7 Social Proof Tactics to Increase Sharing
I was recently talking SEO tips and tricks with a friend of mine who I met in the Entrepreneur section of Reddit. We have some common interests in creative marketing, and got onto the subject of social proof and it’s followers. The topic came up when I had asked him if he had read anything about the recent one-hit wonder DicksByMail.com.
For those unfamiliar with the story, let me catch you up.
A bartender from Canada created a website based on a Louis CK phrase in which the website sends a “bag of dicks” (in candy form) by mail to whomever you choose for $15.
Funny business concept, but the story gets crazy from here.
After a surprise burst of media attention from articles and news stories featured by Mashable, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, MTV, E!, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Fox News, and many more, the website sees a rush of orders. $150K worth of orders was the rumor, thanks to the unexpected surge in traffic.
Despite the funny website concept of sending someone a “bag of dicks,” I’m convinced the hype and it’s media attention was the major driving force behind it’s success. If you had stumbled upon this website on your own do you really think you’d be so quick to bust out your credit card for penis candies? Instead, I believe the hype of the website itself convinced people it was worth buying. DicksByMail became socially accepted and followers flocked to it, because that’s what followers do.
Check this out:
Following Followers[Social Movement Example: 1:42]
In this video, James Tuckerman offers some great tips and showcases a few interesting examples of social proof in action. James first describes a version of social proof with his coffee shop story. A person is given a choice between a coffee shop with a sign that describes itself as having the best coffee or a coffee shop that is simply displaying it’s success of having great coffee with a long line of soon-to-be customers waiting to make a purchase.
What would you do?
I’m a huge coffee drinker myself, but I’m also very impatient. I have a hard time believing I would wait in line for the more popular coffee business, yet you never know.
We are more likely to follow followers than go out on a limb. You see these types of social triggers all the time.
For example: You see followers spring into action when gas suddenly takes a drop in price. People go crazy and quickly line up to save a few bucks, even if it means they’ll have to wait up to three or fours times longer than usual to get their gas. The people waiting to get gas haven’t even done the math on the savings, they just see the buzz that gas is cheap and rush to follow.
The video then shows how a social movement takes place, which in my opinion is exactly what is happening with DicksByMail.com. Once the movement is active the original dancer is no longer needed, the movement runs itself. Once a movement has started, and has been publicly accepted, people instinctively understand the role they play and accept the concept in full.
I know what you’re thinking:
Good for him, but how does this help me? How can I use these tactics for improving my website traffic? How can I boost my share rate or even improve my conversion rate?
For starters, focus your attention on the words you use with call to action. Really spend time fine tuning your pitch.
I just finished reading a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. This book explains the psychology of why people say “yes” and dives deep into pattern behavior.
The book can help people become more skilled persuaders, which kind of sounds like a deceiving quality, but I mainly read it to improve my outreach skills. So far, so good, as I’ve already added a few new tricks to my tool belt with email marketing and outreach.
Here’s one example from the book I found interesting:
When we ask for a favor from someone, they’re more likely to do what you want if you give them a reason why. Kind of an obvious statement, yet the words you choose for a explanation why are important. In the book, a study was described in which a woman cuts in line to make copies.
The first time she uses the phrase: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” The result had a 60% success rate.
The second attempt she uses the phrase: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” By adding a reason for her actions the conversion rate shot up to 94%. The triggered keyword to her pitch was “because.” Robert B. Cialdini goes into far greater detail, but I find that sort of behavior very interesting.
The final test to the case study was the woman using the phrase “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies.” The excuse she gave was just repeating the fact she needed to make copies, but the trigger word “because” was still used. Surprisingly the success rate was a whopping 90%.
People heard the word because and didn’t need to hear anything further. It’s kind of like when you meet a friend and say “What’s going on Steve?” and his reply is “Not bad.” Steve wasn’t even listening to what I said, he was on autopilot and thought I asked him how he was. This happens a lot.
Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole
What’s really going to blow your lid is when social movement and a skilled persuader come together. This combo can manipulate people with suggestive advertising. These types of hidden agendas are used effectively everyday. People don’t notice the triggers, but they are there lurking in the background.
Watch this next video for a perfect example of subliminal advertising.
Did you catch what he said right before he snapped his fingers and said “now?” Did you really listen to the words he used? Instead of saying “We hope that your shopping experience is an uplifting ONE,” which is what most shoppers probably thought they heard, the man speaking actually said “We hope that your shopping experience is an uplifting ARM,” instead.
I myself didn’t hear it on the first watch either.
There were other triggers in his message too, like “reach up and grab it.” Creepy, but also pretty cool.
The guy in the video is Derren Brown, acclaimed master illusionist, mentalist, and hypnotist. Granted, this is an extreme example and not all advertisers are this deceptive with their commercials, but there is a lot to be learned about clever wording and call to action here. Brown purposely chose a shopping mall because they’re designed to tear down our conscious minds’ resistance to spending. Haven’t you ever gone into a mall intending to buy just one item, but came away with something totally different? Haven’t you ever asked yourself “What was I looking for again?”
One could argue that the western world is under strong influence from “programming” in it’s advertising. Yet we’re also hardwired to react to certain marketing tactics or sales pitches if delivered correctly.
Cartmanland Proves We Have To Have It.
While South Park is an extremely crude (and hilarious) cartoon, it’s impressively clever with it’s underlying messages. In 2001, Trey Parker wrote an episode called Cartmanland. Eric Cartman’s grandmother dies, and to the family’s shock, Cartman inherits her life savings of one million dollars. Eric then rushes to buy a failing local amusement park called North Park Funland, and changes the name to Cartmanland. Eric then creates advertising with the sole purpose of bragging to his friends. The commercials entire marketing message is “You Can’t Come.”
Of course this commercial stirs up a ton of interest in South Park, and people line up to see if they can, somehow, get into Cartmanland as the park looks like fun. Later in the episode Cartman has to hire security to keep people out, and a mechanic to keep the rides running. The costs to pay for these employees has to come from somewhere, so Eric slowly allows a limited amount of people in each day. The hype continues, yet so do the added expenses. After increasing the allowed number of people daily, Cartman finally gives up due to the many costs to keep the park running and lets everyone into the park. Cartmanland is then packed with people and the park is a total success.
Nothing has changed except the name of the park and the rules to get in. People went from little interest to waiting in line for hours. Does this sound familiar? Night clubs purposely showcase a line of waiting people along the entrance way to show social proof that this is where you want to be. Cartmanland is also a VIP club model that has proven to have huge success.
7 Social Proof Tactics to Increase Sharing and Boost Conversions
I hope these stories have fired up the creative juices and given you something to think about with how you approach your sales pitches or marketing approaches. Not every business has a rollercoaster like Cartmanland or an opportunity to gather dancing youth at a festival, but there are some easy-win tactics to increase follower type interest and build on your trust factor with your readers or potential customers.
The following 7 Social Proof tactics should help boost perception of your product or website.
1. Social Share Buttons with Counters
You may have noticed the social share buttons with the running tally of totals on my website when you first arrived. These share buttons are from ShareThis.com (pro feature). I’m currently testing to see whether they encourage people to share more based on the lottery type scroll effect. So far so good.
Much like the story of the people waiting in line at the coffee shop, if something is popular then it must be good. A high share count rate could be the deciding factor that a person needs to click and share your article. They don’t want to be the first one, but they’ll happily follow knowing that your page or post is socially acceptable.
Adding Social Share Buttons with count totals is a quick fix and is worth the time to swap out and test.
If someone goes out of their way to say something nice about your business, you should of course take the time to thank them, but try to see if you can go one step further and get the happy customer to agree to a testimonial. The best form of a testimonial is one that shows a person’s full name and shows a picture of their face. Although, not everyone will agree to this, so you need to be smart with your approach. A failed attempt at asking your happy customer about giving a testimonial may change their mood altogether. The best approach, I find, is to harness that Testimonial with an upgrade. Here’s the scenario:
Them: “Thanks so much Example.com, I’m very happy with your product.”
You: “Thank you for your kind words, we’re glad you’re enjoying our service. I’m glad you took the time to reach out to us because we’re currently offering our happy customers a free month upgrade (or whatever you’ve got to offer) if you take the time to fill out a 5 minute Testimonial which will go on our Testimonial page. Would you be interested in this offer?
Them: “YES!! Thank you!”
Create a contact form with no more than 5 things they need to fill out. Maybe write something at the top about how this is a special offer that expires at the end of the month. That way they won’t put it off for a later time. Allow an option for them to upload an image of themselves, and make sure you reinforce the fact that they are one of thousands of happy customers of your business. Remember, all you need to do is give a little and you’ll get what you need.
Why This Works: Everyone loves free stuff. Haven’t you ever been to a baseball game where the mascot shoots t-shirts out of a cannon to the crowd? People in the stands go nuts for free crap. They elbow each other to be the one to catch the shirt. They are so swept up into the moment that they don’t even realize they’ve going overboard for a $3 t-shirt that is made of the thinnest form of cotton known to man. You wouldn’t even blow your nose in it. Those shirts are garbage after one wash, but hey… I got to be the guy who catches one.
3. Add Badges and Awards to Build Trust
Adding trust badges to your website is a very simple and overlooked design feature that many people forget to do. Potential customers need proof that you’re trustworthy, and badges and awards help people by putting their mind at ease.
With the goal of convincing potential customers that the process of buying something from your website is safe and secure, you should put badges in places that can be seen. Although, too many badges can have a negative effect. Don’t add things that aren’t recognizable. Check out this awesome article that shows Shopping Cart Abandonment with Trust Logos
4. Facebook Page Plugin
The Facebook “Like Box” will be shutting down June 23rd 2015. In it’s place is a more stylish version called the Page Plugin, which is pretty much the same thing except it shows your Facebook cover photo. I set up Optimize Dude’s Facebook page box as an example (go ahead and like it!)
Even if you’re not a huge fan of Facebook pages, don’t over think the element of having the number of your “Likes” on display. Facebook boxes with it’s number count and the faces of your fanbase are mini-testimonials and social proof that you’re great at what you do. Even if your “reach” is terrible with sharing articles on your Facebook page (thanks to the new algorithm update Facebook has tweaked to force you to spend money to promote your content), at least you can show off the high number of fans of your business or website.
I started this blog in January of 2015, so I don’t have a ton of likes. Yet if I were to sell an ebook or product, I would invest a little money in building up the number of likes to my page to convey that I’m more successful than I really am. It may sound a little shady, but you should always dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.
5. Go Beyond Replying to Comments
“First” …yeah that’s annoying, but what’s worse is no comments at all. Remember those first couple kids from the video that had the courage to get up and dance with the crazy dancer? If those dancers don’t get up and join, the movement doesn’t happen.
So would it be so awful to create a few dancers?
What I’m talking about of course is writing two or three comments yourself, under made up names, to get the conversation going on your content. You can reply to them and even offer insight to their (your) questions or comments. Again, this may seem a little dishonest to some people, but if it gets the ball rolling you can always delete the fake comments once the movement begins.
Much like how badges or awards encourage trust, Branding is the ultimate form of conveying assurance to your readers. If your business doesn’t have a strong logo, you could really be missing the mark as far as putting your very best foot forward.
A few years ago I tried making a living strictly from web design. Mainly I would redesign websites for companies and apply for jobs as a freelancer. I did this in between jobs or startups as it was great cash. I had some great clients, but more often than not I would run into people that didn’t want to spend even one second on branding. I was never the type of person that would force an issue, yet I would at least try to convince them to update their company logo.
There’s nothing worse than trying to work around an outdated logo from 10 years ago. I was amazed at how these monster companies with massive payrolls would put up such a front to the concept of a redesign. Then I realized it was the word “redesign” that people were afraid of. To them redesign meant change.
Instead, I found a more persuasive buzz word: “Update.”
Not every company wants to change their look, but to update a logo by strengthening lines. Improving the quality of a logo can have a massive impact. Colors don’t fade on the web, but adding style to a logo to make it pop can have a massive impact.
The Starbucks Branding history is a great example. Most people will look at the update from 1992 to 2011, but focus your attention on the jump from 87 to 92. The change was fairly slight, yet the impact was memorable and improved the quality of their logo. The picture of the woman became closer, and the shade of green changed slightly, but the overall logo stayed relatively the same.
Thanks so much for your time. I’d love to chat on Twitter, follow me at @OptimizeDude_