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 and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.