Cold traffic can be a tricky conversion process. New visitors don’t immediately become customers just for having stumbled across your business. In the modern age of online shopping, you need to work to earn their trust first.

Enter social proof. One of the most effective tools in the e-commerce marketing toolbox, social proof has the potential to become even more powerful as your business grows.

But what exactly is social proof? And how can you use it to influence new visitors and drive sales?

Social proof is a psychological theory popularized by Dr. Robert Cialdini that describes our tendency to rely on the opinions or actions of others to inform our own. By leveraging the appeal of following the “wisdom of the crowd,” social proof applied to e-commerce can be a powerful marketing strategy.

Social proof can be generated on any platform where your brand lives, including your website and go-to social networks. Further still, there are many types of social proof at hand, including a range of actions on different channels for different audiences.

Popularity

Quantifiable signs that your brand has some measure of popularity is a common type of social proof and can go a long way to helping potential customers feel better about purchasing from you. At the very least, a shopper will be more inclined to look at what you’re selling if they see you already have a solid following.

Social proof that fits under this category can include:

  •        The number of likes, comments, views and shares on your social media posts;
  •        Viewership numbers on live broadcasts on Instagram and Facebook; and/or
  •        Sharing the number of subscribers on your email list to get your audience to opt in.

Public Praise

Consumers trust what other people say online, and peer-driven praise is perhaps your most powerful selling tool. According to a 2017 survey, 85% of customers trust local online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and certainly more than marketing materials.

Two main types of social proof fit into this category: reviews and ratings, and user-generated content (UGC).

Endorsements from Experts

Influencer marketing is a tricky form of social proof to get right. Paid partnerships are rarely considered as authentic as peer-driven proof, but they can still be effective. Content from influencers and industry experts shared publicly still has value as an endorsement, and micro-influencers within your niche are likely to have a voice that rings true for your target audience.

Proof of Demand

This form of social proof shows that not only are customers interested in your brand, but they are actually following through and buying from you. A large volume of sales has a snowball effect, creating more demand — and sales — as a result.

At the end of the day, social proof is all about selling through trust and authenticity. As all new entrepreneurs come to learn, a happy customer can outsell even the most carefully crafted copy.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.

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