate of 44%; the first message had a conversion rate of 16% while the second message converted at 31%.

What this revealed is that people are more likely to do something because others are doing it than because it’s going to have some major impact and change the world; in most things we do, we look for validation from the outside to see whether it is the right thing to do. Sometimes, the fact that we look for what others think is very obvious and sometimes it isn’t.

For example, if you’re like most people you’ll find yourself checking the review section first when you visit Amazon to purchase a book or the comments when you visit Youtube to watch a very long video; if you’re not checking the reviews first, then it’s most probably because an authority or someone close to you recommended it. In either cases, it’s social proof and validation from the outside that what you’re considering works.

With that said, here are some very effective ways to use social proof to drive more sales on your website:

1. Enable User Reviews

Businessweek has revealed that 70% of online buyers consult reviews and ratings before purchasing; data from has also revealed that adding reviews to a site can increase sales by up to 20%.

In other words, there’s no doubt that having reviews on your website can increase sales; however, it’s just as important to ensure that the reviews are communicating the right message. This is why it’s important to invest a lot of effort into customer support and ensuring the right message is communicated to users who want to buy a product.

Another thing about adding reviews to your site is the response, or lack of, that a product gets is powerful social proof by itself; if there are no reviews, then most people will assume that the product isn’t popular and will probably abandon it.

Here are some ways to leverage reviews to sell more on your website:

  • Invest in customer experience. People will say positive things if they feel that you care; even if there’s a problem with your product, they’ll most likely get in touch with your support before they write something negative about it.
  • Encourage people to leave honest reviews; this is important if your site is not yet massive and it’s difficult getting people to review your product. Give people incentives in exchange for an honest review of your products.
  • Be active in the review section; when someone has a negative review, follow up with them as soon as possible to ensure this is properly resolved; even though the review can’t be removed, others will be inspired by it when they see how well you handle it.

2. Get a Celebrity Endorsement

Not every business will be able to afford getting a major public figure or an international celebrity to endorse the business, but you could easily have access to someone who is in your sphere of influence.

Depending on your field, this could be a rising star or even a popular blogger.

3. Get Expert Approval

While not everybody can be endorsed by a celebrity, it’s easier to get an expert in your field to endorse you; look for someone who is very credible and trusted in your field and get the person to endorse you.

It also doesn’t necessarily have to be a person; it could be a major magazine like Forbes or a magazine/outlet popular with your audience.

4. Leverage the Wisdom of the Crowd

This can be powerful for your business if you’re already established.

If you have a lot of people using your services, showcase it and use it to encourage people to check out what you have to offer.

“10,000 people can’t be wrong!”  or “Join 100,000 other people” are powerful examples of this in action. In other words, you’re hinting at the fact that your product is great if that much people can trust it.

5. Share Success Stories

Data has revealed that 75% of people don’t believe that companies tell the truth in their advertising; most people don’t believe that your product will work as advertised. You can prove these people wrong and make them realize how effective your product is by interviewing other users of your product and getting them to share their success stories in videos, blog posts and any other outlet your potential customers read; when they see people like them using and getting results from what you have to offer, they’ll be more likely to consider it.