Would you jump off a cliff, just because your friends were doing it? Well, probably. Especially if we hold the eye rolls and de-escalate this classic scenario to reference an action more akin to liking a post or signing up for an online service. That’s the theory of social proof — we assume the actions of others, as long as we’re led to believe they’re reflecting correct behavior. And the more often we see others performing a certain behavior, the more likely we are to believe that it’s the “correct” action or response to give.
This psychosocial drive is potent, and it’s especially powerful within today’s world of social media and digital advertising. There are 6 main types of social proof seen within online marketing: expert, celebrity, user, the wisdom of the crowd, the wisdom of friends, and certification. These categories are so named after the many different forms of validation that we seek — we listen to experts, we emulate celebrities, we ask questions of anyone that has more experience with a product than ourselves. We follow the crowd (because it can’t be wrong if everyone does it!) and we trust the opinions of our friends. If we see a certified stamp of approval from literally any authority, we don’t think twice.
So, what can we conclude about social proof? Humans are easily swayed. As a digital marketer or content producer at a nonprofit, you should at least try to sway us towards a good cause. So jump in with our tips below on how to leverage social proof on social media.
1. Celebrate user milestones
Every social media site gives you the ability to measure and track user milestones (usually in a publicly-counted way). These milestones can range from the number of followers or subscribers that you have, to the numbers of likes, reactions, or views you receive. Some milestones may be internally set as company goals, while others may be set by the platforms. For instance, reaching 10,000+ followers on Instagram is a significant user milestone — once you pass it, your Instagram account is authorized to add live links within stories. Regardless of the scale or scope of the benchmark, you can use the power of social proof by sharing (and showing gratitude for) accomplished user milestones. Highlighting these numbers allows you to both emphasize the size of your supporting crowd as well as to thank them for the attention.
2. Verify your accounts
In a textbook example of “certification” social proof, you have the ability to verify your accounts on nearly every social media platform. These verification badges appear as branded check marks next to your handle or on your profile page and are taken to mean that the platform itself has verified you as the authentic voice of the entity you claim to represent. Such verifications are often used by celebrities, public figures, and popular brands. Some platforms (like YouTube) demand that you maintain a certain subscriber threshold or meet other requirements in order to receive verification, but on many other sites, the process is straightforward, (especially if you have a business profile). So if your nonprofit isn’t already verified wherever it can be, take these steps now — a little certification goes a long way.
3. Make use of influencer marketing
Social media offers your organization new opportunities to organically connect with potential donors through a digital advertising strategy known as influencer marketing. Your followers look to popular influencers (prominent figures on social media that have acquired dedicated, highly engaged audiences) to help them make informed decisions about where to place their support (and their dollars). By aligning with relevant social media influencers, your organization can leverage social proof through influencer audience networks and their celebrity endorsements to help drive traffic and conversions on your site.
4. Be your own customer service rep
Now more than ever, social media is being used as a channel for product feedback and customer service management. If your organization uses social media to connect with or respond to comments from donors, followers, and supports, then take care to present a professional and encouraging persona. And anytime you receive positive feedback about your events or your mission, share it! Social media platforms make it easy to re-post or share awesome customer testimonials — curating user-generated content in this fashion gives your audience increased belief in your effective management strategies, in your attentiveness, and in the strength of your follower base. It also allows you to thank the followers that interact or offer positive public feedback, which in turn lets them know how their contributions provide meaning to your cause.
5. Emphasize your expertise
Take advantage of the “expert” brand of social proof by using social media to highlight your organizational expertise and specific knowledge your cause. Post on social media to convey your participation in major industry conferences or meetings — if you were asked to present or give a talk, brag about it and share the videos! You can also build customer confidence in your expertise by re-sharing mentions of your organization’s work within news articles or other accredited publications.
6. Share customer case studies over social media
If your industry allows it, it’s always a good practice of social proof to publicize successful customer case studies on your organization’s website. Social media offers you another chance to share these case studies and build user confidence in your organization’s brand — you can advertise the on-site content and link back to these pages directly, or repurpose case study content into shorter social media posts. Share customer case studies frequently, and invite these individuals or organizations to respond to and re-share these posts from their own affiliated social media accounts.
7. Include the size of your customer base in your bio(s)
If you want new users and potential donors to follow the crowd, then don’t forget to brag about how big it is. You can do this by sharing numbers and statistics about your customer base or your impact reach within the bio descriptions included in your account profiles. By advertising such numbers within your social media bios, you ensure that your followers (and interested new users) see them whenever they look at your page. Whether we realize it or not, we process these statistics as social proof of your organization’s effectiveness, making us more likely to offer you support, increase your audience base, and share your cause with friends.
8. The ultimate social proof: social share counts
The social share count is a very obvious — and very powerful — manifestation of the value of social proof within the digital marketing world. You can add tools and plugins to your on-site content that display the number of times your article has been shared over social media. Social share counts offer followers a tangible count of your content’s circulation, increasing the assumed appeal and value of that piece. Social share counts can work against you if you’re not careful though — use tools that allow you to hide low share counts until they surpass a pre-set number, so that the power of social proof can only work in your favor.
Studying the theory of social proof and considering how it functions within today’s world of digital marketing and social media can provide your organization with endless options for a more creative social strategy. If you have other ideas on how to leverage social proof on social media, tweet them to us @WholeWhale!