When you walk past a nightclub with a line snaking around the corner, what’s your first thought? I bet it’s something along the lines of “Wow, that place looks bumpin’- I should get in line immediately!” right? Well, nightclub promoters know that’s how you’ll think, which is why they keep clubgoers waiting outside, even if the club isn’t packed. It’s called social proof and it’s not just for the nightlife industry. It’s a social psych concept that businesses- and individuals- incorporate into their marketing and promotion strategies to show potential clients, subscribers, and even bosses how great everyone else thinks they are. Those websites that tell you how many email subscribers they have on their list? Social proof. Someone advertising their Klout score? Social proof. Canned laugh tracks on TV shows? Yup- social proof!
Lucky for you, you can use social proof to enhance your personal branding to get a job or build a side business. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll break the process into four phases: brainstorming, doing, gathering, and broadcasting.
Let’s say that you’re searching for a role in design. Someone comes along and tells that you’re a fantastic writer- while it’s a great compliment, it’s not terribly relevant. So, before gathering and broadcasting social proof, you need to have a very clear sense of what you’re looking for.
If you’re a writer great feedback on your blog posts, email newsletter content, or your e-book would be timely and relevant. If you’re shooting for a role in design, compliments on your Pinterest boards, email newsletter layouts, or Photoshop skills would be more fitting.
So, first brainstorm the qualities and skills that you would like to demonstrate through social proof, then think about ways that you can publicly show these talents- maybe it’s through designing an Infographic, managing the Twitter account for a local non-profit, or putting together an email series on a topic that interests you.
Now, do those things- simple, huh? Offer to speak to a college class. Write a guest post for an interesting blog. Put together a cool site on WordPress. Design funky social media icons. Make a helpful worksheet.
Some positive feedback rolls in naturally, while some requires more finagling and prompting. Remember- it’s often easy to overlook positive feedback. For example, if you get mentioned in a nice tweet, you may be thankful but I’ll bet you forget about that tweet pretty quickly. Begin the gathering process by always being on the lookout for great feedback coming your way and filing it away somewhere- I put most notes in Evernote and then add a “Testimonial” tab to any positive incoming emails to refer to later. Don’t forget to monitor email, social media, blog comments, and LinkedIn recommendations!
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for feedback! I do this by creating Google Forms for every webinar, seminar, coaching call, or client project I do and sending them out with my follow up notes.
Think hard about who has seen your work in the past: a former boss that you keep in touch with? A colleague? A professor? Someone you did pro bono work for? Ask them for a testimonial- and be sure to ask if you can include their name, URL, and even their photo (it adds a more human element to testimonials).
Lastly, when asking for testimonials, remember that you control the quality. Share relevant information and updates and request detailed, specific feedback that focuses on the effect of your work, not just the facts.
There are simple ways to broadcast positive social proof online- you could retweet something nice on Twitter, create a Facebook post for a testimonial, and call attention to a new LinkedIn recommendation.
I like to take it a step further by highlighting all social proof on my website in several places. I have a Featured On page that highlights all of the guest posts or interviews I’ve done- if these awesome sites are letting me take up their precious real estate, it must mean I’m respected, right?
I also recommend creating a social proof page on your blog or website- on my site One Woman Shop, we call it a Praise Page, but you can also call it simply a Press Page, a Testimonial Page, or something a bit catchier. On WordPress, use a testimonials plugin to make this process easy and aesthetically pleasing or use Storify to build a multi-media testimonial page.
A few other suggestions: consider including a link to your “social proof page” in your email signature or on your resume.
Not so hard, right? All it takes is a bit of forethought, some doing of great things, and the diligence and patience to gather and broadcast the positive social proof that you deserve.
About the Author Cristina Roman is the founder of CMR Strategies, where she offers digital marketing consulting, career and business coaching, and productivity seminars. She also runs One Woman Shop, a resource site and community for female solopreneurs and freelancers. You can find her on Twitter (her favorite!) Facebook, or LinkedIn or join her (always super scintillating) email list here.