There is a lot of talk in the marketing industry around digital ‘word of mouth’, but do you actually know how B2B marketers can use it to generate leads? Is there any point focusing your limited budget on activities that help generate online ‘word of mouth’? Does ‘word of mouth’ generate sales?
One word. Yes. And here’s why:
What is social proof?
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon based on theories of social influence and validation. Studies of human behavior show that in situations of uncertainty, humans look to others for indications of what might be the ‘right’ decision.
This is especially important to B2B buyers as the decision making process is far longer and more complicated, making the levels of uncertainty and need for validation extra strong.
However, this phemonmenon is present online and offline, in decisions huge and small. For example, it’s Thursday night and you are on a mission to find some Sushi for dinner. You find two restaurants, one empty, one full, which do you choose? Precisely.
Why? Because you are unsure, so you look to the behaviors of others to guide you. This theory guides so much of human behaviour that Google has decided to use it in their algorithms to provide better results to their searchers. Which brings me to my second point…
B2B marketers need to sit up and pay attention to social proof because it directly affects your SEO rankings.
What is the most effective form of Social Proof?
There are varying degrees of effectiveness in marketing efforts to harness social proof online. This is based on two major factors – personalisation and source.
The more personalised and relevant the social proof is to your buyer, the more influential it is.
With regards to source, industry thought leaders and well known and respected people will have more influence on social proof than someone you have never heard of. Other sources that commonly have a high degree of social proof are experts, celebrities and even existing customers. Existing customers, although not well known, are deemed knowledgeable and trustworthy sources due to their highly relevant experience to your buyer.
We trust each other more than we trust a company. In fact, earned media sources remain most credible, and trust in traditional paid advertising messages has declined (Nielsen 2012). So generating ‘earned media’ – media that is earned through sharing because of its value – is very effective in creating a positive affinity with your brand.
What is the best way for B2B Marketers to harness social proof?
Unfortunately, social proof doesn’t just happen. You need to create the foundations which allow and encourage it, which is where lots of B2B marketers fail. There are three main areas in which B2B marketers need to focus to harness the powers of social proof for generating leads and sales:
1. Promotion and awareness
Generating traffic and brand awareness using social proof involves:
- Creating content that others are likely to find valuable, and
- Placing it in relevant networks (LinkedIn Groups, Twitter accounts, forums etc.) to be found by your target audience.
This will result in your target buyers sharing (and effectively endorsing) your content with other relevant networks. +1’s, likes and shares all generate social proof and earned media.
By specifically targeting and building relationships with your buyers’ online influencers, you can create highly effective social proof resulting in brand awareness and affinity, which leads to traffic and interest in your brand.
2. Capture their details!
Having generated awareness and traffic to your site, you can use social proof to encourage potential buyers to hand over their contact details to you. For example, in your CTA to your blog subscription you could use the following copy:
- ‘Click here to subscribe to our blog’ – (no social proof)
- We have 1,200 blog subscribers, click here to join them’ – (social proof)
- ‘1,200 accounting partners in Australia subscribe to our blog, click here to join them!’ – (highly relevant social proof)
Be more focused in your choice of words to show your buyers that what you’ve got to say is really relevant to them.
3. Make them feel comfortable buying from you
You can harness social proof by providing your prospects with information which eases their fear of making the wrong decision. This can be done with case studies, testimonials, product ratings and reviews.
Again, relevance to your target audience is essential, so if you have a lead who is a law firm, a case study from another law firm will have the best effect.
So from start to finish, social proof can and will help you generate leads and sales!
If you would like to learn more about the increasing emphasis on social proof, please download our free eBook:
What are your experiences with social proof? Are you using any of this in your strategy? We would love to know!