How Social Proof Can Make Customer Reviews More Compelling

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Sophia Bernazzani Barron
Sophia Bernazzani Barron



Navigating the internet and trying to find the right product or service to fit your needs can be a tricky task. We’d all probably admit to checking out review after review of a product before clicking ‘buy’. Whether it’s a song on iTunes, a toaster on Amazon or a potential employer on Glassdoor, reading what other people think about a product, service or place can provide the reassurance that we need to take the plunge.

marketer looking at wall of sticky notes and social proof of customer referrals

This type of persuasion, making decisions using the opinions of other people, is known as social proof and is one of the most trusted and effective ways for consumers to research anything.

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What Is Social Proof?

Social proof is a term that has been around for some time but is becoming more and more popular with digital marketers everywhere. The idea of social proof is that someone can be persuaded into trying a product or service simply because they’ve seen a positive review or read an expert quote that is linked to the product.

The reason that social proof works is because it adds weight and verification to the argument companies make about their products. For example, if you’re claiming that your new app makes planning a fitness regime easier, there’s no better way to convince a potential customer than a review that reads “this app is great! I lost two stone in a month, and it made working out so easy!” Come on, we’d all consider downloading that app!

According to research put together by Invesp, 90% of consumers read online reviews before they make a purchase and 88% trust those reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. Whilst consumers are interested in what your company has to say about itself, they’re also looking for verification from fellow customers before committing to anything. As mentioned before, having a third party confirm the claims you’re making about your product adds much more weight and value to your argument.

Consumers are smart, and with the level of competition in every marketplace, they have plenty of choice when deciding where to invest their time and money. The most important aspect of social proof is to inspire trust; we know that nine out of ten people are checking out reviews, so getting positive feedback is a good way to start building a trust in your brand or product.

Gathering social proof is pretty much entirely free for a business. All the work is done by your customers. The real work for the business owner is to ensure they’re providing the best possible service to customers and ensuring they deliver on their brand promise, because without doing those things, the positive reviews will never come.

Tips for Engaging with Customer Reviews

Whether you’ve received positive or negative feedback, it’s very important for a business to engage with customers online and respond to reviews. It’s not always easy to do this and can be time consuming. That’s where using a Customer Relationship Management app could make life easier. With the weight carried by a particularly poor customer review, responding to negative reviews is critical. If potential customers can see that you’re an open and honest company that values its customers and their opinions, then this is likely to create a positive brand image, and strong feeling of trust towards your business.

Dealing with Negativity

Negative reviews can be a complicated subject. On the face of it, receiving a negative review sounds like a nightmare scenario. However, receiving a negative review from a customer may not be the end of the world, and provided it’s dealt with properly, could be turned into a positive experience. If you do find yourself on the receiving end of a bad review or a complaint, follow these guidelines for responding:

  • Be genuine and apologetic.
  • Answer your customer’s questions.
  • Offer useful suggestions to your customers.
  • Provide them with a contact email address so they can get in touch.

Following this type of structure on every negative review will not only offer a path to resolution for the reviewer, but it will also demonstrate to other potential customers that your business cares about its customers and is willing to help resolve issues. Research gathered by Small Business Trends showed that 22% of consumers would no longer make a purchase after reading just one negative review, with that figure increasing to 59% after reading three. This just goes to show the effect that a negative review can have and how vital it is that you deal with them.

When it comes to negative reviews, there are some other potentially positive effects. There is an argument to say that a product with a perfect record of five-star reviews could be viewed suspiciously, with people questioning whether a product could really be that perfect. This means that a negative review could add an element of credibility to a product and that having a negative review could help contribute to your reviews generally feeling more ‘real’. Once again, they won’t do you any favours unless they are resolved.

Ignoring Negative Reviews

With the amount of daily activity going on across the internet, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. If your business has something to say, we all know how hard you’ll have to fight to get that message noticed online. The same applies to consumers: if they feel they have something to say, then they’re going to need to make it stand out in order to be seen online. This is where extreme and sensationalized reviews come in.

We’ve all seen the viral posts of reviews where the consumer has really torn apart or mercilessly mocked the business they’re reviewing. It can be tempting to turn a blind eye to these for fear of making the situation worse; this is a bad move. Taking those steps to confront the problem and show willingness to help is the best thing you can do to try and save face.

Ignoring any review, whether good or bad, is not good form for your business. There are so many platforms to leave feedback—Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, Glassdoor, to name a few—and ignoring any of them could be a terrible mistake. In fact, the same research presented by Small Business Trends found that, once a retailer replied to a negative comment, one third of customers deleted it or replaced it with a positive review. People like it when they see others own up to mistakes and admit their shortcomings; this is no different for your business. Encouraging open and honest dialogue between you and your customers is the only way to go. Hiding away from your problems is only going to make them worse.

The Benefits of Customer Reviews

As discussed above, your potential customer is almost certain to read your reviews before making a purchase, so this type of social proof is likely to have huge benefits for your business. Going back to the research put together by Invespcro, they state that there are 26,380 reviews posted every minute on Yelp. This shows that reviews are coming in at breakneck speed and social proof is impossible to ignore for any business. These case studies, put together by Small Business Trends, are perhaps the best way to see social proof in action.

Yelp Reviews

Small Business Trends stated that, if a restaurant increases its Yelp rating by one star, it can see revenues increase by 5% to 9%. These results focus on independent restaurants as opposed to chain restaurants, where their reputations and customer loyalty are affected differently. The strength of having positive reviews online is shown by the fact that, if you were to sort the results by ‘Highest Rated’ on Yelp, 99.2% of businesses would be hidden. This figure also includes those sorted by ‘Most Reviewed’, showing that being open to a larger quantity of reviews can make a big difference.


As one of the most recognized travel sites in the world, TripAdvisor has become one of the first stops for those who are looking to book a vacation or find things to do whilst away. The prestige of being on TripAdvisor and opening yourself to reviews is clear; according to Small Business Trends, 95% of people said that they would recommend a TripAdvisor hotel to others. Perhaps more importantly, 98% of consumers found that TripAdvisor hotel reviews gave an accurate description of the actual experience, with 77.9% saying that online reviews are extremely or very important when deciding where to stay.


Using Glassdoor to read up on a company before accepting an offer of employment, or even before applying, has become commonplace for job seekers. The same research from Small Business Trends also found that 54% of people now say that they read company reviews online, with the majority saying that they read at least six reviews before making their own judgement. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from this research, however, is that 62% of Glassdoor users say that their opinion of a company improves if they see that company respond to a review. This just illustrates the earlier point that interacting with reviews is incredibly important for a company.

Social proof is something that, as a society, we’ve been doing for many years. Whether it’s jumping in the biggest queue for a ride at a theme park because “if that many people are queuing, it must be good”, or heading to TripAdvisor to research a potential destination for your next vacation, people will generally trust the opinions of the masses when it comes to making decisions. For your business to make the most of online reviews and social proof, getting involved, embracing it and interacting is the only option.

 To learn more, read about customer review sites in this next post. 

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