Human beings are social animals.
We care deeply about our standing in our community, and we try to avoid alienating ourselves by doing the wrong thing at all cost; as such, we observe the people around us for clues to what is expected of us, and we use the results of these observations as the basis of our own actions.
This is a concept known as social proof.
Social proof is not just limited to the real world. It also exists online, even when the people we are following are strangers, or even anonymous — although the actions of people you know carries more influence.
For years Internet marketers have been using this phenomenon to their advantage: if you can show other people performing a desired action on your website, other people will follow suit the act of one person buying, and loving, one of your products will encourage others to do the same.
Therefore, displaying and promoting social proof on your website is a key ingredient that all successful websites look to cultivate.
Today, I’m going to show you eight different types of social proof you can use on your website, and a WordPress plugin to help you integrate each of them.
1. Social Share Figures
Let’s kick things off with an easy one: displaying social share figures on your website.
Now, I’m sure you’re already using social sharing buttons on your website. If not, it’s a great way to attract new traffic to your website, as when a person shares, likes, or tweets your content, it will appear in the newsfeed on all their friends accounts — this acts as a vote of confidence for your content, and is fantastic social proof in itself. However, for now, I want to focus on how to get more visitors sharing your content.
Let’s say you read two great articles, one with 100 social shares, and the other with 10,000. Which are you more likely to share yourself? The latter, of course, as the larger social sharing figures reinforces your action.
We can use this to our advantage by displaying social sharing counters beneath your social icons.
Recommended Plugin: Flare (FREE)
Flare is a great social sharing plugin, supporting eight major social platforms — including the obvious ones: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
As well as allowing your visitors to share your content via the social channels, it also includes a small counter, which increases every time a visitor clicks on one of your buttons. This displays the number of shares per platform, as well as the total number of shares. The icons and counters are then displayed in a floating sidebar.
Social proofing this way can work against you if your sharing figures are low, and so Flare lets you configure when the counters are displayed — for example, only after 50 total shares. The plugin is no longer actively developed, but WordPress users can still integrate a free hosted app version of Flare on their website.
2. Social Follow Figures
Closely related to social share figures are social follow figures — as such we will only touch on this briefly.
Although a share is a great outcome for you, it does not guarantee loyalty from that visitor. When a visitor decides to follow you, though, they will then receive all updates you put out on that social channel. As such, boosting your social followers is a great way to encourage greater communication with your audience, and this brings more return visitors to your website.
Social proofing works in exactly the same way: the larger your social following, the more likely other visitors are going to follow you.
Recommended Plugin: Flare (FREE)
As such, Flare can also be used for this purpose, too. As well as displaying social sharing buttons, Flare allows you to include social follow buttons, which are displayed in the same floating sidebar. Your social followers count can be displayed below the follow icon, although this can be switched off if your followers are below a certain number.
3. Customer Testimonials
Another great way to harness social proof is to display customer testimonials on your website. Hearing a real person’s thoughts about your website/service holds more weight than your own (obviously biased) claims, and is therefore a great way to build trust.
Depending on the nature of your website, you can display the testimonials all around your website. If you are service-based, it is a great idea to display them prominently, as this will boost conversions — consider adding them to your sidebar or footer, and even creating a dedicated testimonial page.
The more you can humanize the testimonial, the more impact it will have: for example, using the name and image of the testimonial-giver will be more effective than an anonymous paragraph. A video testimonial will have an even greater impact.
Recommended Plugin: Testimonials Widget (FREE)
With more than 500,000 downloads, Testimonials Widget is the most popular testimonial plugin available for WordPress. It allows you to integrate great looking testimonials on your WordPress website, either by using a simple shortcode, or a dedicated widget. You can specify which testimonials to display by categorizing your testimonials, so that only relevant ones are displayed, dependent on the post/page category. You can also choose random testimonials.
You have a number of transition options: carousel, slide, and fade, so there are a good number of styling options for a free plugin. The plugin also adds the schema mark-up to your testimonials, so that it can be displayed in the SERPs. To get more from the plugin, there is also a paid, premium version.
4. Client Logos
If you run a service-based website, you already understand the importance of showing the quality of your work in a portfolio. However, as the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ In other words, it’s just as important to show who you’ve worked with, as the work you’ve done.
With this in mind, displaying your previous clients in a carousel is a great way to show off the names of the companies you’ve worked with in the past — especially if you’ve worked with instantly-recognizable brands. When well-known brands advocate your services, other companies will take you more seriously.
Recommended Plugin: Logo Showcase ($15)
Logo Showcase is a fantastic logo carousel plugin, available for $15 from CodeCanyon. There are three options to choose from for displaying your logos: carousel, fixed grid, and responsive grid. You can also choose a number of effects for your logos, including normal, greyscale, and tooltip. You can display your logo showcase on any post or page using a shortcode, or in any widget space by using a dedicated widget.
When a user clicks on one of the logos, you can customize the URL they are taken to. This is a great feature as it allows you to take visitors directly to the work you did for a particular client.
5. Email Subscriber Numbers
We all know the importance of building an email list alongside our website, right? Growing a highly targeted email list allows you to develop a relationship with readers, sell more products, and reduces your dependence on the temperamental search engines — what’s not to like?
However, the bigger problem is knowing how to get people onto your email list.
An eye-catching form and a generous incentive are a great way to get people to sign up, but you can also use social proof to your advantage. The more subscribers you have, the more appealing subscribing becomes — if thousands of people have subscribed, others will assume you must be offering something good. Therefore, a great way to grow your list is to tell people how many other subscribers you have — though obviously, this approach is open to dishonesty.
Recommended Plugin: OptinMonster
OptinMonster helps you grow your email list by designing fantastic looking sign up forms, which can then be displayed as a pop up or in the sidebar — I’ve already discussed some of the advantages of the OptinMonster plugin, as well as pop up best practices.
There are a number of customizable templates to design your form, inside which you have full control over the text displayed. This means, should you wish, you are able to include your email list subscriber numbers to generate extra social proof, in order to encourage more subscriptions.
6. Product Reviews
For eCommerce stores, reviews are a particularly useful method for generating social proof.
Reviews are written by real, unbiased customers, and so their opinions can help other customers pick out a suitable product — spend a few minutes on Amazon if you want to see how important reviews can be.
Even negative reviews can be useful: customers realize that no product is perfect, and will forgive a product’s shortcomings if they are aware of them beforehand — reviews can also push customers towards a different product you sell.
Recommended Plugin: Yotpo Social Reviews for WooCommerce (FREE)
Yotpo is an awesome free plugin that integrates with WooCommerce to allow your eCommerce store to handle customer reviews. To help you generate the maximum number of reviews, Yotpo will automatically send an email to your customers requesting a review — you can customize when the email is sent relative to the purchase, as well as the content of the email message. After writing a review, your customers also have the option to share their review on any of the three supported social channels: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Reviews then appear below the product, complete with a rating out of five. The reviews are also threaded, enabling customers to add to the review, and discuss the product in more detail.
7. Case Studies and Customer Success Stories
You can also use your content to build social proof for your website.
A great example of this is a case study or a customer success story — think of these as a testimonial on steroids! If you sell information products on your website, you can use these to great effect.
Now, within the confines of your website, you have a higher status than visitors. After all, you are the owner, and people come to the site to hear what you have to say. With this in mind, your success is inspirational, but your higher status makes you unrelatable.
If you want your readers to believe the success is attainable for them, you need to present the success of someone very relatable — and who is more relatable to a visitor than one of your other visitors?
This is why case studies — documenting a visitor’s journey from start to finish — are so effective. They make people believe they can do it, and this makes them buy your stuff.
Use this to your advantage and publish case studies and success stories alongside your regular content. The more depth and details you provide, the more impact it will have — consider running a case study in real-time, with regular updates as it progresses.
8. Monthly Round-ups
Last but not least we have round-ups. These have been used with great success by the Internet marketing community in recent years.
Round-ups are a great way to show visitors your own progress — think of them as a case study about you. Many websites choose to publish key details about their business on a monthly basis, including revenue figures, profit, visitor numbers, and other important on-site metrics.
These round-ups are usually one of the most popular types of posts on websites that publish them. They provide great inspiration for visitors, who can look at what you were earning, to what you are earning now.
Even if you are now highly successful, visitors can look back in time to a point when your website was as small as their own — in other words, a time when you were a relatable size. They can then piece together your journey, looking at strategies you implemented and how quickly you grew.
By showing your readers how you became successful, they will trust you as a credible source of information. The round-up also shows your growth — in other words, that more and more people are buying and benefiting from your products and services. This makes newer visitors more likely to become paying customers, too.
There you have it: eight different ways to social proof your WordPress website. Implement them if you want to boost your social shares, subscribers, and conversion rates.
To incorporate these social proofing strategies, you won’t have to redesign your whole site, or rethink your marketing efforts; a simple tweak to your content strategy, and a few plugins (many of which you might already be using!) should do the trick.
Because social proof is such an incredibly effective tactic — and one you see used by many of the top websites — and so easy to integrate, I highly recommend you all employ it on your own websites.
How have you social proofed your website? Let us know in the comments space below!
Shaun Quarton is a freelance blogger from the UK, with a passion for online entrepreneurship, content marketing, and all things WordPress.