What Are They and What Can They Do For Your Business
Savvy marketers know that while what they say about a product or service is important, it’s equally as important to share the voice of your clients. Testimonials, reviews, and case studies are some of the most powerful tools you can pull out of your toolbox, and we’re here to tell you why. But first, let’s take a moment to clarify what testimonials, reviews, and case studies are as well as how they are each used.
Testimonials are customer-written statements about a company or product. They are often short and sweet positive statements. They might call out a specific staff member but are more general in nature than reviews. Testimonials are great for using across a company’s properties, since they give general praise that supports the idea that a company is worth doing business with. Testimonials are best accompanied by a photo of the person submitting the content, along with their name. Ideally, provide a full name. If that doesn’t work for you (or for your customers) a first name can suffice.
Reviews are customer-written content that is specific to a product or service that the customer has purchased or experienced. They can be as short as a single sentence or might be a few paragraphs long, depending on the user’s preferences. An important part of reviews is a rating (or ratings) that can be averaged across all user reviews. Reviews might even just be a rating, without personal comments. Reviews can also include user-generated photos. While reviews may feel risk (after all someone can give your product or service a 1-star rating), they often contain valuable information that shoppers can use to decide if your product or service is right for them.
Case Studies are company-generated content that tells the story of a specific customer and how your product or service helped them achieve success. They are most often used for B2B (business to business) companies. Case studies are especially important for companies that offer long-term or high-cost products. They allow the potential customer to see, without risk, how the product or service might integrate into their success strategy. Case studies can also be published as White Papers, which is a now antiquated term that essentially means, “as a standalone item” (generally a PDF file). White papers make great lead magnets when the potential client you’re targeting would get value from reading the material, and be willing to share contact information to access it.
Ideally, you will partner with the customer in telling the story of their success. At a bare minimum, it’s important to receive permission to share any pertinent details specific to the customer before publishing. If the customer is not comfortable sharing any proprietary or identifying information to support your case study, you may still be able to publish it anyway by anonymizing and identifying details or data and using generic descriptors that will give a sense of the type of customer, their goals, and the measures of success you achieved, together.
The Common Thread is Social Proof
While there are significant differences and use cases for testimonials, reviews, and case studies they do have a significant common thread. They are all means of leveraging Social Proof.
Social Proof may sound like just another millennial buzzword, but in fact, it was coined back in 1984 in Rober Cialdini’s book “Influence.” Social Proof (which has also been called “informational social influence” is a term that describes the social (and psychological) phenomenon in which people copy other people’s actions in an attempt to behave appropriately in a given situation.
While Social Proof has become a popular term and tool in the marketing realm, it’s easiest to understand at its most basic. Imagine going to a large gathering of people where you don’t know the proper or expected mode of behavior. Like, for example, an experimental performance art opening. The natural assumption is that the other people around you have more information than you do. And so, you find yourself mimicking the behavior of other attendees. Right or wrong. This is similar in many ways to the idea of herd behaviors, in that large groups can quickly converge on a single distinct choice be it logical or grounded in incorrect information.
Why Social Proof Works, Psychologically
Social Proof works especially well for businesses to share online, because of a few factors. Firstly, when someone visits a retail store they have an experience that simply cannot be duplicated in an e-commerce environment. The retail environment gives a sense of permanence (or fleetingness). It’s comforting (or edgy or crisp or professional or frosty). You can see the merchandise, touch the products, get attached to them, have a conversation with an expert (or at least someone who is familiar with the shop). The well-designed retail experience creates confidence in the company and in the product you’re about to buy. All the brand choices in the world can’t create the same connection with a potential buyer, whether they’re on social media, your website, or anywhere else on the internet.
What Social Proof does, then, is help consumers get to know, trust, and like you through external validation. Of course, the mattress salesman will say his store has the best stock at the best prices. Of course, the car salesman at the Ford dealership will tell you that the F-150 is the only real choice (even though he drives a Chevy). Of course, the previews for that new romantic comedy say it’s the “funniest movie of the year.” It’s the nature of brands to be self-serving. Humans are accustomed to navigating around that. People naturally recommend things they know, like, and trust to friends and relatives. They also warn those same people about bad experiences they’ve had. They ask for recommendations when they want to try something new.
People like knowing that other people have really experienced something (and really enjoyed it) before they try it. People generally want to know what to expect. That’s where all of those Social Proof tools can be a huge asset to you in your business.
Why Social Proof Works for Getting Found Online, Expanding Your Authority, and More
Social Proof is also GREAT for your overall online presence. Reviews can be collected on your website or third party sites (like Yelp or Google Maps). When people post about you on social media channels or websites, they’re creating more overall authority for your brand online. Then, for example, if a potential customer finds you on Google Maps, they’ll see how many people have rated your business (hopefully many) and your overall average rating. High ratings stand out from the crowd. So do ratings with a large number of participants.
Take for example, two listings on Amazon.com for very similar items. Neither are sold by a brand you know. The pricing and shipping costs are identical. The one difference is that one product has 500+ ratings and an average of 4.5 stars. The other has 3 ratings and an average of 4.6 stars. Which do you pick? If you’re really looking, probably the one with more overall ratings, because the assumption is that it’s easy to fake three decent ratings. A few negative ratings might tell you something you didn’t know about the product. If a review from a 6’4” tall guy said “pants were easily 5 inches too short on me,” and you’re 5’10”…you might still buy (and enjoy) the pants. Not every low scoring review is a bad review. It shows customers that you’re a real company and you have a real product that isn’t perfect for everyone. How you respond to negative reviews is crucial (and a topic for another blog post entirely).
How Can You Activate Social Proof in Your Business?
So, how can you activate Social Proof in your business? If it sounds like a lot of manual upkeep, don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be. We’ll get to tools and tips in a moment but first, there are some key things to keep in mind when leveraging social proof:
- Take advantage of Implicit Egotism. When it comes to decision making, our brains are still hardwired to place more credibility on the opinions of those people we believe are most like us. That doesn’t always mean people that look like us, it could mean a host of things depending on the product or service you offer and the types of customers you serve. That’s why it’s crucial to know your customer personas and their buying journey, so you can ensure you’ve got social proof options that can serve all of your potential customer types.
- Focus on storytelling. People forget comments like “it was great” before they’ve finished reading them. Great Social Proof is like a great thank you note: it’s specific and it helps you envision the message in a real, relatable way. People won’t remember statistics, but they will remember a great story. Look for testimonials that tell a compelling story from beginning to end, including how your company made a difference for the customer. They don’t all have to be home runs, but they should be specific and special to the person who wrote it.
- Not all Social Proof is great social proof. Don’t just assume every Social Proof option is a good option for you. The best example of this are those social shareable buttons that pop up just about everywhere. In this case, we’re not talking about the simple icons that allow you to share. We’re talking about the ones that show how many people have used the buttons to share the content. If you are a newer website (or blog, etc) OR have content that naturally only appeals to a niche market, these buttons can cause more harm than good. That’s because low sharing numbers might lead to the conclusion that your content (or worse, your company) is too new to rely on or just isn’t good enough.
Ready to take action and start collecting reviews and testimonials? Great! Now..how will you ask for them? Where will you store them? What about those third-party sites we mentioned earlier? Luckily there’s an easy way to manage all of this in one space. RevuKangaroo was designed to solve this very problem. We know that reviews are a hugely important part of a company’s reputation. We also knew that most companies don’t have the time, budget, or staff to scour the internet daily in an effort to manage their reviews. RevuKangaroo allows you to manage ALL of your reviews, from ALL of the major review sites in ONE easy location. That means you can manage your online reputation, enhance employee relations with customers, and even address customer concerns BEFORE they are posted on review sites with one easy to use website. To learn more about how RevuKangaroo can help you (including some helpful testimonials!) click here.