Why is social proof so important when writing on the web?
This week I got a call from a person who wanted to buy a subscription to executive coach articles to use for her new newsletter. What sealed the deal? The testimonials from other subscribers.
Recommendations, testimonials and client stories are a powerful persuasion tactic. It’s one of the key persuasion triggers that get people to take action. It’s called social proof.
Do you remember the landmark book Influence, by Robert Cialdini? He wrote about six weapons of influence, and it turns out, social proof is one of the most powerful mechanisms for triggering buying decisions.
We are heavily influenced by social persuasion, we can’t help it. Our brains respond to our strong need to belong and fit in, and it all happens in our unconscious minds.
Here’s an example. Customer ratings and reviews are one of the ways we decide and choose to buy products online. I use them all the time to click and buy: I glance at the number of gold stars other people have given a book on Amazon, or a pair of tennis shoes on Nike.
If there are two pairs of shoes I’ve selected for my size and price, I’ll go with the one that has 5 stars over 4. Think about it: I don’t know these people, they may have feet completely different to mine, they may not play tennis as often as I do.
Yet when I see a customer rave review and 5 stars, I’m all in.
Do these same persuasion tactics work for sites and businesses that aren’t selling physical products? Does social validation work for businesses selling services and experiences?
Researchers Peter De Vries and Ad Pruyn conducted a study of whether recommendations influenced Web site visitors’ decisions when buying digital cameras and choosing tourist destinations. One was a product, the other an experience, and they wanted to compare selling volume when recommendations were used.
For the product, items sold 20 percent more when a recommendation was included, than when not included.
For the experience, a travel destination was selected 10 percent more often than a destination without a recommendation. If a photo of the person accompanied the travel recommendation, the selection increased to 20 percent.
Will these results translate to sites for executive coaches, speakers, authors and other independent service providers? I say not only “yes,” but “you betcha.”
Guess what I see on many sites for service providers? A page tucked away that says “Testimonials,” almost out of sight. Very few professionals put a client recommendation up front on the home page. The result is that most visitors may never get so far as to see any recommendation at all.
So, here’s your challenge: take a look at your own site and do a review of this very important persuasion tactic.
- Where are you providing social proof?
- How often?
- Do you only have them on a separate page?
- Are you putting them into your web pages in strategic places?
- Do you regularly update them?
- Do you capture positive email comments from clients, and get permission to use them?