Social Proof: What It Is, and How to Get It

Sep 9, 2020 | Marketing

When we shop, for anything, we are weary.

We want to know that we’re getting a good deal and a solid product or service. We don’t want to worry about poor quality items or sketchy service people. We want to know that we’re getting the absolute best. How do we find that? We look for “Social Proof”. We rely on it every day and most of us don’t even realize it. So what exactly is it, and why is it so important to small business owners? I’ll tell you.

Social proof can come in many forms, but the bottom line is, they are all just ways to show that your business is legitimate.

People are looking to have confidence in your services, even before they’ve tried them. How do you inspire that type of faith? By proving it. By literally showing potential clients that OTHER people have faith in you. That is social proof; people’s reliance on other people’s opinions and feedback. As a small business owner, this trust and community support is vital. This is how you close deals.

Social proof can come in the form of referrals, certifications, testimonials, or reviews. Anything that provides feedback about your business, services, or products. People are looking for a “virtual seal of approval” from other people. People want to know what they are going to get before they jump in. Even if your business has an amazing marketing ploy, people want reassurance.

Think about it. Would you choose a nail salon that had 50 online reviews, or one that had zero? Would you ask a neighbor for a handyman’s number, or randomly pick one from the phone book? (Do those still exist?) Big or small, your business needs to offer this sense of legitimacy to get people through the proverbial door.

We know clients look for social proof, but how do you create it when you’ve just started a brand new business? How do you get referrals or recommendations, if you haven’t had any clients yet?  First, lean hard, on ANY past experience that you do have. If you have certifications in your field, show them off. Post them on your webpage. Did you major in a related field? Tell them that too. Brag a little. You did the hard work, you’re allowed to tell people about it. Promoting your skills and education inspires confidence, and makes you sound professional. But don’t stop there, what customers really want is OTHER people saying good things about you.

Getting those first reviews or referrals can feel daunting, but it’s not as tough as you think. Do you have any friends or family? Maybe an elderly neighbor who adores you? Would they vouch for you as a person? Great, ask them for help. Referrals and reviews don’t always have to be business specific, they can be character specific. For example: “I have known Jane for 12 years, and I would absolutely trust her with any of my projects”, comes off just as well as “I just had a great experience at Jane & Co., they did a great job fixing my leather belt”. The goal is to build trust, in you, and the brand you’ve created. Find some people who can help you do that.

OK, you’ve found some people who will sing your praises. Fabulous. Where do you send them to sing those praises? Ask them to create a Yelp review, have them leave a comment or review on your Facebook business page. Also, ADD A FEEDBACK PAGE TO YOUR WEBSITE! Just do it. Even I have one, check it out at It’s not gloating, you’re not self-absorbed, it’s what people want. Give them that “virtual seal of approval” they’re looking for. If you don’t, some other business will, and they will steal your sale.

As your business matures, make sure to keep those testimonials pouring in. Send an email to previous clients, ask them for some feedback. Create an exit interview when services are complete. Follow up with a phone call, ask if you can quote them. Whatever you do, keep at it. Success begets success.

Social Proof. Don’t forget about it. Make it a priority. Even if you only spend a few minutes on it per month, it will pay off. People will ALWAYS want that reassurance. Small businesses need to use every tool in their arsenal to compete with the big boys. So, just do it. Today.