What is social proof, and why do you need it for your marketing?

One of the greatest challenges for any business when trying to win over new customers lies in convincing them that they are a worthwhile investment. Most consumers have natural hesitations about making a purchase, particularly when what they’re buying comes with a high price tag or a significant time commitment. That’s a good thing for them, but it’s challenging for you.

When considering ways to address the problem of trust in marketing, your first instinct might be to start talking about how trustworthy you are and what a great course you have to offer. Unfortunately, doing so usually strikes a false note. The next best thing is to start informing the consumer—by writing a blog, creating high-quality downloadable resources, or through video tutorials—so that they can learn for themselves why your course is worth their time and money.

However, nothing wins over a hesitant customer like a satisfied customer. When someone without a stake in the game, who shares the concerns and aspirations of your prospective learners, and who has made the same decision they’re facing speaks up and says “I’m glad I made that decision because it worked and I had a good experience,”…well! What else is there to say?

In marketing terms, these kinds of remarks are called “social proof.” They take the burden of proving the worth of your program off your shoulders, and they place it in the hands of people who are willing to back you up out of sheer good will. It’s a great tool to use in your marketing, but it can be hard to come by. Here are five different kinds of social proof, and how you can earn it from your learners.

1. Reviews

When someone completes your course, prompt them to leave a review at the end. Reviews are most convincing when they are public and unfiltered. They’re even more convincing when they’re tied to an external profile, such as Facebook.

Some people are anxious about allowing public reviews on their course, because they worry that a negative comment could damage their image. And they’re not entirely wrong: a slew of angry reviews will hurt. But a wall of five-star reviews hurts, too, because it raises questions about the integrity of the review system.

So, don’t panic if you get a few negative ratings. It will make the good ones seem more genuine, and you can always learn from someone’s bad experience.

Note: We get a lot of our review from Capterra, and publish the best ones on our social media. Hearing what our happiest customers have to say about us frequently makes our day.

2. Testimonials

A testimonial is like a review, but it is one you usually have to solicit personally. If you have a lot of reviews coming in from learners, you may not need to collect any. But if reviews are slow, or if you’re just getting started, try asking learners or beta testers if they might have a kind word to share about their experience. Let them know that you’d like to put it on your website and other marketing materials, and ask if you can use their name.

Also, pay attention to positive comments that people make spontaneously. If someone says something great about you in an email, follow up by asking if you can share that on your site. Something as simple as “Wow, thanks for that! Do you mind if we use that in a testimonial on our site?” is all you need, and almost everyone says yes. It’s a great way to get an authentic comment from someone, and they didn’t have to stop to compose anything themselves.

3. Case Studies

Case studies are the most sought after kind of social proof for many businesses. A good case study lets you tell a longer, detailed story about someone’s experience. The format means you can ask more detailed questions, offer some background on the learner, and follow up about any positive results they gained from achieving certification.

That said, good case studies take extra work to develop. You need to find a learner who will consent to work with you, find time to interview them, and then edit their story into something that’s attractive and worth sharing. It’s well worth the effort if you can pull it off, but doing so takes thoughtfulness and persistence.

If you want to write a good case study, keep an eye out for the right candidates. Focus on learners you have established some rapport with, and ask them if they’d be willing to be interviewed shortly after they complete the course. Make sure they know what you plan to use the case study for, and what the time commitment will be on their part. Be prepared to write it quickly and send it to them for approval. If you can catch people quickly and turn them around fast, you can start building up a collection of case studies from a wide range of learners.

4. Social Sharing

Reviews that appear on your website are great social proof for visitors, but social media sharing amplifies that message for people who may not have heard of you yet. Unlike publishing your reviews in your own social channels, which we mentioned earlier, social sharing is about getting your learners to spontaneously share about you in their own channels.

For instance, when your learners complete something in your course, make it easy for them to share it with their network. An enthusiastic student may be eager to share their progress, and in doing so may introduce one of their friends to your course. Word of mouth is a powerful thing.

5. Badges and Certification

Having learners post about a test score or a new achievement in their news feeds is excellent, but news feeds are fleeting, and whatever buzz they generate will fade. But what about giving learners something to post in their profiles, where it will be more permanent? On platforms such as LinkedIn, or other online resumes, a badge or official certificate can be a permanent way for learners to share their achievement.

When learners add their badge or certification credentials to their social media profiles, those credentials stay there for any visitor to see. They might not even remember it’s there after a while, but their endorsement will remain.

Social proof is more convincing than anything you can say about yourself.

Adding the right functions to allow for social sharing, badges, and course reviews may take a little time to set up. But any effort you put into it will be paid back many times by the positive affect of a learner leaving their seal of approval on your course. So, instead of wondering how to convince new learners that your course is worthwhile, turn the microphone over to learners who have already completed it. Their satisfaction will amplify your message far better than you could ever do on your own.


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Great post! Congrats!

Avatar Will
Avatar Laura Lynch

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