Remember when you picked up the phonebook last night and ordered deep-dish pizza from the place with the largest advertisement in the yellow pages? Yeah, me neither.
Today, social proof is a determining factor for gaining new business and earning customer trust. More likely, you ordered your pizza from a place your co-worker recommended on Facebook, from somewhere with the highest ratings on Yelp, or from a place listed on the first page of your Google search for “pizza Chicago”.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people trust the actions or opinion of others, especially in ambiguous social situations. The underlying assumption of social proof is that other people are more knowledgeable about a situation and therefore, they must be right. Personalized search results, a form of social proof, are certainly rewriting the rules of paid and organic search. Companies are scrambling to stay ahead of the curve. When Google launched Search Plus Your World back in January, it rocked industry insiders and casual internet users alike; all of the sudden, a person’s social graph became integrated with their search results.
I attended LeadsCon in Las Vegas last month and one of the presentations that stood out was by Jay Gierak and Nathan Labenz, cofounders of Stick.com. They discussed the implications of social discovery fueled by Google social search.
One thing that I found interesting was the impact of social annotations on click-through-rates. The addition of social annotations – displaying the profile picture of someone who interacted with the company or brand next to the search result– provided a 20 -200% boost in CTR. It’s pretty clear that brands who can figure out how to provide social proof will win at search.
In the past, Google served internet browsers with what they deemed to be the best search result. Now, the model is shifting with the introduction of the Google +1 button, and each user is served the best results for them.
So, what can you do right now to prepare to for the evolution of social search?
1. Make sure you have a Google+ page set up for your brand – If you don’t have one already, it’s very simple to set one up, and it’s crucial that you do so. Focus on integrating keywords into your profile and filling it out its entirety including images and contact information. Add your network to circles on Google + so you have a better chance of your content being shared.
2. Clean up your reputation online – Now is a good time to find out if you have any skeletons in your online closet. What happens when you search for your company’s name on Google? Does a negative customer review come up? Make sure your online reputation is squeaky clean so that customers don’t second guess choosing you due to something they found online.
3. Establish yourself or your company as a thought-leader in your industry – By now, it should be obvious that it’s important to create quality content that is sharable on a regular basis. The more interactions with your brand, the greater amount of social proof you are providing. The key is to create interesting and memorable content to encourage shares and comments.