The Importance of Social Proof

by | Mar 5, 2012 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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Remember the days of being in high school and wanting to hang with all the cool kids? Well, maybe you were one of the “cool kids;” if you were, lucky you. But if you are like most of us, you really weren’t. These days marketing is sort of like being back in high school, but it’s a popularity contest that’s skewed a bit differently. Marketing, to a large degree, is about social proof. But now more than ever there are numerous ways to track the success of the company, individual, or product so it’s important to look at how influential you are in those areas.

I’ve had folks in the media tell me that they prefer to have people on their show or in their publication who have a lot of fans, friends, or followers on one or more of the major social media sites. In other words, you could have a fantastic message, a great product, or fantastic business but you still might face an uphill climb if your social media numbers are low. It’s a sad but true statement in our society, and everyone’s marketing plan should include increasing your social proof.

What’s the real breakdown of social proof? There are several areas that can pull in social proof for you. You don’t need all of them but three or four would be great. Let’s take a look at what they are:


  • MENLO PARK, CA - FEBRUARY 01:  A sign with the...

    Image by Getty Images via @daylife

    Likes: It almost goes without saying that the more Likes you have on your Facebook fan page the more appealing your messages are. Keep in mind that it’s more than likes, it’s also about engagement. You can have 30,000 likes on a fan page with very little engagement. The reason for this? There are a lot of people out there who can help you build a lot of likes to your fan page, but these likes are essentially from dummy pages which means that there’s nobody managing them. There’s no live person at the other end of that page. The other reason for this is that without engagement it just looks like a static page. Engagement creates a much more interesting and conversational page. We’ll talk about how to get more engagement in a minute.

  • FB shares: Make your content interesting enough and people will share it. You want to get to the point where each of your posts is being shared at least once. How do you do that? You create content that is insightful, helpful, and unique.
  • Twitter followers: I was a little surprised when I recently read that you can buy Twitter followers on eBay. You can buy something like 5,000 Twitter followers for $10. In order to do this you have to give up your login. I don’t know about you, but I would be a little hesitant to give up my login to someone on eBay. Tempting, but potentially disastrous. Still, having a large number of Twitter followers does matter, and there are ways to do this without handing over your ID to some unknown person. We’ll talk about this a minute too.
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    Image via CrunchBase

    YouTube views: Having a YouTube page might not be part of everyone’s business model, but for the right company, speaker or author YouTube is a fantastic way to promote your message. Ideally any video that you do should be under 2 minutes. Studies show that viewer attention drops off at the two-minute mark. Also, consider getting video endorsements from happy customers. Video can speak volumes and these days if you have almost any kind of phone, you probably have a video camera in it. Great for on-the-fly recommendations! I actually know a local window installer company that does this; after the windows are installed they invite the homeowner to say a few words about the process (because if you’ve ever had windows installed you know what a pain it can be), the ease of the installation, friendliness of the workers, etc.

  • Email subscribers: If you have an email newsletter, do you share this number with folks who land on your site? Unless the number is really small, I would recommend posting this counter on your site. Big numbers are impressive. If I tell you we have 20,000 people reading our newsletter, doesn’t that make you want to be a part of it? See what I mean?
  • Awards: Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what the award is. I once had a book buyer for Barnes & Noble tell me it’s “eye candy.” Most consumers have no idea what the award is but if you won it, you should put it everywhere that matters.
  • Image representing Barnes & Noble as depicted ...

    Image via CrunchBase

    Reviews: People like what other people like. Sites like Yelp and Amazon are great for social proof. If you haven’t spent a lot of time getting folks to review you on either of these two sites, you really should.

  • Screenshots: For many of us, before and after screenshots can be key, so grab these whenever you can and post them on your site or in your case studies.

Now that we know the different types of social proof, how can you go about getting your own “proof” going? Well, obviously for all the examples I cited I suspect that Facebook and Twitter will be the toughest to master. The big question always is: how can I get people excited about my content and (even more important) how can I get them to share it? Here is a short list of why people share online. I ran this list from most important, to least. See where you fit in:

Reasons people share online:

  • To bring value
  • To entertain
  • To define ourselves
  • For self-expression and self-fulfillment
  • To market our causes or brands

How can you get more shares for your message?

Be relevant, be interesting, be insightful. Don’t just copy what everyone else is doing, be unique. That’s easy to say and harder to do, I know. But let’s face it, the numbers never lie. When you put an article or blog post out there that gets a lot of buzz, you know you’ve hit your mark. In order to define how to make your content more relevant, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What does my audience really need?
  • What’s the biggest challenge my market faces right now?
  • What’s the biggest hot button my audience faces?
  • What’s next in my market?

The above questions may or may not work for you, but it should give you some general guidance on where your content should be focused. It should be extremely audience-driven. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you think, it only matters what your consumer wants. That’s the key

Increasing your Twitter numbers

I have entire articles written on getting more engagement on Twitter, but the bottom line is this: if you get more dialed into your topic, do more networking on Twitter, comment on other people’s tweets, share them and include hashtags in your posts you will build your followers.

The idea is that becoming numbers focused really forces us to develop more relevant content. And the numbers never lie. I once did a Twitter mentoring for a business owner who started with 5 followers on Twitter. She loved Twitter but wasn’t sure where to go with it. We researched her audience, dug into their needs, and then pushed a timely, interesting, and helpful message out there. Now, a year later, she has 68,000 followers on Twitter.

Good luck!

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