There are more than 7 billion people in the world today. Every day more and more appear on the digital web, the ubiquitous web that turns out to be the Internet. The increase in smartphone penetration, internet access, and technology in general simply indicates without a doubt that yes, humans are social animals and as such we love to share our experiences with others.
Long ago, marketers realized that word of mouth was one of the best ways to get news about their products and services. It is also true in this day and age, but it has evolved to keep up with technological advancements. One term that you may have heard quite often is “social proof,” and it’s nothing more than word of mouth on your new digital avatar.
For example, we’ve all been ‘persuaded’ to try a new restaurant or vacation destination after seeing our friends post photos of their food and travel adventures on social media. On the same note, we’ve also been discouraged from staying at a hotel because we spotted a nasty review left by some unhappy customer online. That, my friends, is the 21st century version of word of mouth in action.
What is social proof?
Human beings have this deeply ingrained instinct to be influenced by other humans and their activities. The consumer internet has shown, time and again, that people implicitly trust the opinions and comments of other people when it comes to brands and their services.
Social proof is everywhere. When you shop on Amazon, you tend to check the product reviews. If enough people in your office recommend a joint to eat, you will surely check it out sooner or later. Positive reviews have managed to draw crowds for the most desperate films, while a lack of reviews has caused stellar cinema to fade into oblivion.
Simply put, if enough people like it, the product or service has to be good.
Social proof is now a valuable dynamic used by marketers and businesses around the world to influence consumers. Businesses have chosen to prominently display reviews, testimonials, ratings, stamps of approval, expert opinions, “popular articles” and other things that don’t appear on their website. And because? Because we all prefer to follow what others have to say about a particular business than to trust the brand itself.
The hospitality industry is particularly influenced by social proof. Most people trust customer comments and opinions they find on social media. More and more people are turning to Trip Advisor and similar sites to read what other customers have to say about a specific hotel. And, only if the overall perception and feedback is positive, do they really go ahead and book a room at the hotel.
Types of social proof
At first glance, social proof may be an all-encompassing phenomenon that overlaps a variety of fields and industries, but from a marketing perspective, it can be classified into 5 specific categories.
1. Social proof expert
Humans trust authoritative institutions and renowned personalities. Before believing any claims, we need reassurance and expert social proof offers just that. The words “expert opinion” are found below articles that provide advice and instructions as a means of legitimizing it. Advertisements for toothpastes and toothbrushes are “bolstered” by the opinions of leading dentists, while beauty creams are often endorsed by a skin specialist. And once a restaurant or hotel gets the go-ahead from a reputable critic, you can be pretty sure that hundreds of people will flock to it.
2. Social proof of celebrities
The name says it all. Celebrities have an influencing effect on the population and come with their own stamp of legitimacy. If a celebrity endorses a hotel, the chances of it being ranked in the top ten in town are extremely high. That said, the most authentic and genuine celebrity social proof is unpaid.
3. User’s social proof
User social proof is found in any type of user-generated content that depicts their experiences. This includes success stories, social media images, testimonials, and website reviews. User social proof is one of the most effective ways to increase a hotel’s credibility. One of the most obvious examples is Tripadvisor, where millions of users come each month to view and write reviews and recommendations.
4. Wisdom of the crowd
“A million people can’t be wrong” is the saying that most marketers follow. And they use absolute numbers to influence potential consumers. It can be subtle or obvious depending on who is doing the marketing. Take leading bloggers, for example, who display their site visits and other numbers on their blog to establish their credentials.
5. Wisdom from your friend
A consumer will always depend more on the personal experience of a friend than on the word of a stranger. Additionally, statistics show that many customers rely heavily on recommendations from friends and family. This social proof has the potential to go viral.
At first glance, you might think you have a wide playing field when it comes to collecting social proof for your business. However, what works for an industry may not necessarily meet its needs. So you have to find the perfect mix of different types of social proof to find out which ones are best suited to your brand.
Why do you need social proof?
In the hospitality business, building and highlighting social proof is critical to attracting attention and subsequently new customers. There’s more than one reason why you should put a lot of effort into spreading digital word of mouth. These are the main reasons it is essential to budget and make a marketing plan to generate social proof for your hotel.
With the influx of genuine reviews (most of which would hopefully be positive), you will be able to build trust with your customers.
Social proof increases your credibility as an establishment and can help turn an insecure customer in your favor.
Online reviews, ratings and testimonials are the best form of advertising for your hotel and can rival the most elegant and expensive marketing campaign you can think of to launch.
Strategy for collecting social proof
As I mentioned before, there are a number of ways you can collect social proof, the most common of which are asking customers to leave reviews and comments, getting influencers to talk about you by offering free stays, and encouraging interactions (like check-ins) on your social media page. These should be an integral part of your online branding and marketing campaign. But I would like to discuss some other techniques for collecting social proof for your hotel:
There’s a reason Facebook traffic skyrocketed once it started supporting GIFs and videos. Visual media have the ability to influence people and can go viral with the slightest impetus. A video highlighting your hotel offerings, city sightseeing options, local attractions, and in-store culinary delights for your guests is sure to be greeted with great enthusiasm. And if it’s done right, with a dash of creativity, you can expect it to bring customers to your doorstep in no time.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Extensive research shows that posts with images are 35% more likely to generate engagement compared to posts with only text. Research also reveals that people are more likely to believe substantiated statements with pictures. So the next time you want to share customer reviews and testimonials, be sure to attach an image to attract more traction.
Humans are visual creatures and infographics are the best option you have when you want to present data in an interesting way without boring your audience with snippets of text and long paragraphs. Don’t forget to include them in your marketing campaign.
Collecting social proof is not that difficult, but any strategy is only as strong as its execution. Once you’ve used videos, images, and infographics to convince travelers that your hotel is a great fit, give them a clear call-to-action (CTA) to follow. Submit them to your website or landing page, and in clear words tell them what to do.
Leave nothing to guesswork. If you want them to leave a review, make it clear. If you want them to book rooms and get a discount, make that clear. The moment you leave things ambiguous is the moment they are likely to get confused and go away. Don’t let your hard work go to waste. If you’ve crafted your marketing plan for collecting social proof very carefully, don’t let an unclear call to action ruin things for you.
Now harness the power of social proof and use it to your advantage. Get your past and present customers talking about you and use your goodwill to attract more visitors your way!