In the age of ad blockers and commercial-free streaming, audiences have the option to tune out traditional marketing and advertising efforts almost entirely.
Old school advertisements that once interrupted our user experience are now easily avoidable in one way or another. I can pay for a Netflix subscription in place of cable, subscribe to podcasts for my daily dose of news rather than listen to the radio, and install a free ad-blocker Chrome extension to avoid those annoying popups and banner ads.
So what’s a marketer to do?
How do we reach our target audience if they’re constantly dodging us?
Luckily, we as an industry have learned to evolve just as quickly as the technology fading away, and one of the most significant changes has been the advent of social media.
Reaching our audiences on these platforms has become an art, and many brands are finally beginning to realize the potential of these networks in generating and converting leads by leveraging a powerful psychological phenom – social proof.
While the social networks themselves are relatively young, the concept of social proof and its implementation as a fundamental principle in marketing is far from new. Essentially, social proof is the concept that people will rely on the actions and feedback of others to mimic and reflect correct behavior, especially to gain social approval.
Think of bouncers queuing up club-goers in a long line to inflate the perception of the venue’s popularity, or the New York Times’ bestseller lists venerating a book to be worthy of purchase.
Nowadays, social media has made it easy for marketers to demonstrate and leverage social proof throughout all phases of the buying cycle, particularly through user-generated content (think of Yelp reviews, showcasing customers using your products or services, etc.)
Most notably, leveraging social proof has become particularly effective with the help of influencers, especially for B2B brands.
How to leverage influencer’s social proof through the majority illusion
Typically when we think of influencer marketing, we think of lifestyle products posted on widely recognizable celebrities’ Instagrams to hundreds of thousands of followers for a hefty price tag, but it goes beyond that.
Since most brands can’t afford A-list celebrities, they’ll need to turn to more budget-friendly options. While they often don’t come with a hefty price tag, micro-influencers typically have more influence over a more intimate, targeted audience – which also translates to more engagement, according to a study by Influence.co.
Micro-influencers are gaining momentum, especially among B2B brands trying to reach key business decision makers, meaning this isn’t just a trend among consumer brands.
B2B brands can leverage social proof through various influencer marketing tactics.
Connecting with influencers to share your brand’s content (like case studies, white papers, etc.), endorse your brand at networking events and conferences, or feature your brand on their own website or in a column for a major publication are effective ways to leverage the power of social proof through influencers.
The idea of the majority illusion ties into this trend, as the network structure of such influencers shapes an illusion that an idea, opinion, or product is more popular than it actually is in reality.
Based on research from the University of Southern California, my team at Fractl realized two types of micro-influencers in particular are especially likely to create this effect – strategically positioned and niche influencers.
The former is best for awareness goals higher up the sales funnel, while the latter is best for bottom of the funnel, action-based goals like conversions.
Strategically positioned influencers
When focusing on lead generation, turn to influencers with a cross-vertical appeal. Those who position themselves as experts in several related yet broad communities have the potential to reach a range of audiences, but are still considered knowledgeable, trustworthy, and authoritative to their network.
To find these strategically positioned influencers, look for influencers with followings of both people and other influencers in various related verticals. For example, for a B2B brand within the marketing realm, focus on influencers who fall into the marketing, social media, technology, business, and finance verticals.
When focusing on converting those leads, turn to influencers with a more niche following. They’ll likely have a smaller following, but one with a much higher engagement.
These niche influencers best demonstrate the majority illusion; a well-connected (i.e. with the right, not most, connections) influencer is more likely to spur action.
To find these niche influencers, look for influencers with followings of people and influencers similar to them, usually with a smaller number of connections.
Beyond influencers: 3 onsite tactics to leverage social proof In every stage of the sales funnel
Once B2B brands manage to draw leads to their websites through the help of those influencers, they can continue to harness the power of social proof onsite to lead them through the conversion funnel.
Top of funnel: highlight and link to press mentions
Similar to celebrity or expert influencers, the media and press also convey trustworthiness and leverage their authority to a receptive audience. Displaying the logos of major and niche industry publications, linking to their coverage of any press mentions, and even pulling quotes communicates a sense of credibility to site visitors.
This can vary from an online publisher to podcast, magazine feature to television coverage. Be sure to set up a brand monitoring plan to keep up to date for any valuable mentions.
Middle of the funnel: boast number of subscribers and followers
Speaking to the modern day dilemma of FOMO most of us experience when we see a Facebook post or Snap story of our friends having fun without us, B2B marketers can leverage the same fear of missing out while boosting their credibility.
Through a wisdom of the crowd approach, boasting the number of newsletter subscribers and social media followers can help move leads further down the funnel as they are enticed to submit their email address or like your company’s LinkedIn page.
Sending them a weekly newsletter with valuable insights or organically appearing in their LinkedIn feed allows your brand to stay in touch long after they leave your homepage.
Bottom of funnel: feature client testimonials and case studies
Testimonials are an ideal form of user social proof that have been used in marketing for decades, but it is most effective when it involves a humanizing element, like a photo or story, to further establish trust.
Testimonials with photos were most memorable, according to a study by ConversionXL. Case studies are especially effective at conveying a more detailed, data-driven story that can help a brand visualize similar results for their own needs.
Social proof and influencer marketing has been around for decades, but the dawn of social media has led to an evolution in the way brands leverage these tactics. There are several trustworthy resources available for building your influencer strategy, and based on our research of the majority illusion, my team at Fractl put together a guide for finding the right influencers.
What creative ways have you leveraged social proof and influencers for your brand? Let us know in the comments below.