Social Proof and AI - the ultimate marketing forces?

Getting the right messaging in the right place

10 Jun 2021

The term ‘social proof’ was first coined by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his bestselling 1984 book on persuasion and marketing. The phrase was used to describe how people respond when they can’t rely on prior knowledge, so look to others for guidance. Back in the mid-80s, this concept was already being employed by marketers – think “4 out of 5 dentists recommend...”. Even sitcom laugh tracks were a kind of social proof – studies show canned laughter does indeed lead to more laughs.

In today’s digitally-dominated world, how are marketers harnessing social proof and what can businesses do to get it in front of the audience when and where they need it most?

How can social proof boost your business?

A 2019 survey from Nielsen found that websites aside, most digital marketing tools have relatively low trust levels. This means that while marketing campaigns are important, most customers take these with an oversize grain of salt. Customers are increasingly likely to turn to their social circles when deciding to buy a new product or service – in fact, 94% of young adults want to know who in their social circle has purchased the product, and if so, what they thought of it. It’s clear that harnessing social proof can:

  • Build trust – with 92% of consumers more likely to trust non-paid recommendations than any other type of advertising, social proof is a key driver in building trust.
  • Establish credibility and build brand presence – influencer marketing is a front-runner in this space. If someone you trust, idolise or respect is using a product or service, this consciously (or even subconsciously) leads you to look at the product or service more positively. In some cases, up to 40% of people go on to purchase a product after seeing it used by an influencer on social media.
  • Validate buying decisions – these days we’re spoilt for choice! Consumers often use reviews and recommendations to narrow down buying decisions. With the likelihood of purchase 270% higher for products or services with five or more reviews (according to this study), the results are compelling!

Use AI to get social proof in front of the right consumer

While social proof can help businesses persuade consumers to purchase, targeting the audience accurately is equally important. In the digital world, much of our activity is collected, recorded, stored and analysed. Marketers can now use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate meaningful insights from this data, customising and presenting the right social proof messaging to the right audience.

According to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai “AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than, I dunno, electricity or fire.”

Some of the key data AI collects for digital marketing insight:

  • Social media data – which platforms are used by different audience segments and how much time they spend on these
  • Buying patterns – what different audiences’ buying patterns look like broken down by product or service
  • How consumers respond to content – how much time they spend viewing, how they behave for various types of content and what resonates with different audiences

Delivering a personalised experience (carefully)

When a message is personalised or customised, it walks a fine line between a fantastic, tailored experience and one that might feel slightly creepy. While many companies like Amazon and Spotify are already successfully using AI to give consumers more of what they love, brands need to be transparent with consumers. While consumers are voicing concerns about privacy, they do want brands to understand their personal needs, with a recent study from Accenture stating that 87% of consumers think it’s important to buy from a brand or retailer that "understands the real me."

As a result, global tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google are putting together teams tasked with handling ethical issues that arise with the collection and use of data by AI.

Embrace social proof, distribute wisely

While the benefits of social proof in digital marketing are undeniable, businesses still must tread carefully when presenting these messages. AI gives marketers an increased ability to target the right people with messages that resonate, but the overall customer experience still reigns supreme.

Is your website providing a tailored experience that speaks to your users? Contact the Solutionists team today for expert advice.



date published:

10 Jun 2021