Building Social Proof

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Even after tragic loss, charity: water shows that it is possible to find hope. Raising more than $1.2 million dollars, charity: water continues to inspire individuals to act even years after Rachel started her initial campaign.

A true leader in using visual storytelling to engage consumers, charity: water’s remarkable success in social advocacy and online fundraising is largely built through real stories posted via sharable multimedia. With more than 1.3 million Twitter followers, and more than 210,000 Facebook likes, charity: water has truly mastered the art of getting people to form personal connections with their brand. And, by harnessing storytelling through social media – they have turned followers into activists.

How have they done it exactly? The brand has built a high level of “social proof.”

I can’t count the number of times, I’ve scrolled through my Facebook feed and bought something, or acted on something because of a friends post. Well… that’s it! Social proof is the positive influence that is created when people find out others are doing something – and now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that same something.

This third-party validation can be a very powerful motivator. As consumers, the psychology of persuasion influences every day choices, from where to eat, to what clothes to wear, purchases to make, and causes to be part of. While the concept of social proof isn’t new, this style of impact has huge potential to grow virally given the way that consumers interact today on social media. According to recent research 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends.

Tech Crunch offers that there are five different types of social proof. These range from Expert and Celebrity, which leverage the approval of these individuals to build digital influence to Wisdom of the Crowds, which highlights the popularity or large numbers of users who like a product, service or brand. While both of the above work in some instances, by and large, the most coveted type of social proof is the Wisdom of Friends, because every marketer knows that referrals from friends are the way that consumers now make choices. Friends referred by friends ultimately make better customers, activists and givers – hands down.

Social proof IS the new marketing.

So… how do we build it for our own brands, companies and causes?

One of the best ways to build social proof is by leveraging the power of personal stories. Real stories (yes, those from real consumers) resonate with people and can catch their interest or engage their emotions. Stories are persuasive and more trusted by consumers than statistics, because they are able to transport consumers into the situation – engaging them and making them want to share… and then share again and again. This makes sense on many levels given that storytelling is one of the oldest and most effective forms of communicating.

charity: water uses content to align people with thousands of other people. Their stories and photos are hyper-localized, deeply connecting consumers to the impact they are helping to make. So deeply, that they then encourage others to participate in making impact too – Momentum builds and one by one consumers join the cause because of other friends who are engaged, thus building a dedicated network of brand advocates… or for charity: water, activists and donors.

Any brand can engage social proof by being candid, authentic and letting testimonials speak for themselves. Through the sharing of compelling stories, brands can become equal partners, rather than corporate entities. It’s no longer enough to rely on pushed messages or advertising. Instead, marketers must incorporate the input that they get from their audiences to help build more robust and engaging campaigns. Through a continued commitment to storytelling and leveraging consumer content any brand can build loyalty and excitement about their brand.

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