Updated: Nov 6
Social proof builds credibility and trust, shortcutting customer objections and boosting conversions. But what is it, how can you find it, and where should you use it on your website?
Social proof is a powerful way for marketers to build credibility and trust with their audience. It's the online equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouse, if you will.
We customers are a savvy bunch and naturally skeptical of claims that businesses make about themselves. But when those claims come from external sources, we’re more inclined to trust them.
Social proof in copywriting taps into psychology to make sales more likely. Customers look for evidence that their purchase is justified and that they’ll get the positive results they’re hoping for.
Social proof provides this reassurance and breaks down their barriers to purchase. This reduces buying friction and helps increase conversion rates.
But what exactly is it, where can you find it, and how do you use it..?
10+ types of social proof in copywriting
1. Customer reviews
Customer reviews can come from your webpage or third-party sites like Amazon, TrustPilot, Feefo, etc. Positive reviews from satisfied customers are a strong form of social proof, highlighting the benefits of your product.
But even slightly negative reviews are an opportunity to build trust - for example, to show how your customer service team resolves complaints. Research found that people are more likely to order from businesses with negative reviews than businesses with no reviews.
You can use quotes from customer reviews or flag star ratings you’ve received. For example, ‘4.9 out of 5 for customer satisfaction on TrustSite’ or ‘95% of customers recommend us’.
If you’re putting reviews on your website, it’s okay to edit them for brevity but not to alter the sense or spirit of the review. You can also use widgets from third-party sites to pull their reviews directly onto your site. Because these are unedited and unfiltered, they often seem more credible.
2. Customer testimonials
Customer testimonials are like reviews but longer. And you’ll typically collect customer testimonials yourself, by approaching customers and asking them to take part.
Good practice says that you shouldn’t offer any incentive to customers who participate, as that may encourage unhappy customers to fabricate a positive testimonial, just for the reward. It is better to look for genuine brand advocates - people who really love your business - and are happy to contribute without any incentive.
Customer testimonials are business-to-consumer (B2C) equivalent of a case study.
3. Case studies
Case studies are customer testimonials used in business-to-business (B2B) marketing. They’re based on interviews with a customer, exploring how a product or service solved their corporate pain points.
They typically follow a structure that outlines the business challenges, the product brief, how and why they chose your product, and the benefits it delivered.
4. Media mentions
If your product has been featured in reputable publications, blogs, or news outlets, mentioning these media appearances can enhance your credibility. These usually say something like ‘As featured in Marie Claire’ or ‘Recommended by Good Housekeeping’. And they’re often accompanied by a logo from the publication, to make it easy to spot the endorsement when visitors scan your webpage.
As mentioned above, logos are a valuable form of social proof. They’re highly recognizable and jump off the page, giving instant credibility. B2C marketing typically uses media logos, while B2B marketing uses logos of businesses that use the product or service.
6. Industry accolades
Industry commendations take different forms for different industries. In B2C, you might be familiar with ‘Which best buys’ recommendations. In B2B, a badge might come from an industry body, such as G2 software awards. These are powerful forms of social proof because they provide external endorsement of your business. But, more than that, they suggest a level of rigor that builds deep credibility and trust.
7. Peer commendations
Peer commendations are any social proof that shows your product or service is popular or successful. For example, book covers often state that they’re a ‘bestseller’ or ‘1 million copies sold’.
Ecommerce stores might flag specific products as a ‘top choice’ or ‘going fast’. These all highlight that peers trust and choose your products, so your current reader should too.
8. Influencer endorsements
You can’t escape influencers and their… well… influence. But it isn’t just about glamorous twenty-somethings frequenting new clubs or wearing designer clothes.
Every industry and sector has influential individuals. If you can get them to endorse your product, that can carry significant weight, as their reputation makes them credible and trustworthy.
Permission to use their photo - or a video vox pop - makes their recommendation more visible and engaging online.
9. User-generated content (UGC)
User-generated content is content created by your customers. It might be product photos that they share on review sites or tag on Instagram. It could be a short video they’ve shared on TikTok or a longer product review or tutorial on YouTube. This content is gold.
It doesn’t just show your product in real life (for example, how your clothes fit on real people, not just models) but it can also overcome barriers to purchase (for example, by answering customer questions or providing ‘how to use’ info you don’t have the resources to create yourself).
10. Customer statistics
Data might not sound particularly engaging but customer statistics - again - speak to your popularity and trustworthiness. For example, highlighting how many customers already use and trust your products, and how many products you’ve sold.
In B2B marketing, you might highlight how many problems your service has solved, ‘Trusted by 5,000+ IT businesses to secure over a million documents online’.
11. Follower/subscriber counts
Another way to show that your product or service is popular - and therefore convey credibility and gain trust - is to highlight the number of followers, subscribers, or listeners you have.
This is especially true for any business based on content creation. High engagement and a large following is a shorthand that shows popularity and implies you’re worth taking a punt on.
Why use social proof on your website?
Social proof is a crucial element in copywriting and marketing. It boosts your brand, increases purchase intent, and removes buying friction. Let’s take a deep look.
1. Social proof builds trust and credibility
Third-party endorsement demonstrates the positive experiences people have had with your product or service. This builds trust with your audience, as people are more likely to trust the opinions and actions of others.
2. Social proof breaks down barriers to purchase
When potential customers see that others have had a positive experience, it reduces their perceived risk of making a purchase. They feel more confident committing to buy, which means you make more sales.
3. Social proof influences buyer behavior
Social proof is a psychological technique to influence behavior and encourage buyers to complete your goal. When readers see endorsement - such as ‘most popular’ or ‘top-rated’ - it can push them towards purchase.
4. Social proof overcomes objections
You can use social proof to overcome objections that potential buyers have. For example, by saying ‘Think SlimZapz won’t work for you? Neither did Sally. After years of yo-yo diets, she’d given up ever losing weight. Hear how SlimZapz helped her lose 28lbs and keep it off.’
5. Social proof supports decision making
Some buyers - and, indeed, some purchases - require a lot of thought. Including social proof in your marketing can shortcut that process by answering questions your customers might have, helping them make quicker, confident decisions.
6. Social proof creates positive brand sentiment
Positive social proof can encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences with friends and family, leading to word-of-mouth marketing and boosting brand sentiment.
7. Social proof gives a competitive edge
If you’re in a competitive market, social proof can give you the competitive edge. When choosing between two similar products or businesses, customers will lean towards the business with the strongest social proof.
8. Social proof reduces returns
Social proof helps people make the right decision for them. Reviews - and UGC like customer product photos - help people judge whether a product’s quality, style, or function is what they need. This can deter buyers who would have been disappointed and returned a product.
9. Social proof increases conversions
Given the benefits above, it's no surprise that using social proof in copywriting can lead to higher conversion rates. Including social proof in your marketing materials and sharing it on social media helps attract, engage, and convert more prospects into customers.
Where should social proof appear on a web page?
Social proof should be strategically placed on a webpage to maximize its impact. The specific placement can vary depending on your webpage design and the type of social proof you’re using. Here are some common places you might be able to pop it.
On your home page
The homepage is the front door to your online property and should include your social proof. You can include various types throughout the page. From logos, badges, and third-party endorsements, to customer quotes and UGC.
Remember, however, that website visitors won’t always land on your homepage and progress logically through your site. So make sure you include it in other relevant places too - like product pages and pop-ups too.
Above the fold
‘Above the fold’ is an old newspaper term that means content that was visible when a newspaper was folded and on display. It persists in web design to describe the area of a webpage that can be seen without scrolling.
As some website visitors won’t scroll beyond what they see when they land on your page, it makes sense to put social proof here, to grab their attention and encourage them to stick around and read more. One example of this is one software vendor websites, where customer logos typically appear above the fold.
Near the headline/in the header
A key area ‘above the fold’ is the headline of your webpage. We scan webpages in a‘F’ pattern, looking at the headline and subheaders, and glancing over the rest. Since people are most likely to read your headline, hit them between the eyes with your social proof.
In product descriptions
When people are browsing your product descriptions, they’re showing higher buying intent. Including social proof here can overcome objections and remove buying friction.
Integrate customer reviews, ratings, UGC, etc near product descriptions to help encourage buyers over the line. Don’t forget micro-social proof like ‘most popular’ and ‘selling fast’ can create a sense of FOMO and also boost conversions.
It’s own section
Case studies and lengthier customer testimonials often have their own section on your website. But don’t relegate great social proof to a dark corner of your site and forget it.
Include short quotes throughout your site and share them on social media, linking back to the full case study for people who want more detailed information.
In Calls to Action
Calls to action require a website visitor to make a commitment - even if it’s a small one. Include social proof elements - such as reviews, ratings, or the number of satisfied customers - near your CTAs to reassure people that they’re making the right decision. You can also include external proof - like security certificates - on forms to alleviate concerns about sharing data/privacy.
On landing pages
Landing pages are web pages designed for specific marketing campaigns. A visitor might land on this sort of page and take action without looking at the rest of your site. Therefore social proof should be included here to support decision-making and encourage visitors to complete your conversion goal - like subscribing to a webinar or downloading an ebook.
In the footer or sidebar
Social proof can be permanently on display in your footer or sidebars. Footers are often used to display badges or certifications, whilst sidebars may include widgets from third-party review sites.
In exit pop-ups
You can set up pop-ups that appear on your website when visitors show behavior that suggests they’re about to leave. Use these to bring them back into your site by sharing social proof (or special offers) that recapture their attention.
On thank you messages
Social proof doesn’t stop after someone’s made a purchase or completed any other action. You can keep sharing it - for example, on thank you pages. This continues to reassure customers that they’ve made the right decision and helps deflect buyer’s remorse.
You could even use social proof to gather more. For example, a follow-up email or text that invites customers to ‘Join over 10,000 happy customers that have left 5-star reviews’.
Now you know the what, why, and where of social proof in copywriting, how are you going to integrate it on your website? If you don’t have the time, skills, or inclination to add social proof to your website yourself, I can help. Get in touch.
About the author
Libby Marks is an award-winning copywriter and content marketer. After 15+ years in marketing and communications, she escaped the 9-to-5 and started Write on Tyne.
Write on Tyne is a small content and copywriting agency dedicated to making marketing managers' lives easier.
We provide top-notch copy for campaigns, content marketing, and websites - underpinned by expertise in marketing strategy and SEO.