Social proof is about one: perception.
It’s about how we make up our minds and decide what information to filter out and what to include.
Choosing the right proof for your goals, and then displaying it properly can help people make that choice. It can help people choose you.
Social proof however, is not a value judgement about high numbers, low numbers or whether people “like” you online. Again: perception is what we’re really talking about. That helps to separate the elements of proof you’ve earned vs you as a person because they are totally. different. things.
In this post we’re going to focus on:
- What is social proof
- Why your blogs needs it
- Picking the right proof to meet your goals
- Saving you time by cutting out the areas you don’t need to worry about
Does Social Proof Make You Feel Icky?
When you see Social Proof, what does it make you think of? How does it make you feel?
I recently had a chat with someone who felt it wasn’t being honest to use elements of social proof on their website, that it was dishonest to “trick” people or rude to brag. I thought this was incredibly interesting and wondered how many folks out there either hadn’t really thought about this, or were in the “It’s rude to promote themselves” cateogry.
Turns out is was quite a bit.
If you’re one of those folks who sees the word social proof and either has no idea what it is or wants to run for the shower, then this post is for you.
Social proof is just another way of asking your neighbor who fixed their car.
In the days before internet, remember when you needed a service and you couldn’t check Yelp? In the not too distant past, we asked people, real 3 dimensional people, who they used and what they liked.
Social media has become the online equivalent of going to the post office, or meeting at your local coffee shop. It allows people to share information and more importantly, opinions, on a grand scale.
Now instead of having to run over and ask your neighbor something, you can jump online and ask your trusted friends, from anywhere, what they think. In this day and age, when we’re all more skeptical and jaded about business than ever before, we’re more likely to get recommendations and look for reassurance before we buy.
If you’re new to town and don’t know anyone, who do you ask for advice?
That’s kind of how I look at the internet. It’s like being new to town when you don’t really know anyone super well. You might recognize a few folks to see but not know their names.
Social proof helps us all navigate through the internet so we can make decisions about credible information, services to buy, blogs to read, people to follow.
Why Does My Blog Need Proof Anyway?
You have 3 seconds, go…
That’s the amount of time it takes someone to decide if you’re blog is “worth” reading. Remember this isn’t a value judgement of your content, this is the perception of the value of your content. They are different.
Social proof tells newly landed visitors that others, maybe even people they know (think Facebook face streams or Google Friend Connect), that your site is the one to read. We all have limited time and limited attention and with 1000′s of blogs out there, social proof helps people weed out the information clutter quickly, it’s just how we’re wired.
Pick Your Proof
Social proof isn’t just one thing. There are countless ways to earn it and the direction you choose depends on what you want out of your blog.
This strategy also helps you not feel bad if someone else has amazing twitter numbers and yours look stunted in comparison.
Take my neighbor for example. He likes his lawn, maybe even loves it. He mows his lawn 2 (sometimes 3 times) to my once. That’s not to say that I have antelope running through the savanna that is my front yard, it’s just that he places his focus on this lawn because that’s important to him and meets a need for him. My lawn, not so much.
This is the same thing as social proof. Realize that everyone has different goals and everyone will have varying levels of success in different areas because of their focus. This is not a value judgement, I don’t feel like less of a person because my neighbor spends more time on his lawn and you can look at Twitter, Facebook and comments counts all the same way.
Narrow Your Target
How do you choose the right kind social proof to focus on? That depends on your goals, your target audience and what your target audience values.
For example, here at Blog Genie, our goal is grow our business by creating happy customers. We sell a service so we highlight testimonials and our customer feedback (audience values) because that’s what a potential customer (our audience) would be interested in, not our number of Twitter followers (audience doesn’t value).
When it comes to whether we do a good job with blog design, Twitter followers just aren’t that relevant. It doesn’t show potential customers that we excel at what we do, happy customers on the other hand, do.
This means we spend our time working with customers to create happy ones and less time growing Twitter followers just to have bigger numbers. Sure we’d have more followers, but would we have a growing business? Chances are, no.
Now apply this to your blog.
What is your ultimate goal for your blog (and this can change, but right now, what is it?)
- quitting your day job/self-employed
- a book deal
- company/brand representation
- support/relationships/community building
With this goal in mind, you have 2 questions to answer:
- Who is the target audience for the social proof you are going to create?
- What proof does this audience value the most?
If you want to be self-employed, then someone needs to pay you money, right? What’s that going to look like for you? Is that blogging for a company, managing their social media? Is that going to be selling a service or product or something else entirely?
When you know what your goal looks like you can then decide who your audience is going to be.
Let’s take the blogging for a company example. If that’s your goal, your audience is companies who are interested in the online space and may or may not have a huge level of experience with it. This leads to what metric they value most in making the decision to contract your services.
When a company is looking to partner with a blogger from their niche, they are often looking for strong community involvement from the blogger’s readers, strong social media influence, etc. not just raw numbers.
With this in mind, you can now decide where to focus your limited time.
Keeping with our previous example, we’ve decided on our goals, figured out our audience and what they value, now we need to accumulate the social proof to meet that goal.
Since we’re focusing on social media influence and community involvement for this one, our best social proof would be comment counts and displays of strong social media influence like retweets, twitter reach and klout. This is where the majority of your social networking time should be spent, not just randomly trying to amass numbers that suck your time but don’t help you reach your goals.
Our next article in the Social Proof series will focus on how to display the social proof you’ve earned most effectively on your blog to help it grow faster and how avoid negative displays of social proof that are holding your blog back.