Marketers want to reach their customers and explain the benefits of their products — and do so with greater impact. But it’s not enough for marketers to tell existing and potential customers why their products are so amazing. Prospects place little weight on what companies say about their own products; instead, prospects want to know what their peers say about their products. This is why social proof is so powerful.
One study found that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when making purchase decisions. What’s more, customers are likely to spend 31 percent more on a business with excellent reviews. But how can you more effectively use social proof in content marketing? Here are five powerful strategies to inspire your efforts.
1. Transform Customer Reviews into Powerful Marketing Tools
Customers are constantly talking about products on blogs, forums, and social media. Start by collecting reviews and selecting the most compelling ones. Feedback and quotes can be solicited by sending out an automated email requesting feedback that is triggered by the customer making a purchase.
Once collected, transform reviews into a series of quotes and memes that focus on major customer pain points. Share them on social media or integrate them into website or landing page content in order to provide an instant dose of credibility.
Key takeaway: Many amazing customer reviews are hiding within plain sight. Capture these compelling nuggets of social proof and leverage them into content marketing by monitoring blog comments, social media, and forums to find the most powerful ones.
2. Infuse Content with Long-Form Testimonials
Testimonials are similar to reviews in that they leverage the words of your customers to create greater impact. The difference between the two types of content, however, is that reviews consist of short text, and testimonials often contain longer content. Customers may be so pleased with your products that they send you an unsolicited email, but in most cases, you will need to ask for feedback.
In sourcing candidates for a testimonial, you might start with your most recent customers, as their purchasing process and the results they’ve seen are fresh in their minds. You should also look to your best customers — those who send referrals and are advocates for your products and work easily with your team. Ask specific, probing questions about how your products helped their business. Did they save money, for instance, and if so, how much? If productivity increased, what was the percentage change?
The testimonials that result can then be repurposed in any number of ways:
- Blog content. Include testimonials on the sidebar of your blog so that customers can read the content while enjoying educational and helpful content. For example, digital marketer Jay Baer does this on his blog.
- Case studies. Case studies are the most obvious use of testimonials, but they are also incredibly impactful. You can link to case studies in related blog posts or pull in a few examples from the case studies when writing relevant white papers to add more interest to the content.
- CTAs in marketing materials. Are you designing a landing page for a specific product? If so, testimonials are key to driving conversions. Pepper them throughout the content to trigger greater results.
- Email marketing campaigns. Drip email campaigns are an effective way to keep prospects engaged while providing relevant and timely information. Infuse these campaigns with testimonials relevant to the messaging to drive greater results.
Key takeaway: Testimonials are one of your most powerful forms of social proof; however, remember to ask for concrete results to amplify the benefits of this method of social proof. For example, “XYZ company increased my team’s productivity by 249 percent” is more impactful than “XYZ company significantly increased my team’s productivity.”
3. Squeeze Maximum Impact from Affiliations
Affiliations are a simple form of social proof, mostly because you can get them without asking or any extra effort. With this type of proof, you’re showcasing your company’s associations with others that your customers know and trust. By highlighting these associations, your credibility is instantly elevated in the minds of your customers.
For example, digital marketer Jeff Bullas places a header at the top of his website that says, “As Featured in Forbes Inc., The New York Times, and the Huffington Post” to instantly build credibility with his readers.
Parental control software and website blocker Net Nanny uses a similar strategy by placing the PC Magazine badge at the top of its website, with a quote that says, “Net Nanny is fully at home in the modern, multi-device world of parental control, and it still has the best content filtering around.”
Start by making a list of current associations that would be beneficial to leverage, then create a list of content marketing assets that would lend themselves well to this strategy.
Key takeaway: You likely have affiliations right now that you aren’t leveraging. And if not, don’t worry. Affiliations are simple to create through guest posting with creditable publications and then highlighting those affiliations as a starting point.
4. Leverage User-Submitted Content
User-submitted content is a great resource for capturing social proof because it helps you to connect and engage with prospects. For example, Lay’s launched a “Do us a Flavor” campaign that invited customers to invent their own flavors; fans could vote on their favorites, and a large cash prize was awarded to the winning idea. The campaign received 3.8 million submissions.
This is a B2C example, but B2B marketers can use it to inspire their strategy and content marketing ideas. For example, using social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn, you could ask prospects to vote on their most pressing pain points around a topic that ties in to your product. During this process, the emails of those who voted could be collected so that final results can be shared.
The most frequently cited pain point can then be used in content marketing efforts. For example, a white paper could be developed around the number one pain point and sent to those who participated in the survey to generate leads and nurture those relationships. Survey participants could receive an email that says, “You spoke and we listened. Your number one pain point was XYZ, and we’ve created a white paper that solves that problem.”
Encourage people to comment on your blog or to contribute to your forum or on a LinkedIn group so you can listen to what they say but also use their exact words in content marketing efforts to drive engagement.
Key takeaway: User-generated content isn’t just great for leveraging social proof; it’s an engagement tool as well. Capturing and employing user-generated content helps prospects feel truly heard.
5. Create Greater Impact with Visual Content
To truly understand the impact of visual content, look at a few interesting statistics:
- Thirty-seven percent of marketers say that visual marketing was the most important type of content to their business.
- People remember only 10 percent of information they heard ten days prior, but if that data is paired with a relevant image, they retain 65 percent.
- Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images.
- In an analysis of more than 1 million articles, BuzzSumo found that articles with an image inserted every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as did articles with fewer images.
What does this mean for collecting social proof and using it in content marketing? We know that visual content performs well, so why not pair it with social proof for greater impact?
Collect reviews and testimonials and transform them into graphics or infographics to share with your audience. Are you creating an eBook for your customers? If so, use memes with quotes throughout the content to drive more interest and hold your readers’ attention.
Key takeaway: Visual content is becoming increasingly impactful with customers, so use that knowledge to create social proof that holds greater value with your customers.
Leveraging Social Proof to Its Fullest Potential
Telling people that your products and services are amazing doesn’t have much clout with your customer — they simply want more. However, when prospects hear glowing reviews from peers, something wonderful happens: They start to listen. And even better, they’re more likely to take action.
Savvy marketers know they can’t just hope that customers do their research and stumble upon the best reviews; instead, the marketers who want to succeed need to put that information front and center. When that happens, it’s a game-changer for your brand.
Have you used social proof in your content marketing? If so, please share what worked and what didn’t.