social proof

How to Hack Your Startup’s Sales with Social Proof

Latest posts by Alisa Neymark (see all)

With the proliferation of online recommendation platforms like Yelp, Google Reviews, and TripAdvisor, word-of-mouth has grown into a ubiquitous influencing factor within online purchasing behavior.

According to a recent Nielsen study, 92 percent of consumers using Yelp will make a purchase after visiting the platform and 25 percent of those visitors will make a purchase within a few hours or less.

Oftentimes, reviews are anonymous, brutally honest, and as a result, 85 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

In this post, we’ll explain one key strategy to hacking your sales and attracting new customers: it comes from the concept of social proof. With a little bit of daily care, your business can weave the concept of social proof into a sales strategy that drives conversion and retention. 

What is social proof?   

The success and power of online review platforms is not a mystery. 

In fact, the success stems from a relatively simple psychological concept called “social proof,” a term coined by behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” Unlike other persuasion methods, the idea of social proof carries the most power for people who might feel unfamiliar or unsure in a specific situation, and consequently must look outside of themselves for evidence of how to proceed. Simply put, social proof is a recommendation from another external source.

For example, if someone is traveling in a new city and they want to find a place to grab lunch, they’ll turn to Google Maps and Google reviews to see recommendations. Or alternatively, if someone is searching for a place to get their car fixed, again they’ll turn to customer reviews on Yelp to save both time and money while ensuring the work is done in the best possible way. These examples are endless, and they span virtually every industry and vertical. 

Social proof is rooted in our DNA. Just like the ways in which children mimic the behavior of their parents and guardians, and how employees adopt the practices of their managers in the office, online shoppers will follow the advice and guidance of other consumers. Social media provides an immediate online resource for people looking for recommendations in real-time. Google Reviews, Facebook and Yelp provide reviews and recommendations from past customers that help inform and guide decision making for uncertain prospective consumers. 


Related: Why Working Sales on the Side Helps You Be a Better Entrepreneur

How can you use social proof to your advantage?

A reported 97 percent of potential customers will research a business online before making a purchase, consulting peer reviews, ratings and commentary before making a purchase decision. As such, “omni-presence” is the name of the game. Businesses (especially small businesses) need to be everywhere when it comes to online review platforms.

Here are a few practical steps for how to get started: 

  1. List your business on Yelp: With tools like GoDaddy’s GoCentral website builder, you can integrate and manage your Yelp presence from a centralized dashboard.
  2. Monitor your online presence daily: Set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day to identify both positive and negative feedback.
  3. Actively acknowledge customer reviews: Thank customers for positive feedback, and investigate negative feedback.
  4. When responding, leverage the three P’s: Prompt, professional and positive. Read more about perfecting your response strategy here.
  5. Don’t take things personally: Stay positive and calm when responding to negative or critical feedback. Other customers will read your response, so put your best foot forward.

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Now what?

If you’re an entrepreneur and you haven’t checked your online reviews or online footprint, make sure you take a look as soon as possible. Scan through reviews; appreciate the good and prepare to acknowledge the negative. By actively monitoring customer feedback, you can ensure a seamless, positive customer experience, even when a customer expresses negative feelings. 

By leveraging the concept of social proof for your business and actively maintaining customer relationships through online review platforms, you can ensure your business has the best possible chance for attracting new customers and keep existing customers coming back for more.

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