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A woman reads several online reviews on Google about a new restaurant in town.

Most of the reviews are positive. Each reviewer raves about the food, highlighting the duck fried rice.

The woman makes a reservation after reading the reviews. She sees that other consumers enjoy the food, so she feels confident that the new restaurant is one she wants to go to.

This is an example of social proof.

“Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation,” according to a definition on Wikipedia

Today, consumers go online to find out what other consumers are saying about businesses. And one form of social proof is positive ratings and online reviews.

Evidence that online reviews are social proof — that what customers say online affects consumers’ decisions — comes from the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Review Survey:

  • Google is the No. 1 review site. 63.6 percent of consumers report they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business – that is more than any other review site.
  • Negative reviews turn customers away from a business. 94 percent of consumers report that an online review has convinced them to avoid a business.
  • If your business has lower than a 4-star rating, then customers won’t really trust you. 80 percent of consumers say the star ratings they trust the most are 4.0 or above.

Online reviews are one of the most effective forms of social proof because consumers look to online reviews when researching new businesses. When consumers are reading online reviews, they are asking themselves questions such as:

“Is this restaurant’s service good?”

“How is the food here?”

“Is this a bank I can trust?”

“What do other customers say about the experience at this hotel?”

Consumers will listen to what other customers have to say online as part of their decision-making process.

Improve Your Brand Reputation for Positive Social Proof

Online review management helps improve your brand reputation.

Because consumers are headed to Google when researching a business, they are going to see information about business. They’ll see the number of reviews and whether or not the reviews are mostly positive or negative.

To increase the amount of reviews about your business locations, on sites like Google and Facebook, ask your happiest customers for reviews.

The more reviews you have from happy customers, the higher your star rating. And when consumers go to Google, for example, they will see the star rating of your business. That star rating will affect what customers think about your business.

Respond to Reviews

A great form of social proof is responding to reviews. When consumers are searching for a business on Facebook, for example, and see that the business has responded to its customers reviews in a meaningful way, then consumers will know the business cares about its customers. Here’s an example of a response from a Chicago-based restaurant, Regards to Edith.

Improve the Customer Experience

To get customers talking in a positive way about your brand, improve the customer experience across all business locations. Analyze customer feedback from all channels, including online reviews, surveys, emails and calls and find insights into the customer experience. Make key operational changes that will make a positive impact on your company.

If, for example, customers consistently talk about the poor service at multiple locations, then implement an operational change right away.

Historically, social proof has always been an important part of marketing. Today, social proof lives online. With the growing amount of customer feedback channels, companies should strategically manage their online reviews, get insights from customer feedback to make operational changes, and improve and maintain a positive brand reputation.

Megan Wenzl

Megan is the Associate Editor for ReviewTrackers. She's a writer who is committed to finding useful information to help your business succeed. Megan holds an M.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

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