I built my business on social proof. That, and of course, hard work and doing a great job for my clients. But I really could not have done it without social proof. So, what is social proof and why is it so important?
Social proof has been called the force that influences all of us when it comes to decision making. When we make decisions, big and small, we look to see what others have done. It’s the proof from the crowd, friends, family-those we trust that a decision is right or wrong. When that proof is overwhelming, a choice or buying decision can easily be made.
While a number of researchers and social psychologists have done work in this area, it’s not surprising that Wikipedia, the web’s social encyclopedia, best describes social proof. It describes it as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation… driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.” The good news? You can build up your own social proof so clients and prospects see you as the leader.
So who am I? I am President of Success In Media, Inc., a full-service consultancy. I help CEOs and business leaders to create “magnetic” communication during speeches and media interviews-and learn how to best leverage those situations. Here comes the social proof: I was a TV producer for 13 years on the national level. I worked for companies that include ABC, NBC and FOX. After leaving television and becoming a media trainer, I realized it would be pretty unimpressive if the media guy didn’t have some experience being on the receiving end of interviews. I went on to be featured as a guest on pretty much every main TV outlet, have been in more than 50 newspapers, and set a Guinness Record for being interviewed the most times in a 24-hour period on radio: 112. I have also authored three books on communication, given speeches around the country and have trained leaders from both private and public sectors, including the United Nations, IBM, LinkedIn, and LandRover and the United States Government.
Okay, we get it. Jess has plenty of proof in his bio that says he has both worked for and has been a consultant for some pretty recognizable, high-profile organizations. But, is that enough? The answer is: you need more than one type of social proof.
Here are a few different types of social proof and how they can help you grow your business:
1) Recognizable Organizations You Have Helped.
The list of companies you have worked for is one type of social proof. Don’t forget to list companies or groups you have done business with or helped in some other way, too. Include logos whenever possible. Don’t just put these on a bio page. This should “spill” across your marketing. They should be on many different pages on your website. They should be in proposals, hand-outs and other materials, as well.
When people see you in a media interview, they see you as an expert. It is also an implied endorsement by that outlet. To be interviewed by the media, they must have been impressed by you, so we will likely be, as well. Include this across your marketing channels. Include photos, articles, and TV interviews that you have appeared in. This way people can see you in action. Embed the interview or link to the video. Include logos of outlets you’ve appeared on. Again, this is all social proof that you have the stamp of approval by recognized authorities.
Just having a book puts you in the category of expert. The feeling here is that you must have something enough people want to hear or you wouldn’t go through the trouble of writing a book and getting it published. This was one of the earliest forms of social proof that I (and my TV producer colleagues) paid attention to. Being an author impressed us enough to book someone as an expert on our show.
4) Testimonials and Reviews.
Can you imagine buying something from Amazon and not looking at the reviews? As consumers we demand, now, more than ever, to know what the crowd thinks. We want to know if the value is there. We want to know what kind of experience others have had. This is what happens when people look you up. They want to know who you have helped and how well it worked out. Include testimonials, logos, video reviews, and anything that can show how your clients or customers feel about what you do.
5) Social Media Attention.
“Wow. I see you everywhere.” This is a phrase that shows that people must like what you are doing, because you are busy. Social media is a great place to post pictures of your accomplishments, to share your successes, and highlight the people you have had a positive impact on. When you interact with others, they can post public comments about you and your work. This informal setting is a great place for people to sing your praises, and for others to read about it.
We all like that all important, word-of-mouth. Realize that in the 21st century, we want to facilitate this process. Getting people to comment, review, like, and refer is proof that something you are doing is working. Do your best to record, share, and encourage these sentiments.
Again, being seen, even if you have paid for it, is proof that you are playing in the big league. Social proof works best when people are experiencing it from different directions. If they see you in a magazine or Facebook ad, and then visit your website, they already have the impression that you are successful enough to afford advertising.
8) Pictures and Video.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth 10,000. Both pictures and video show people what you are talking about. If your client is the President of the United States, it is much more powerful to see you together than just to read about it in text. Let your prospects and clients see you in action. Look for opportunities to gather these items and use them in your marketing.
When people know your time is limited, getting an appointment with you might be difficult, or that they must “make the cut” to do business with you, they get the message. They realize that you are successful and that the crowd already wants to work with you. Just be honest about how you portray this. Authenticity and trust are cornerstone to any successful business.
10) Negative Social Proof.
Know this: the social proof knife cuts both ways. Every one of the strategies listed above could show itself in a negative manner. There are many restaurants and hotels that have negative reviews or low ratings. Do right by those with whom you work with and keep an eye on where they share their reactions. It might be better to make a difficult customer happy or provide a refund than to risk them sharing negative feedback verbally, on social media, or otherwise.
Can you implement all of these strategies at once? Probably not. You can, however, start by picking two or three, and do your best to create the story of who you are, what you do, and what you are about. Ultimately, social proof delivers implied endorsements, instant credibility, and shows your competitive advantages. Allowing the world to see all of this will make your business process smoother and more profitable.
Want the free Media Training Tool Kit? VISIT: https://www.MediaTrainingToolKit.com.
Jess Todtfeld, CSP, is one of the top media training, speaker training, and communication experts in the US. He is the author of three books, including the upcoming, Media Training Crash Course. He recently earned the CSP designation, Certified Speaking Professional, held by only by 12% of speakers worldwide.