Social proof is defined as the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us (either in real life or online) have on our own behavior.

Social proof was first popularised by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence. You can read a bit more about Cialdini in our article on How To Be Persuasive On Your Blog.

In today’s article, we’ll explain how you can use Cialdini’s concept to show prospective customers that you and your business can be trusted.

Social Proof – The Basics

Cialdini noticed that people are extremely swayed by what everyone else is doing (or saying). We are naturally “herd” animals, and we look to the crowd to give us cues as to what to believe.

Advertisers have known this for many years. It’s why they are happy to pay celebrities millions of pounds to drive their cars or wear their watches. It’s also why you often hear marketing slogans which are designed to trigger social proof reactions:

  • Everyone is talking about it
  • The most popular burger in the world
  • Over 10m downloads
  • 9 out of 10 cats prefer it
  • The world’s favourite airline

Show Don’t Tell

The whole point of social proof is to follow the rule: show don’t tell. Marketing experts will always tell you that if a customer can see something, they are more likely to be persuaded than if you just tell them. Talk is cheap.

By using social proof, you “show” your popularity, your quality, your trustworthiness. After all, you’re just reporting how other people feel about your brand. You’re not bragging. It’s your customers who say you’re the best.

Right? Not quite!

You still need to remember to “show” rather than “tell”, even in the context of social proof. The two best ways to do this are case studies and testimonials.

Case Studies

Case studies are a great addition to your website. They offer a range of benefits:

  • Demonstrate authority and expertise
  • Show prospective customers the kind of services you offer
  • Offer social proof in the form of happy customers
  • Increase engagement as people will often comment or ask follow up questions

The key to effective case studies is to tell the truth. Don’t paint a rose-tinted, fantasy picture of the project. Admit when things went wrong (and how you handled it). Refer to tricky aspects of the brief. Let the reader know when you were forced to pivot or change direction.

A great case study allows readers to imagine themselves working with you. Try to write in your own voice (except when quoting customer feedback). Talk about your own experiences with the project.


According to Big Commerce, 72% of customers say that positive testimonials and reviews increase their trust in a business.

They are the ultimate “show” sales technique. Not only are you showing that your customers love you, they are using their own words. It’s the online equivalent of the holy grail of marketing – word of mouth.

If you want to be even more persuasive, don’t worry if you have a couple of bad reviews in there. A string of 5* reviews just looks suspect. And you can use a negative review to respond with your thoughts and apologies. This shows you are on the ball and take client feedback seriously.

If you’d like to discuss how to generate social proof for your business, please get in touch.

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