“Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior for a given situation.” - Wikipedia
“Social proof is the idea of having other people speak for you, and it’s powerful, powerful stuff. It could mean the difference between people visiting your website sticking around and even buying your products – and people doing nothing”
– Pat Flyn from Smart Passive Income
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon proved with countless studies. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact: in the words of Robert Cialdini, “..we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct”.
How can you use this powerful principle in order to enhance the growth of your blog?
Imagine that you visit a blog for a first time. You immediately see that there are only couple of comments below each post. What’s your first reaction?
Now, imagine that you visit a blog for a first time, but this time you immediately see that there are 50+ comments below each post. What’s your first reaction?
This is why it’s wise (although it depends ) to encourage readers to leave comments below your posts and participate in discussions in order to make the comment thread longer.
Example: Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income
“ I always try to engage with my audience – within the post so they will respond to a question or an opinion or something – and also within the comment section as well. I’ll reply to comments, and ask questions so I get even more answers, and what this does is a few things..” – Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income
“ When people see that other people are doing something, they’re more likely to do that thing themselves. If they see lots of people are subscribed to your blog, they’ll be more likely to subscribe as well.” – Corbett Barr from Think Traffic.
Once you grow your RSS or e-mail subscribers base, it might be a wise thing to share those numbers. People are more likely to subscribe to something when they see that a lot of other people are subscribed as well. However, keep in mind that social proof works both ways, so sharing that you have 12 subscribers is probably not the best idea.
Example: Leo Babauta from Zen Habits
“Join 240,000 gorgeous readers” – it’s simple and it works.
3. Social media
Once you have enough subscribers, your social media profiles can be a valuable form of social proof, because your readers can see that a lot of people just like them are your fans. You might have to wait until you build a decent online following (Corbett Barr from Think Traffic advises to “..avoid numbers less than 500 or 1,000”) , but once you do, don’t be shy and make the numbers visible on your blog.
Example: Pick The Brain
You might not know that Pick The Brain is one of the most popular personal development blogs in the world, but once you see that it has 24,000+ fans on Facebook, you immediately know that it must be something serious.
Interviews are a great form of social proof that is often overlooked. Imagine that you visit a blog for the first time and you see an interview with one of your favorite bloggers there. How does that affect your opinion about that blog? Exactly. Most people who come visit your blog aren’t new to the blogosphere and they know quite a few names, so you might really boost your credibility by interviewing a well-known person in your field. Its easier than you think.
Example: Maneesh Sethi from Hack The System.
You can see what I spoke in the last paragraph in action here. You can clearly see that Maneesh’s site is relatively new, but since you also see interviews with J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly and Chris Guillebeau from Art of Non-Conformity, you don’t have the “meh, it’s a new blog reaction”.
5. “As seen on” badges
You have definitely seen them. They’re badges of various media outlets that are usually presented in the sidebar of the blog and mean that the person behind the blog was featured or quoted in that media outlet. People who visit your site for the first time don’t know if you’re any good, but if you were featured in some major media outlets that they know of, they immediately form an impression that this must be a serious blog. Don’t forget to ask whether you can use their badge for your “As seen on” section when you do a guest post for a well-known blog.
Example: Chris Guillebeau from Art of Non Conformity
Everyone knows that “As seen in The New York Times” badge is impressive.
6. Case studies
Case studies are usually used to promote a service or a product, but you can also use them to promote free content. One way or another, the point is that when you get e-mails or comments from readers who want to tell you how your content/product/service helped them, don’t just sit there and feel flattered, ask them if you can share their story in a case study and publish it on your blog. This is especially powerful way to promote something, because your potential readers/subscribers/customers see that what you have to offer really works.
Example: Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich
I believe that one of the reasons why Ramit’s course Earn 1k is so successful is because Ramit regularly shares case studies in which he shows how ordinary people get extraordinary results following his techniques.
7. Expert quotes
Again, people who visit your blog probably aren’t new to the blogosphere and know big names, therefore if you can manage to get a quote from a well-known blogger, it will help you to increase your credibility dramatically. Can’t get anything from the big guys? You can ask for a quote from less known bloggers. Your readers might not recognize them, but the mere fact that someone who is a real person (readers can see their blogs) has something nice to say about you helps a lot.
Example: Derek Halpern from Social Triggers
Derek Halpern shares quotes from known industry experts in his “About” page, which helps him to instantly boost his credibility and gain the trust of a new reader.
Many A-list bloggers are already using the principle of social proof to their advantage. There’s a reason for that: it works. Don’t just read about it and forget it: apply the tips from this article and see it for yourself. This principle is too powerful for you not to use it.