What is “Social Proof” and why is it so important?

As social beings, we are constantly looking towards others for direction or affirmation in order to guide our behaviours and decisions. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are to a large extent, conformists. When faced with a tough decision or alien situation, we will often use examples of other people’s behaviours in similar contexts as a guide to how we should be acting within that given situation. Psychologists have studied at great lengths how our so-called ‘wishes’ and ‘needs’ are frequently influenced by what other people supposedly want or need; in other words, we all experience FOMO (fear of missing out) at varying degrees. We want to be sure we are making the right choice and this includes when we make purchases.

This universal human behaviour is, therefore, an essential element of successful Facebook advertising. Facebook users turn to the social media platform as an environment in which they can interact with their peers, friends and family, and not somewhere they wish to see dozens of advertisements or find something to buy. This is why Facebook advertising is notoriously difficult to do by itself and why “social proof” is a crucial element of running a successful Facebook ad that actually converts into tangible results. In fact, Facebook advertisements with “social proof”, as opposed to those without any, have been found to generate up to 300% more conversions and 50% lower CPAs and CPCs (according to Kissmetrics).

What is “Social Proof”?

“Social proof” is the term given to any kind of social engagement on a public advertisement or post that is visible to all users. This could be likes, reactions, comments and shares, which are all just as valuable as the ad copy and image to the success of the ad.

Why is it so important?

A Facebook ad that has 150 likes, 70 comments and 25 shares is much more likely to stand out to a customer that one with one or two likes and no comments or shares. This is because when an ad is receiving a lot of attention, especially from people in our peer group or even people we are Facebook friends with, we want to know why and we want to be in on it too; a perfect example of FOMO. In an ideal scenario, once that customer’s attention is caught and held, they will then like, comment, share and tag their friends who will then view the ad themselves. Thus a snowball effect is created, engagement metrics will increase and the number of potential customers being able to see the ad and entering the marketing funnel will surge.

What’s more, high levels of engagement on your ad can boost your relevancy score, allow you to gain priority in the ads bidding system and reduce the overall costs of running your ads altogether.

Even negative engagement can be used to your advantage. Publicly broadcasted complaints and criticisms on your ad may seem like the antithesis of a successful Facebook campaign but in reality, it’s a really valuable opportunity to demonstrate to your potential customers that you’re not only accountable for your shortcomings but also that there’s a human aspect to your brand.

So what can Marketers do?

“Social Proof” is an invaluable resource for Marketers because once engagement picks up, it pretty much does all the work for you in terms of boosting exposure. To generate it initially, however, requires some effort on the behalf of the advertisement publisher.

One of the best ways to inject some “social proof” into your ads yourself is to include existing testimonials from customers in your ad copy; this is called User Generated Content (UGC) and is one of the best ways of drawing in users because it carries a huge amount of authenticity and credibility, which is ultimately what customers want. According to Search Engine Land, around 9 out of 10 customers will seek out validation in the form of reviews from other real-life customers before they make a purchase. So, save them from having to look for reviews and provide them with one or two in your ad copy.

A common version of “social proof” that we are seeing more and more of these days, is celebrity and micro-celebrity product endorsements on social media. This is why they’re called “influencers”; because they’re being paid to provide “social proof” in order to influence your buying decisions. This method is extremely effective although it is also highly costly so is not a practical option for many marketing agencies. You can, however, use images of real people using the product or service you are promoting in your ads which is a good way of demonstrating to other users that your product is both functional and desirable.

Simply asking people to engage with your advert is also an effective way of generating “social proof”. In your ad copy, ask relevant questions to your target audience, encourage them to comment, tag their friends and include engaging CTAs to ensure an optimal level of user response is produced. Below is an example of an engagement campaign that Media Maze ran for a client in which we tapped into our target audience’s sense of nostalgia for old cars (this was relevant because it was for a business that sold car finance); we generated plenty of “social proof” in the form of 2.4k reactions, 403 comments and 242 shares.

All good Marketers will know that to harness the power of “social proof” is fundamental to a productive social campaign. In some ways, “social proof” is more powerful than the ad on its own because it incorporates validation of both your brand and your product into the campaign. The voice of customers is by far the most powerful tool that a Marketer has which is why “social proof” is an absolute necessity in Facebook advertising.

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