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15 ways your business can leverage social proof in digital marketing

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at shana@shanabull.com, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.

Read Shana’s past columns.

Your business gets a great wine score or a glowing writeup in the local paper. What you do next can make all the difference.

Public relations are an important component of any marketing and communications brand strategy, but getting mentioned in a magazine, blog, TV spot, social media post or newspaper is just one part of the marketing mix. The real magic lies in how brands utilize a press mention or wine accolade after the fact. Amplifying this “social proof” can help your brand build credibility, reach new audiences, and ultimately sell more of your product or service.

What is social proof?

The term social proof was first mentioned almost 40 years ago by author Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” (The book has been revised since then.) The idea is that people want to emulate others’ demonstrated behavior.

This is why word-of-mouth marketing is so powerful: The majority of people instinctively trust others in their community and look for cues for how to act.

Social proof in marketing comes in many forms:

  • Word of mouth, like a friend’s or influencer’s sharing a link to their favorite products.
  • Peer reviews, like testimonials or review websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp.
  • Wine accolades, like getting 90-plus points from Wine Enthusiast or a gold medal from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
  • Press mentions in papers, TV, magazines or blogs.

Social proof isn’t just about your brand, either — it can be about growth in your category or trends in your industry (check out trade magazines in your industry for stats).

These cues — like a rating of 95 points on a bottle of zinfandel — act as proof that others (and sometimes these “others” have knowledge in the subject and thus garner further credibility) like the product, so the questioning consumer might like it, too.

Here’s how important social proof is:

  • 91% of American shoppers search for online reviews before making a purchase, according to BizRate Insights.
  • More than 80% of Americans seek recommendations from friends and family members when making a purchase of any kind, according to Business 2 Community.

When customers are looking to spend their money at a new restaurant or winery, social proof helps them to decide which brand will win over another.

How to incorporate social proof into your marketing

Here are a few places where businesses can add their latest press mentions, testimonials or accolades:

  1. Create a “featured on” section on the homepage of your website (see RandallTheBlueSpider.com as an example). You can create links or simply add the logos of the places at which you’ve been featured.
  2. Add specific accolades or testimonials to your website’s main product page. Also put them on any relevant individual product page (see the 2018 Pellegrini Zinfandel A.V. on PellegriniSonoma.com/Wines/Wines as an example).
  3. Add new mentions to your trade/press page. For a few other ideas of what you can include on a press page, see the Digital Marketing column “6 keys to getting more media coverage of your brand.”
  4. Incorporate links and logos into an email blast to your customer base AND create a separate email to send to your sales accounts and vendors. The first, to let customers feel good about purchasing your products, and the second is to encourage venders to buy your products for their own shelves.
  5. Craft an email subject line with an attention-grabbing stat or mention from the press to get people to open it. “Our biscuits are one of Oprah’s favorite things — find out why!” (BigBottomMarket.com)
  6. Create shelf-talkers and bottle-neckers with mentions on them for your retail vendors to utilize to sell your products.
  7. Share a sentence or two from a testimonial on your social media pages. Create a quote image to share on Instagram and Twitter, and share the link to an article on Facebook.
  8. Create digital ads mentioning the latest wine score and direct people to your website, or share the image of the mention with a link to your product/service.
  9. Display physical awards in your brick-and-mortar shop. Take pictures of them and share them on social media as well.
  10. Add all large press mentions and accolades to your sell sheets so your sales team can utilize social proof to get your product into more stores, restaurants, etc.

Robert Larsen, a communications expert and owner of The Larsen Projekt (TheLarsenProjekt.com), a hospitality public relations and storytelling agency, worked with Dry Creek Valley winemakers Pedroncelli Winery for their 90th anniversary.

He agrees that social proof can be one of the best tools for a sales team, saying, “Share the good news with your sales team. Encourage them to utilize the good press to help tell your company's unique story, ultimately to support a sale. A good review or press hit signals that market influencers are endorsing the brand. When necessary, support the media by validating them as important, whether they or the publication is national or regional.

“Pedroncelli Winery does a good job sharing their successes with sales at all levels. We worked together in 2017 to celebrate their 90-year anniversary and they worked hard to gain a high level of press coverage with my guidance. More than that, they made sure to impress upon company salespeople, brokers, distributors, and tasting room staff the importance of talking about the anniversary coverage.”

11. Create a physical card with a gift code that incorporates a testimonial or accolade and have your best customers share with their friends/family.

12. Write a blog post about the social proof and direct customers to your website (as opposed to sharing the link to an article that doesn’t live on your website via social media).

13. If you have an Instagram landing page (shanabull.com/hello-from-instagram) or Linktree, create a link to the latest article about or accolade for your business under your products link.

14. Utilize the best accolades with your SEO strategy, as Guerneville’s Big Bottom Market did.

15. Create a press release announcing accomplishments, accolades, and other press mentions. Awards can be newsworthy, especially if you are one of Oprah’s faves (sonomamag.com/big-bottom-biscuits-in-guerneville).

If you haven’t started utilizing social proof already, go back and look at some of the press mentions you’ve had in the past and see how you can incorporate those into your digital marketing efforts moving forward.

And remember to share again, and again, and again. Getting a press mention, testimonial, or accolade is a big deal and you should be proud, and share it a few times. Even if your brand is mentioned just once by Oprah in her magazine, you will forever be known as the biscuits that Oprah loves. Isn’t that the kind of thing we’re all aiming for?

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at shana@shanabull.com, @sharayray on Instagram or at shanabull.com.

Read Shana’s past columns.

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