The Importance of Social Proof as a Trust Signal

Two women shaking hands across a table.

One of the most important aspects of any relationship is trust. Couples trust each other to be kind, honest, and faithful. Friends trust each other to keep secrets, offer good advice, and provide moral support during times of trouble. Colleagues trust one another to work hard, pull their weight, and look out for their teammates.

And if you think about it, the relationship between business and consumer is not all that different. Consumers must trust the companies they do business with.

For example, you assume that the double latte you order each morning at your favorite coffee shop doesn’t contain any nefarious ingredients. But how can you be so sure your morning drink habit is safe? Think of all the people involved with cultivating, harvesting, shipping, roasting, and brewing the espresso beans in your latte. You don’t personally know any of those people, but you trust them all to provide you with a delicious, high-quality beverage each morning. Why?

If a business is not trustworthy, it will not survive.

In these uncertain times we are living in, digital security is a constant concern. Massive data breaches have damaged the reputations of mobile service providers, hotel chains, and even credit score reporting organizations in the past few years. So why do you still insert your credit card chip to pay for your coffee in the morning?

What Is a Trust Signal?

A trust signal is something that tells you that a business is trustworthy, and therefore worthy of your patronage. These often include things like reviews, certifications, and third-party testimonials. They are usually from independent sources, and help customers feel that the service or products they receive are of the highest quality.

There are lots of ways your neighborhood coffee shop can prove that it’s trustworthy. Perhaps they hang a membership trust signal on their door, such as a merchant’s association membership sign. If they belong to a group of business owners dedicated to improving the goods and services they provide to consumers, this can provide peace of mind to every person who walks in their door.

If you live in an area where health code grades must be posted publicly, then that big, bold “A” rating sign by the front door is another signal of trustworthiness. Your health department considers the coffee shop’s facilities to be clean and suitable for making your morning latte. If it’s good enough for your health department, it’s good enough for you.

Social Proof as a Trust Signal

When you visit your neighborhood coffee shop in the morning, are they busy? While a long line can be a hassle, it’s also a strong form of social proof. If the place was always empty, people would assume their coffee is terrible. But if it’s packed every morning, it means their delicious coffee is in demand. People passing by can see that this is a coffee shop they can trust to deliver a great cup of coffee.

This is social proof, and it is perhaps the most important trust signal for modern businesses.

People used to rely on each other for referrals for all kinds of needs. In years past, needing a new roof meant asking neighbors, friends, and colleagues who they trusted when they required this service. Today, it means Googling local roofing companies, weeding out the ones with one- or two-star ratings, and reading some written reviews for the roofing companies that are left. Customers today trust social reviews as legitimate signals.

It works the same way for coffee. Your brand new neighbor can Google “best coffee near me,” find a link to your favorite cafe, go see for herself that there’s a line out the door, and feel reassured that they make great java in there.

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How to Show Social Proof

With 84% of shoppers checking out online reviews for local businesses, social proof is more important than ever. Here are a few suggestions for leveraging the power of social proof:

  1. Encourage satisfied customers to write reviews on your favorite platforms. Google, Facebook, and Yelp are a few choices that work well for all kinds of companies.
  2. Link those reviews to your website so visitors can see how happy your past customers were with the goods or services you provided.
  3. Find social media influencers who work with companies like yours and ask them to post a positive review of your product or service to their social accounts.
  4. If your company does business with high-profile brands, publish your client list on your website.
  5. Publish your website security company’s seal on your website to give visitors a greater sense of safety.
  6. If your company operates in a field where certifications are available, get those certifications and publish those seals on your website.
  7. Add social share data to your blog pages. This shows visitors how many people have liked, shared, or tweeted each blog.
  8. Include ratings and reviews on your product pages.

Learn More About Social Proof and Why it’s so Important

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