Have you ever felt a bit hesitant when giving your email address to a company? Do you protect it in fear of your inbox being overloaded with promotional emails?
It’s a natural reaction for most of us, especially since we don’t want to deal with emails we aren’t interested in. However, for marketers who collect and use email addresses to grow their business, this hesitation (natural as it may be) presents a problem.
Fortunately, there’s a way to overcome this hesitation, and that’s using social proof.
What is social proof?
Social proof is a unique form of marketing that is typically less curated. Often seen as more authentic, social proof is meant to showcase real people—ones who have purchased something and are happy with the result.
Types of social proof:
- Numbers of subscribers/customers (e.g. Join the 100,000 happy subscribers who get our newsletter each week)
- Testimonials (e.g. X gave me the time I needed to focus on my business)
- Reviews (e.g. This restaurant has an average of 4.7 stars)
- Celebrity endorsements (e.g. a commercial, Instagram post, or sponsored blog post from a celebrity)
- Big-name brands (e.g. Our brand is used by Facebook, McDonald’s, and Target)
And social proof isn’t just a gimmick: It’s an effective marketing strategy. But don’t just take it from us—here are some of the stats around social proof:
- Buyers require an average of 40 online reviews before believing a business’s star rating is accurate.
- Shoppers from 18 - 65+ expect reviews: The younger the buyer, the more reviews they expect
- Almost one-third of consumers learn about new products from reviews
- Only 48% of consumers would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars
- 14% of consumers aged 18+ say celebrity endorsements have an effect on the things they buy
- 31% of consumers say they read more reviews because of COVID-19
How can I use social proof in relation to email marketing?
Now that you know what social proof is and have seen how psychologically powerful it can be, let’s look at how you can use it to improve your email marketing, as well as how you can use it in your email marketing.
Using social proof to build your email list
Tip 1: Show subscriber numbers
If you have a large number of subscribers on your email list, advertise it by adding the subscriber number to your opt-in forms.
Popular tech newsletter, The Hustle, uses powerful readership numbers, along with a carousel of written endorsements, to attract subscribers. These positive reviews include images, names, and social media handles for added authenticity.
Source: The Hustle
By doing this, marketers at the Hustle showcase the popularity of their newsletter, encouraging others to subscribe. Additionally, this authenticates their list as something people find useful.
Another trick for social proof? Make it more relatable. By saying things like, “Join 15k sales professionals receiving our weekly emails,” you’re speaking to the reader much more directly, letting them know that 15k other people have signed up for the list.
This also plays into people’s competitiveness and fear of missing out, making them want to subscribe.
Tip 2: Add testimonials from influencers
If you’re fortunate enough to have relationships with industry influencers, then getting a testimonial from them can be a powerful driver of subscribers.
Utilizing industry influencers can work exceptionally well, because they likely won’t endorse something they don’t believe in, helping prospective customers trust your brand. Additionally, there’s an added benefit for influencers, because they have the opportunity to advertise their own products. It’s a win-win for both of you.
And these partnerships can work in a variety of ways, such as blogs, emails, webinars, and social media projects.
For instance, we at Emma worked with marketing celebrity, Ann Handley, to create blog content, as well as a Twitter email chat where people could ask questions about email marketing.
Using social proof to increase email conversions
Once social proof has helped you build your email list, here’s how you can leverage it to turn those subscribers into customers.
Tip 1: Showcase your number of customers
If you’re sending a product-related email, trying to convince people to make a purchase, try outlining how many other people have used your product. As we mentioned above, numbers are a great way to use social proof and drive conversions.
Source: Campaign Monitor
In the image above, our sister brand illustrates the global impact their product has. They even go further and show real companies that use Campaign Monitor.
By showcasing customer numbers like this, you’re giving potential customers trust in your product. You’re telling them they can achieve their goals with the help of your brand.
Tip 2: Showcase awards, press mentions and industry recognition
Another way to use social proof is to showcase awards you’ve won or recognition you’ve received. (Shameless plug: you can find Emma’s recent press here.)
By showcasing well-known industry awards or PR press, you instantly increase the credibility and desirability of your product or offer.
This worked well for Bag Servant, an ecommerce company that A/B tested their own award-related credibility. The company tested a page with an award badge against a page that didn’t have one, and the page with the award won the test and increased conversions substantially.
Tip 3: Showcase reviews
Adding reviews from real customers who have used your product can increase desire—as well as reduce purchase anxiety—by reassuring potential new customers about your product.
How to use social proof properly
Now that you know the ways you can use social proof to help build your list and convert subscribers into customers, let’s look at some best practices—especially since not all forms of social proof are positive.
Avoid creating negative social proof when you can
Wording is everything when it comes to social proof, and it’s easy to get wrong.
Take third-party review platforms like Yelp, for example. Often, people write negative reviews for brands, impacting the brands (sometimes without their knowledge). If a negative review about your company is posted on a third-party site, it might be easy to ignore the review or worse, write a snide comment in response.
However, the best way to respond is through thoughtful customer service. In a way, this is positive social proof, because it shows those researching your company that you care. Below is an example of just that:
Still, it goes without saying that if you’re going to use social proof in your email marketing, make sure you’re picking the best reviews (and not the ones that warranted a response). With that said, however, a few negative reviews isn’t the end of the world, either. They might even lend a little authenticity to your brand.
Personalize with photos
Including photos can make people feel more trusting of reviews, so be sure to include images next to testimonials. Doing this will make the review feel more authentic, boosting effectiveness. (But don’t forget the text! Studies show text is still the most popular form of review.)
You may even go beyond the photo by including a company name along with the person’s name, or a social handle like The Hustle does.
Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy for businesses to pair random photos with promising reviews, but it’s much more complicated to add a fake role, company, or handle. Adding this extra detail will illustrate your company as one that’s trustworthy.
If the social proof isn’t there yet, keep working on your brand
While social proof is great, you don’t want to start using it until you have impressive results.
For example, showcasing five subscribers isn’t as exciting as, say, five thousand. A small number of subscribers doesn’t lend a lot of credit to your newsletter, and it could actually be a form of negative social proof.
The same can be said for a product. For example, let’s say you release a new feature to an app—but the UX is buggy. Rather than using social proof here, you’d want to instead improve the app. Even if social proof is a major part of your marketing, you want to provide customers with the best experience possible.
So, then, how do you market a small subscriber list or a new feature? There are plenty of other ways to make your marketing stand out, but the key is providing value. People want to know what they’ll get from you, so make sure you show the benefits of your brand.
Feature social proof that’s recognizable and relatable
When big-name brands use your product, it’s not just a win for your brand—it’s also valuable for your marketing. There are benefits to having brands like Apple or Twitter use your product: You can showcase them on your site and in your emails, too.
If you’re fortunate enough to have well-known brands in your customer list, featuring them will give you weight. The recognition people have for these brands is somewhat transferred to you, thanks to a psychological phenomenon known as the Halo Effect.
But what if you don’t have household names on your customer list? If this is the case, make sure the companies you feature relate to your audience as much as possible. If, for instance, your audience is looking for something easy-to-use and affordable, use social proof that highlights these features.
If someone sees your product has solved their problem, they’re that much more likely to purchase, especially if they think your product can help them achieve their goals.
So, when using social proof in your email marketing campaigns, make sure the people and organizations you’re featuring are either recognizable and desirable, or highly relatable to your target market.
How do I encourage people to provide social proof?
If you’re trying to use social proof to show how many subscribers you have, or how good your email engagement is—this is social proof you can largely create yourself.
But what about the social proof you want to include for your leads, like reviews and testimonials?
In order to garner reviews, you can automate emails to go out after an item has arrived, recommending people leave a review. You can also incentivize these types of posts, so people will be more likely to to rate your product and write about it.
Airbnb does an excellent job job of sending automated (yet personalized) emails using the data they’ve collected:
Social proof isn’t just another marketing gimmick—it’s a fundamental driver in our purchasing behaviors. By incorporating some of these tips into your email marketing, you can leverage this psychological phenomenon to build your email list and convert those subscribers into customers.
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