You know how you have an inclination to check for reviews before you choose a restaurant to visit or a plumber to call? Or how you scour feedback about Amazon items before placing your order?

We, as consumers, want to know about peoples’ experiences with specific businesses, experiences, or products before spending our money on them. And that’s where the whole concept of social proof comes in.

So what exactly is social proof, and how does it apply to your business? And more importantly, how can smart reputation management make social proofing work for your for your business?

We’ve got you covered!

What is Social Proof?

Social proof, according to Wikipedia, is “a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence, and is also known as informational social influence. It describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.”

Basically, it’s like I was outlining above ““ where we as humans and as consumers want to know what other people have experienced before undertaking that same experience for ourselves.

It’s why I imagine the first person to skydive was brave in more ways than one: they had no other person’s experience, or social proof, to go off of to ensure they’d make it after the jump. We want that reassurance and that guidance before making a decision.

Speaking of skydiving, we’d want to know two things before we went out and did it. First, that the act of skydiving itself is safe, or safe enough. Second, that the person providing skydiving services was trustworthy (skydiving could be extremely safe overall, but if the plane or the people flying it were dodgy most of us would look for an adrenaline rush elsewhere). The skydiving company might rely on what we call “reputation management” for its own social proofing. Reputation management tactics might include making sure the airplane isn’t too dinged up and that prospective customers know the pilot is licensed to fly a plane.

Reputation management might include, you guessed it, customer reviews and testimonials that claim skydiving is a positive experience.

How Does Social Proof Relate to My Business?

Social proof absolutely plays a part in how and why consumers choose businesses to spend their money with. It boils down to: what are people saying about your business, your products or services, and their experience with you? That can present itself in the form of reviews, word-of-mouth, testimonials, and more.

I personally don’t go to a new restaurant before looking at two or three different review sources and checking out the newest reviews, or before hearing from a friend or coworker that it’s good. I’ll also look on their social media pages to see what people are saying about them. So, if there are no reviews or evidence that people like them, I’m probably not going to go there. And that’s kind of crazy! I put so much weight on what random people I don’t even know are saying about businesses on the internet.

And, I’m not the only one: 90% of people look at reviews before visiting a business, and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from someone they know.

That’s why businesses can’t ignore social proof or the places where they can get that social proof for their business.

Which brings me to my next point:

How Can I Make Social Proof Work for My Business?

Since social proof is so important, you can no longer ignore it. And that means you can’t ignore the places people are talking about your business.

Those places typically include review sites and social media. You might be thinking “I’ve never set up my business on a review site, and I don’t have social media, so I’m good.” Unfortunately, that’s not how it works anymore. Just because you’ve never personally set up one of these sites for your business doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there. Consumers can add businesses to Yelp, Google My Business and Google Maps, and more to leave their feedback. And if that feedback’s going unnoticed, that might not be a great look for you or your business.

It’s important to own your presence on these sites and take control of what people are saying about you. It’s also important to have a reputation management process for collecting and responding to feedback to improve your online presence. That way, people are seeing the proof that you’re a great business.

Listen to Neal Polachek talk more about social proof in his appearance on The Growth Lab Show.

How Can I Improve My Online Reputation?

Here are a few ways to influence what people are saying about you online and make sure you’re showing consumers why they should choose your business:

  • Manage your online reputation: Like I said, make sure you control these sites by keeping all your business information accurate, responding to new reviews, and encouraging your happy customers to provide feedback on your review sites.
  • Make it part of your business process: 70% of consumers say they’ll leave a review if asked. So, this boils down to making feedback a part of your business process ““ either by training your team to ask for feedback when they’re engaging with customers or by automating the process to collect feedback through emails, links, and more. Consumers want to let you know what they think ““ so give them the outlet!
  • Don’t get down if you get a bad review: It happens to the best of businesses! When you get a negative review, take it as constructive criticism and look for ways to improve as you go. We have some tips for responding to negative reviews here to help you out, too.
  • Reward your customers: I’m not saying to reward them for giving you reviews ““ because that’s bad. But, you can reward loyal customers with programs, discounts, and more to encourage repeat business and that word-of-mouth that helps with social proof.

Whether we like it or not, online reviews and social media feedback have become part of the culture of social proof. With the right reputation management processes and strategy, you can make sure you like what people are saying about your business and use it to attract more customers. Learn how LOCALiQ can help you with that here.

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