COVID-19 Social proof

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant disruption in all areas of business and life. To help you to find some order in the chaos and adjust to new ways of doing and being, Doctor Digital has put together a series of COVID-19 blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for how digital and e-commerce tools can support you and your business.

Doctor Digital Says

Social proof has long been a way that as consumers we can fact-check brands and products. A third party endorsement, especially by someone who we trust or value, adds a level of psychological security to our purchasing. It also adds a slight tinge of the fear of missing out - we want what they’ve got, and as such is an incitement to press BUY. Social proof can appear in a number of ways: as endorsements by customers, as reviews either on your website or another site such as Tripadvisor, or as ratings from a Net Promoter Score (NPS), articles or mentions in credible magazines or the media, and can come from a range of voices - experts, celebrities/influencers, regular users, crowds, aligned brands and third party certification (like you’d look for with an organic product, or a product with health claims or a service with a professional accreditation body like a therapist).

Customers look for these to validate their decision making based on what is important to them. During COVID-19 is a great time to have a look at your social proof strategy and action some steps to make sure that when people find your product or service, they will ‘want what she’s having.’ While celebrity, influencer and expert testimonials are great, this blog post focuses on the customer experience as a low-cost form of getting social proof. If you have the budget for the others, go for it, and check out our Digital Ready information and podcast on Influencers before you invest in their halo effect.

If you’re thinking ‘this sounds like a whole lot of work,’ think again. Data shows that you only need between 1 and 6 reviews and recommendations on your website to engender trust in your products. And people LIKE to have an opinion, so if you are concerned about putting customers out or inconveniencing them, flip that idea, as they are likely to be honoured to have a chance to discuss your product and their experience.

Let’s get down to the practical how to. One way of collecting testimonials is directly from product users. When a customer has purchased a product, reach out to them via email or social messaging and ask for a short testimonial on the product/service and their experience that they would be happy for you to use in the public domain.

Also ask for a photo of the customer to accompany the review for your website, as that is the social proof icing on the cake but reviews and endorsements are still valid without one. Once you have collected a few, then put them up on your site prominently where people can see them as soon as they land on your page - don’t bury them somewhere obscure. As much of business is online during COVID-19, this can be automated through most of the shopping carts on your website, especially if you are using Shopify or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool for your sales funnel. Keeping the conversation going post-purchase is also a fantastic way to continue to build relationships with customers. If for any reason there has been a problem, you can resolve right away, rather than not knowing it exists and finding out on a third party review site. Uh-oh.

We’ve talked about direct proofs, let’s now move to third party sites. These are things like Trust Pilot, or Tripadvisor, Facebook, Google, all of which use the classic star ratings and comments that so many people rely on. Again, you can ask your customers to support you by giving you a rating and leaving a review. How many times have you had an Uber driver ask you to leave them 5 stars? They get a benefit in the Uber algorithm and so will you with your customers when you have a high amount of favourable ratings.

Many other companies use this system including Ebay, Amazon and Airbnb, it is an effective way to not only validate your product, but also works as an incentive to provide high levels of customer service. You can use these third party sites on your website, email marketing and social media and showcase your reviews and standing. You can also use it in your digital marketing, especially if you have a large follower base, which in and of itself is a form of social proof.

Getting the halo effect of having another popular site, brand or person mention your product is a powerful form of social proof. If you aren’t getting mentioned by these brands and sites, consider sending them a sample of your product or service, or offer to write a guest blog, or find a way to link your product with their influence. This can be subtle and indirect - say you sell organic products, you could put a quote on your website from a well known expert about the value of eating or using organic. They may not be talking about you explicitly, but people will make the connection between them and what you do.

Psychologically, we want to be where the others in our tribe are, so if we see something cool happening, we want to join in. If you’ve been featured in the media, have a copy of the mention on your site, and if it is a highly recognisable brand, then put their logo in there too, and push it out on your social media feeds so you can get the brand halo. All of this adds up to the quantum of your influence and standing.

Consumers don’t always need to be asked to review: as mentioned earlier, we are used to having a two-way conversation with the market and many of their own volition will pop a review of your product or service on Yelp or Google. This is great if it is good, but what if you get a stinker? This does happen, and so it is good practice to keep an eye on your social mentions by setting up a Google alert or similar. If it is a known customer, the best response is to reach out immediately, publicly and thank them for letting you know and offer ways to remedy the situation.

All businesses can make mistakes, and the public understands that also some people are just hard to deal with. What defines your business values is your response and there is NEVER a good time to get into a fight with a customer. EVER. Everyone will be looking to see how you respond and putting themselves in the shoes of that customer. So make sure you are a kind, compassionate brand and always try and make it right as best you can.

There are the rare occasions where you will genuinely get a snarky review maliciously, what to do then? We’ve all heard these horror stories and they are one of the main reasons people get worried about putting themselves and their business out there. This can be as passive as just a one star review with no text, or a damning review. These are worth responding to in the most civil way possible.

One example is of a beauty business I know that got a really poor review. They knew the person had never been to their business before, so I suggested that they wrote a response basically saying their records showed that the customer had never been there, but they couldn’t wait to welcome him through the door so he could really experience their amazing services.

Social proofs are important for your business, especially in a time of such digital focus where online is the primary place we are able to look for validation of our purchases and do research about what to buy from whom. Think about all the different channels you can use to bolster your proofs, and the other brands you can ask to support you - and you them and work on building your profile and being the brand of choice for your customers.

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