Consumer Psychology: How to Use Social Proof to Increase Conversions

Person holding up cut out paper people

You could have the best website in the world and sell the perfect product, but you’re not going to get anywhere if your potential customers don’t view your business as trustworthy and credible. This can easily be achieved, however, with social proof. Whether it’s reviews, testimonials or endorsements, any form of social proof increases conversions, brand awareness and your overall authority.

We’re going to walk you through how social proof works, why it’s so vital to any marketing strategy and the ways in which you can use it to take your business to the next level. Let’s get started!

What is social proof?

As we briefly touched upon in our look at heuristics and copywriting, social proof is a psychological phenomenon in which people copy the actions of others, or look to them for guidance, when they’re unsure. In other words, it’s a type of conformity.

When we’re not sure what our appropriate behaviour should be, we automatically assume that the people around us have a better understanding of the situation, or might possess more knowledge than us. As a result, we presume that the safest approach is to follow what they’re doing.

Let’s take a look at some examples, shall we?

  • Canned laughter: when people hear canned laughter in a TV show, they’re more likely to laugh along because it gives them the indication that the moment is supposed to be funny.
  • Applause: once one person starts to applaud during a performance, people are likely to join in. Whether they agree that it deserves the applause or not, they feel obligated to because everyone else is doing it.
  • Jokes: when someone cracks a joke that you don’t get, you’re likely to laugh if everyone else is doing the same. This is because you either don’t want to look rude, or because you assume that you’ve not understood it the way everyone else has.

Why is it important?

What’s the first thing you do when you’re mulling over buying something online? You look for proof that the business can be trusted! This means:

  • Positive reviews
  • Case studies
  • Social media followers
  • User-generated content
  • Endorsements

In short, you’re looking for proof that people have purchased (and are happy with) the business’s products before making a purchase. If you can’t find this, you’re going to wave them goodbye and move onto one of their competitors, right?

Social proof, like heuristics, can be utilised to influence your consumers’ decision-making. Get them to view you as an authentic, credible and trustworthy business and you’re increasing the likelihood of them giving your product/service a try. In short, social proof increases conversions.

14 ways to use social proof to increase conversions

Now that we know why social proof is so vital, we can get into the types of social proof that you should be taking advantage of to build up your base of loyal customers and increase conversions.

1. Reviews

Street sign saying awesome and less awesomeImage source: Jon Tyson (via Unsplash)

If you’re not already displaying reviews on your website, you might as well get used to your bounce rates skyrocketingNothing puts people off a business more than a lack of reviews. They need proof that real people have actually purchased your product/service and if you can’t provide it, they’ll simply head to one of your competitors.

To start, you should consider adding review rating badges to your homepage. Whether it’s Google Reviews, Trustpilot or Facebook, these ratings are vital in adding credibility to your business. Next, you should think about adding an integration to your homepage that displays your latest reviews in a carousel. If you’ve got the space for it, you could even think about adding a page dedicated to your customer reviews.

Concerned about negative reviews? They just add to the authenticity! It’d be downright odd (and suspicious) if every review was five stars. Of course, if you’ve got an incredibly low overall rating, you’ll probably want to consider holding off until it improves.

2. Testimonials

The biggest disadvantage to reviews is that they’re managed by third parties, which means that the only thing you’re able to do is respond to reviewers—you’re not allowed to delete ones you don’t like. With testimonials, however, you’re the one in charge.

You can get in touch with customers directly to ask them why they liked your product/service and the benefits they’ve been able to enjoy as a result. By emphasising exactly what real people have gotten out of your product/service, you’re able to present potential customers with compelling reasons to follow suit.

Once you’ve got a variety of testimonials to hand, you can sift through them and cherry pick the best ones to be displayed on your homepage. If you really want to increase conversions, consider placing your testimonials near a CTA—if they’re strong enough, they might persuade people to take the next step.

If you’re looking to make these testimonials look more authentic, consider adding photos and including credible information like names, job titles and company names.

3. Case studies

Two people at laptop with one pointing at screenImage source: John Schnobrich (via Unsplash)

Case studies are similar to testimonials in that they require you to reach out to customers for their feedback. The main difference is that they’re far more in depth. You’ve got to present your customers with a series of questions that require them to provide detailed information.

Case studies are comprehensive stories that explain the exact problem your customer struggled with before discovering your product/service and how you helped them overcome it. The more effective ones also include valuable information, like the Return On Investment (ROI) that your customer gained from your service.

Though it can be time consuming to put these case studies together, there’s no denying the immense value that they can bring to the table. As great as reviews and testimonials are, they tend to be quite basic. Case studies, however, offer customers hard evidence—data and benefits—to explain why they should take the next step, not to mention the real world applications of your product/service.

Given how long these case studies can be, you’re best off displaying a snippet on your homepage and linking to a landing page dedicated to case studies.

4. Endorsements

When someone we admire, respect or love recommends a product/service to us, we’re likely to consider giving it a try, right? This is where endorsements come into play. There are a few different types that you can take advantage of, depending on your budget, product and business.

Celebrity endorsements

If you’ve got the budget for it, celebrity endorsements can be a great way to expand your target market, increase brand awareness and improve your conversion rate. You do have to carefully weigh up the potential risk/reward, however.

When people love a celebrity, it makes them likely to support what they support—which is great for your business! When a celebrity is undergoing a scandal, however, or your target market dislikes the celebrity you’ve picked, it will push them to view your product/service in a negative light as well.

So, if you’re going down this route, we’d suggest thinking long and hard about who would be the most appropriate for your brand and target market.

Influencer endorsements

Working in a similar fashion to celebrity endorsements, influencer endorsements tend to be much cheaper and easier on your purse strings. Whilst influencers hold a type of celebrity status, consumers view them as far more ‘real’ and relatable, which could make them more effective for conversions.

Expert endorsements

Expert endorsements can often be more useful and carry more clout than celebrity/influencer ones simply because potential customers assume that they know what they’re talking about. When a toothpaste brand says that they’re dentist-approved, we trust them because they’re endorsed by people who know what they’re doing.

The beauty of endorsements is that there are so many different ways to use them. You can display them on your homepage, use a banner on your product pages, or highlight them in your social media posts. No matter how you use them, you’re able to show potential customers that ‘important’ people trust and use your product/service.

5. User-generated content

Smartphone on monopod with sky in backgroundImage source: Steve Gale (via Unsplash)

As much as we love celebrities and influencers, we often trust ‘real’ people more because we know they’re not getting anything out of it. This is where user-generated content truly shines. By getting real customers to contribute to your marketing, you can add a whole new layer of authenticity to your brand.

For starters, you could encourage customers to use your personalised hashtags to talk about how much they love your product/service. You can then repost their pictures and comments on your social media accounts. Take it a step further and use an integration to display them on your homepage, or a dedicated ‘real customers’ landing page on your website.

If that doesn’t get you far, you could share any shoutouts or compliments that you get from your customers on social media. You could then pick out your favourites and use them as quotes on your website.

The beauty of user-generated content is twofold. One, it’s more valuable because it’s from genuine ‘real’ customers. Two, it costs you nothing!

6. Mentions in media

If your business has been mentioned by an online publication, or reviewed by a reputable publisher, this is yet another type of endorsement that you can utilise. When potential customers see that a publication they’re familiar with, or at least aware of, has spoken positively about you, they’ll factor it into their decision to purchase your product/service.

You can use excerpts of these mentions on your homepage, product page(s) or general landing pages. If the publication is popular enough, you could create a prominent banner to increase its exposure. Once you build up enough mentions, you can set up a separate landing page to show them off!

7. Industry awards

Gold and black trophy with neutral backgroundImage source: Giorgio Trovato (via Unsplash)

Industry awards and reviews can have a dramatic effect on your conversions. If ‘experts’ believe that you know what you’re doing, potential customers are far more likely to trust you and take the next step in your sales funnel.

So, if you’ve received any awards, make sure you mention them on your website. You can do this by adding awards graphics, or the logos of the award sources, to your homepage, in your footer or on a relevant landing page. If you have the space (and you’ve received enough awards!), create a separate section with the graphics/logos, quotes from the source and a link to corroborate it.

You can also call attention to your awards on social media. Include a quote from the source, share a link to it and make sure to thank your current customers for helping you achieve it.

8. Certifications

Another great way to demonstrate your industry expertise and knowledge is by displaying professional certifications on your website. If you’ve completed a marketing course with Google, for example, this can provide some recognition from a trustworthy and authoritative source.

Most organisations that provide these certifications offer corresponding digital badges or logos, which you can then display in your footer.

9. Trust and security badges

iPhone with lock on the screen on a deskImage source: Dan Nelson (via Unsplash)

If you want to convince potential customers that your website is safe, secure and genuine, you’ll want to start using trust and security badges. You can start by adding badges to your footer to showcase the payment options that you support. These badges are likely to be very familiar to your customers, which automatically adds a layer of perceived security.

If you use well-known security brands like Norton or McAfee on your website, add their branded badges to your footer and on your checkout page. This will reassure your customers that their money and data are secure with you.

10. Statistics

Potential customers are far more likely to take the next step and make a purchase if you provide them with hard proof that other people are doing the same. You can do this easily with statistics like:

  • Your customer/subscriber/user count
  • Your follower count
  • The number of countries you’ve reached
  • How many people have downloaded your app/resources
  • The number of people who’d recommend your business
  • Your anniversary

If you’ve got enough data, you could even provide customers with real-time statistics, e.g., how many people have bought a product, or signed up for your service in the last month.

This type of information could go in your social media bios, on your about us page or you could even take the best stats and place them above your CTAs to give people a nudge across the finish line. If that’s not enough, you could even use them in your ad copy, or email subject lines, e.g., ‘Join X people today’.


Red and white social share button on wallImage source: Karsten Winegeart (via Unsplash)

If you’re trying to encourage more people to check out your blog content, why not consider adding social share counts to your posts? If people notice that specific posts have been shared hundreds or thousands of times, they’re likely to engage with your content because they perceive it to be popular or high quality.

Of course, the opposite is also true. If your shares are incredibly low, it could imply that your content is low quality and undeserving of their attention. Fortunately, there are tools that allow you to hide these metrics until you reach a certain number—helping you avoid that embarrassing (and harmful) situation entirely.

12. Popular products and posts

If you’re selling more than one item, odds are, potential customers will struggle to make a choice. It happens to us all. Though it’s great to have a wide selection available, it can lead to potential customers not knowing where to start.

You can help by tagging popular products or creating a reel of the latest popular products. This helps people make their choice and also gives them a real indicator of what other people are interested in and what they’re willing to spend. It also tells them that people are buying your stuff and makes them wonder if they should be following suit.

You could even do this with your blog (if you have one) by highlighting which posts are most popular.

13. Demand

Rows of grey and red shopping trolleys

When you head to ecommerce websites to browse through products, you’ll notice that a lot of them will tell you how many other people have a product in their shopping cart, or the number of people viewing it. This is a clever tactic that pushes you to make a purchase because you feel as though a product is in high demand and therefore might sell out shortly.

If this is applicable to your business, you might want to consider adding it to your arsenal. It will help highlight the availability (or lack thereof) of your product and push people to make a purchase to avoid FOMO.

14. Social media verification

Getting verified on all of your social media platforms is yet another way of providing your potential customers with social proof. When people see that all-important blue checkmark next to your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram bio, it tells them that these platforms view you as popular or important enough to be recognised.

In other words, verification is yet another form of certification and endorsement that will help you build up your trustworthiness and credibility. Beyond that, it also has the added benefit of helping you grow your online presence—people will know that your account is genuine and will follow you, which will help boost your visibility and brand awareness.

And there you have it! You now know how social proof increases conversions! For more handy tips and advice, keep an eye on the Supersede blog.