Social Proof: Get Your Followers’ Trust, Then Influence Them

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 31, 2024

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When it comes to choosing brands to patronize, who people trust matters. Not everyone has the discernment to walk up to a shelf of products and choose one right off the bat. Most people will want to ask the opinion of their friends and people they look up to before buying something. If people they trust say good things about a specific brand, they might be more interested. This phenomenon is called social proof.

It’s fairly common for people to be skeptical of brands nowadays. But as soon as someone with authority and credibility speaks highly of a brand, people will listen. That’s why many brands clamor to for this kind of proof, whether in the form of influencer marketing or word-of-mouth.

Today, we’ll discuss online social validation and how it can help brands gain the trust of potential followers. Keep reading to find out more.

A woman telling her friend about a new brand she discovered online. This is social proof through word-of-mouth marketing.

First Things First—What Is Social Proof?

Before we get into how social proof works on social media, let’s get into a short psychology lesson. What is social proof in the first place?

This psychological phenomenon suggests that people look at the actions of others to inform their own. When an authoritative, trustworthy person does one thing, many people are inclined to follow suit. This habit comes from the human desire to fit in with others.

While this concept can be applied to most things in life, it’s also very evident in social media. Trends get popular because people see them from top influencers and friends. And when it comes to online shopping, it’s natural to look up customer reviews and testimonials before buying something. Whether we realize it or not, social proof makes the digital world go around.

On Instagram specifically, this kind of peer validation comes in many forms. Most of the time, it manifests as influence from someone you trust. For some, seeing their friends talk about a brand online is enough for them to check it out. Others will look through their favorite celebrities’ photos to see what clothes they wear. Then, they’ll buy and wear them, too.

Some Instagram users don’t need the validation of specific people. Trust can come from big numbers, too. Signs like having many likes or followers are enough to tell you that a brand is trustworthy.

For some, a high like or follower count is proof that a brand is trustworthy.

People That Can Serve as Social Proof Tools for Brands

If you want to use social proof to improve your brand’s image on Instagram, the goal is simple. Use the influencer of others to attract people to your brand. The more social validation you can get from authority figures, the more people will feel inclined to trust you.

But who are these authority figures and thought leaders that can influence how other people perceive your brand? Three types of Instagram users can do this. And if you play your cards right, you can use them as social proof tools to gain people’s trust.

Influencer or Celebrity Social Proof

The first type we will talk about is celebrity social proof. This type of online social validation comes from users that people idolize and will listen to without question. That’s why brands often get celebrity endorsers to promote their products. They know that a celebrity’s most loyal fans will always listen.

But it’s not just celebrities that can provide this kind of social proof to brands. Today, Instagram influencers are becoming more relevant and influential to people, especially when it comes to purchase decisions. A study shows that 64% of people discover brands from influencers and 66% purchase products based on influencer marketing.

So, if you want people to trust your brand, consider hiring a brand influencer to promote your label. Make sure to choose someone that your target audience actually trusts.

For example, if you’re a clothing or shoe brand, work with top fashion influencers to build your trust scores. Get them to talk about your brand on Instagram and even wear your products in photos and videos. When their fans see these posts, they may flock to your page and later become part of your customer base.

Influencers are known to have a more authentic and personal connection with their fans than huge celebrities. They influence their followers not just because of their fame but because they have a genuine relationship with them. That makes influencers the perfect ambassadors for your brand’s social proof.

An influencer talking to her followers about a new brand she loves.

Industry Expert Social Proof

Next, we have online validation from an industry expert. This works well for brands and companies in a more technical or scientific field, like fitness or tech. If you can get an industry expert to speak about your brand, people may trust it more. Getting someone with deep knowledge about your niche to talk about your brand will make you look more credible.

For example, you have a brand that sells teeth-whitening products. Getting celebs and influencers to promote it is one thing. But other people are more cerebral than that. They need something more than a famous person smiling in an Instagram post for them to trust your brand.

So, bring in an expert—like a dentist or an aesthetician—to talk about the benefits of your products. These authority figures can promote and answer questions about your brand. Getting the seal of approval from these respectable individuals can get potential customers to trust you.

The same goes for other industries. If you sell energy drinks or gym equipment, recruit a fitness influencer or coach with an air of authority. In a series of Instagram posts, let them educate your customer base about why they need your products.

A group of people listening as an industry expert talks about their niche.

Word-Of-Mouth or User Social Proof

Lastly, we have user social proof, also known as word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of relying on celebrities, influencers, and industry experts, this type of social proof comes from people around you. This includes your best friends, family members, and acquaintances in your community.

Word-of-mouth social validation doesn’t have to be fancy or a huge production. It can be as simple as your BFF posting on her Instagram Stories about a new restaurant she likes. If she has a rave review about it, you might be swayed to dine there as well.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to know the person to trust a brand based on user social proof. Customer reviews and photos or videos of a stranger using a product can be enough to make someone trust a brand.

Other Instagram Tools and Features You Can Use for Social Proof Marketing

When you think of social proof marketing, you probably automatically picture influencers and thought leaders promoting your brand. That’s super valid, seeing as how impactful these people can be when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

However, they’re not the only tools out there that brands can use as social proof. If you read between the lines, you can find some more social validation on a brand’s Instagram profile.

Here are some other signs that will reassure your potential customers that your brand deserves their trust and loyalty.

“Verified” Check Mark for Social Proof on Your Profile

Getting verified on Instagram is an easy way to boost your brand’s trust scores. Instagram uses verification processes to ensure that big brands and creators are authentic and present themselves as they truly are. If you can prove that you are who you say you are, Instagram will reward you with a verification badge.

As soon as people see that iconic blue circle with a check mark, they’ll know your brand is legit. This instantly makes you look like a credible authority figure. It tells people you’re the real deal, not a sketchy brand they’ve never heard of.

For influencers, the “verified” checkmark is a great way to land more brand deals and partnerships. It gives brands the social proof they need that an influencer is trustworthy. So they’ll look more attractive for influencer marketing campaigns.

Want to request a verification badge? Here’s how to get verified on Instagram for professional and creator accounts:

1. On your Instagram profile, click the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines) in the upper-right corner of the screen.

2. Click “Settings and privacy.”

3. Scroll until you see the “For professionals” section. Then, click “Account type and tools.”

4. Select “Request verification.”

5. Fill in all the information the app asks for on the next pages. These include your name, a government-issued ID, and business documents if necessary.

6. When you’ve answered all the questions, click “Done” and wait for Instagram to verify your account. Note that just because you’ve requested a verification badge, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get one.

Paid Partnerships With Recognizable Brands

Influencers can show social proof to their followers by using the paid partnership label when they work with recognizable brands.

This label shows up on top of sponsored posts to make sure their audience knows that it’s paid, branded content. Aside from protecting consumers, this label can also serve as proof that you are a credible, trustworthy public figure.

Only legitimate influencers will ever land paid partnerships and deals with recognizable brands, right? So, anyone who sees the paid partnership label on your content will know you are reliable and reputable.

The more popular the brand you work with, the stronger your social proof is. Try to work with popular, well-loved brands that are household names to maximize this type of online validation.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content (or UGC) is a type of word-of-mouth Instagram social proof. These are posts made by genuine customers and fans of a brand, not paid influencers or endorsers. They serve as authentic, voluntary customer reviews and testimonials about a brand. When customers see real people enjoying a brand’s products, they’re more likely to trust it.

More and more brands are discovering that UGC is more effective than traditional ads at reeling in new customers. Some businesses even hire UGC creators to create trendy, candid, authentic content with their brands at the forefront.

Here are some examples of user-generated content:

·   OOTD photos and videos featuring a fashion brand’s clothing

·   Unboxing and “first impressions” videos

·   Viral challenge videos with a specific brand in the spotlight

·   Before-and-after content highlighting the benefits of a brand’s product

Having many comments and engagements on your post is considered social proof.

Lots of Followers and High Engagement Rates

If someone notices that your brand has many followers, it can instantly make them think you’re reputable. The thinking behind it is that if a brand is so popular, it must be good, right?

Of course, having a high-quality community on Instagram doesn’t stop at your follower count. You also have to engage your followers through relevant, interesting content. That’s why having tons of likes, comments and views on your posts is another form of social proof.

Because large fanbases and high engagement rates are amazing for validation online, brands might be tempted to buy Instagram followers. However, this isn’t always a good idea. Buying cheap followers can give you low-quality, fake followers that don’t even engage with your content.

So, the best way to maintain your fanbase and engagement rates is to put out awesome Instagram content consistently. Reply to your followers’ comments and DMs as much as you can as well. This creates a strong, genuine bond between you and your fans, boosting your trust scores even more.

Successful Branded Hashtags

Lastly, we have branded hashtags. When a lot of people use the hashtags you made for your brand, it serves as social proof for others. Seeing friends, family, and influencers use your brand’s hashtag signals that you’re reputable. If your hashtag is entertaining and interesting enough, it will tell potential customers that you’re a fun, creative brand.

What’s cool about many people using your branded hashtag is that you’ll get a diverse range of content from it. You can choose the best ones and repost them as user-generated content later.

Here are some tips for making your branded hashtag a huge success:

·   Make it short but still witty and catchy.

·   Be sure it has a clear purpose. Whether it’s a dance challenge or a hashtag to encourage OOTDs, make it crystal clear in the hashtag name.

·   Keep your brand name in the hashtag for added discoverability and brand awareness.

Use Social Proof To Help Potential Followers Trust You More

Many people want reassurance that a brand is worth their time and money. Most of the time, this reassurance and validation will come from their peers.

From having lots of followers in your customer base to stellar customer reviews, there are many types of social validation. If influencers, celebrities, experts, and everyday people weigh in on your brand, more people might be drawn to it.

In a world where people are getting skeptical of brands, social proof can make them more interested in yours. Make sure to include it in your Instagram strategy to boost brand awareness and get higher trust scores from fans.

As mentioned earlier, having a high follower count and tons of engagement on your post serves as social proof. Are you interested in gaining the trust of others with these two metrics? Path Social is here to help.

With our advanced AI targeting algorithm, we can find a niche audience that will love and engage with your content. We’ll then serve your content to them, boosting your reach and engagement. And hopefully, you’ll be swimming in new followers, likes, and comments, which are all excellent for social proof. Get more followers and post engagements with us today!