Scientists have figured out the answer to the age-old parental question, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” The answer is “yes,” and the reason is something called social proof. Basically, when we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t know what to do, we look around to see what everyone else is doing, then do that.
The flip side is that sometimes, until the first person acts, nobody does anything. Have you ever been at a party with an elaborate buffet? No one wants to disturb the beautiful array, so everybody stands around eying the deviled eggs until the host grabs the tongs and starts filling a plate for someone.
It can be that way on your website. Despite your best efforts to engage customers and readers, there may be no evidence there that anyone has ever heard of you. This discourages people from participating, so you’ve got to act like the host — grab the tongs and get the party started.
Here are three ways to provide social proof on your website:
1. Encourage comments on your blog. End each post with a request for comments; or, even better, with a question — ideally something more specific than “What do you think?” More proactively, ask a friend to get the ball rolling. (If he or she also has a blog, you can return the favor.) Ask blog buddies to respond to a specific point in the post, or ask for clarification or further information. When you respond to your pal, you encourage others to chime in with their own comments and questions.
2. Get testimonials about your products or services. Whenever you get positive feedback from customers, ask if you can share it! Don’t be shy about asking for feedback, by adding a comments page on your website or setting up a questionnaire on Survey Monkey. Whatever the source, ask permission before posting comments — and never give in to the temptation to write your own.
3. Incorporate media. If your business gets a mention in the media — even if it’s just a small local newspaper — it can be very effective to include that information as a form of social proof. If you have more than one mention, well, start up a dedicated media page on your site!
There are a variety of ways to get those mentions. Reach out to reporters, both locally and in your industry. Reporters are always looking for a hook, so think about what stories you can tell — did you help a customer overcome some particular challenge? Perhaps you could get involved in a local event, either as a speaker or expert, or as someone providing products or services to the organizers.
Positive information is an important element in your strategy to maintain your online reputation, and social proof is positive information in action.