42 Ways to Build Social Proof, Trust, and Influence

social proof
social proof
Image courtesy of Marketing Results

Those who read this column frequently know my habit of finding great infographics and adding my 2 cents to whatever analysis provided by the creator. I have a little treat for you today — a nice infographic laying out 42 methods to build social proof, trust, and influence with potential buyers.

Build social proof, trust, and influence with buyers

I love the way Will Swayne explains each of the 42 ways to build social proof, trust, and influence, using an example to illustrate each method. A couple of caveats, however.

All methods to build social proof are not equal

The corollary is that each method for building social proof doesn’t work equally well in all contexts; with all people.

Some buyers a more quantitative and put more emphasis on quantitative methods like experiments and comparisons, while other people are just the opposite — preferring qualitative methods to build social proof.

build social proofContext is also important. I’m much more motivated by social proof from someone I like and respect than someone I don’t. Of course this is qualified by the role I assign the individual I respect. For instance, I might find significant social proof from someone like Warren Buffett when it comes to build social proofinvesting, but I don’t find much social proof in his tacit recommendation of his tailor (through wearing his clothing). The opposite might be true for Michelle Obama because she appears very sophisticated and elegant in public — at a reasonable cost.

Discounting the effects of context and individual differences in the relative impact of each of the 42 methods to build social proof, trust, and influence buyers, differences exist in the strength of these methods for building social proof that doesn’t rely on whether the method is qualitative or quantitative.

Low impact means to build social proof

Of course, any of these 42 methods to build social proof can be low impact; depending on how the tactic is implemented. Diet and cosmetics companies often compare apples to oranges instead of equal comparisons, which dilutes the impact of such comparisons — comparing a woman without makeup in loose-fitting, drab clothing photographed in poor light to a woman with makeup, a smart outfit, and proper lighting just doesn’t have the same impact as a more accurate comparison.

Other elements are pretty low impact and there’s not much to be done to improve their impact except combine them with other elements evincing higher impact on social proof.

Contact information is one such low impact means for building social proof. Client lists, team photos, credible images, valuable content, and speculations also likely fall within the low impact list.

High impact means to build social proof

Scientific studies, especially when conducted by independent third parties is likely the best form of social proof. Product reviews, testimonials, and media are also high impact for building social proof. Depending on how these tactics are implemented, they can significantly impact social proof and trust.

Combining elements of social proof

You don’t have to limit yourself to a single tactic to build social proof. In fact, you should probably use multiple tactics because these tactics also impact website traffic by improving page rank to move your content up in the search results.

But, don’t stop with social proof.

Cialdini lists 6 tactics to influence buyers:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

As you can see, social proof is just 1 tool to influence people and build your business.

If you look carefully at the 42 methods to build social proof, you’ll find many of them fall within the other tactics of influence established a few decades ago by Cialdini.

Infographics, authoritative images, valuable content, and several other methods likely fit within authority, while team images, contact information, origin stories, and other methods likely fit within liking, as well as authority.

Liking is a particularly valuable tool to influence people.

Yesterday, someone at the meetup group asked me if he should include personal stories in his book. He also asked about his Facebook profile containing both family and friends and business connections. He was afraid sharing business posts might disturb his family and friends, but he was more concerned that his personal shares might be inappropriate for his business connections.

The fact of the matter is that sharing details of your life, whether on Facebook, your website, or other communications with business contacts is almost always a good thing — except maybe on LinkedIn — because it makes you human (and likable) to your connections.

social media marketing with Mari SmithTake a look at Facebook dynamos like Mari Smith and you’ll see evidence of the liking influence tactic in action. All her posts are so folksy, even the business ones make you feel like you’re kicking up your heels with a friend not getting insights from one of the leading social media gurus in the country.

One of the easiest means to garner attention is to give attention — this is reciprocity. And it works. If you want people to pay attention to your stuff, give them some love first.

Don’t underestimate the power of scarcity to move consumers and other buyers. People are just hard-wired to want what they can’t have or something someone else can’t have. Scarcity involves gating access to product, features, or even information.

Taylor Swift is particularly adept at using informational and product scarcity. She drives followers to her social networks by sharing music cuts before they’re commercially available, introducing advance information about releases and touring dates, and sharing something of herself in her posts. She’s also great at celebrating her fellow artists and just plain old folk — which engenders her to her followers.

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media.