How to Boost Conversions with Social Proof

Denise Nickerson
May 31, 2019
Learn why social proof is so darn powerful—and how it can help your marketing.

Learn why social proof is so darn powerful—and how it can help your marketing.It’s late Sunday morning—the coffee’s on, the rain is falling, and you’re in search of a good place to catch brunch. You head out the door, walk down the street, and notice that nearly half of the restaurants you pass are borderline empty inside. Something inside you tells you to venture on. You head a bit further down the street and notice that the restaurant on your left is completely packed. You head inside.

Like most people, we’re more likely to head into a heavily crowded restaurant than a quiet one, despite average wait times. In fact, despite what we believe, we’re actually drawn to crowds. But why?

Most psychologists, sociologists, and marketing connoisseurs call this psychological phenomenon “social proof.” The rest of us simply call it “following the crowd.”

What is social proof?

Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people adapt their behavior based on what they see other people doing.

In general, there are six different types of social proof:

  • Expert’s Approval: When an expert in your industry recommends your products or services or is associated with your brand.
  • Celebrity Endorsements: When a celebrity endorses your products. (Influencers!)
  • Business Credentials When you are given a stamp of approval by a high-ranking figure in your industry.
  • User Experience: When your current users recommend your products and services based on their experiences with your brand.
  • The Wisdom of the Crowd: When a large group of people endorses your brand.
  • The Wisdom of Friends: When people see their friends approve of your product.

What are the benefits of social proof?

Let’s go back to the restaurant example. The reason you chose to visit the restaurant with people in it instead of the empty ones was that you assumed the empty restaurants weren’t as good. After all, if they served good food, they wouldn’t be empty, right?

That’s social proof in action. We don’t know if the quality of food in the less crowded restaurants is worse—yet we assume, based on the number of people, that the more crowded restaurant serves better food. These natural human assumptions are great for businesses (like restaurants!) when trying to find an edge over the competition.

In addition, social proof doesn’t require intensive creative processes or hefty budgets—you simply rely on your own customers to demonstrate the value of your product.

How can you use social proof in digital marketing?

There are numerous ways you can apply the psychology of social proof in your marketing efforts, but the short-and-simple approach revolves around inspiring trust. You want to show people that other people trust what you’re offering—and that they should too.

Some common forms of social proof as it applies to marketing include:

  • Ratings and reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Referral programs
  • Case studies
  • Awards and recognition
  • Certifications and badges
  • Celebrity and influencer endorsements
  • Social media mentions

What forms of social proof work best?

According to Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, while 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know. Other market research has found that:

  • Placing the logos of business customers on a company website can increase conversions by as much as 400%, according to
  • Influencer marketing has been considered the fastest-growing consumer-acquisition channel.
  • The average consumer reads 10 online reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • 57% of consumers will only buy or use a business service if it has at least a 4-star rating.
  • For 50% of all consumers, the very next step after reading a positive review about a company is to visit their website.

Need help putting social proof into action?

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