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As business owners, we’ve all likely heard of Social Proof: those important client testimonials, comments from raving fans, excited unboxings, and five star reviews that we share on our socials and website to build trust with buyers.
But have you heard of Social Doubt?
We first heard the term in the Why We Buy newsletter from Katelyn Bourgoin. She describes social doubt as the opposite of social proof.
The concept is something that we’ve come across often both as a business owners and consumers, but having a catchy name for it makes it so much easier to discuss. So let’s break it down and figure out how to avoid it!
Social Doubt creeps in when a consumer sees or hears something about your brand that makes them less confident in purchasing from you.
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For most brands it’s essential to have a website and a solid social media presence on the platforms that their audience uses the most.
Picture this: someone is raving about your product to their friend, who decides to check you out. They land on a IG page that hasn’t been updated in the last six months, they then click on your TikTok link and it takes them to a 404, finally they try your website and it’s a maze of links and confusing checkout. Are they going to feel confident in buying? Not likely. Are they wondering if they wrote down the wrong brand name when their friend mentioned it? Probably!
How can you make sure this doesn’t happen when potential customers interact with your brand?
First, make sure you have a website & social media presence on the platforms where your ideal audience spends the most time. Secondly, update your website and social media pages regularly, ensuring that your online content is timely and easy to find. Finally, your website should have clear product descriptions and a simple, streamlined checkout process.
Imagine you’re interested a new product on the market. You’ve heard about it from a few people who are touting it as THE solution to your problem. When you land on the website and social pages though, you see product images that are dark and blurry. You can’t get a clear sense of what the product looks like, or how it operates.
As a result, you decide to look into a similar solution you also heard about. This brand has a beautiful website with clear photos that show details of the product up close and user-generated photos from happy customers that show it in use. Which product would you feel more confident in purchasing?
If you’re selling online you must invest in good branding and photography. When people can’t see, touch, smell or otherwise experience your product in person, it’s important to communicate as much as you can visually in your product listings & branding. Good lighting, clear photos, showing examples on models or real customers using your product, all these things will help buyers have confidence that they’re making a good purchase.
Customer reviews are a powerful thing and there are actually several different ways that social doubt can creep in here, so let’s break them down:
Having only stellar reviews looks a little shady, like did all these people get paid to leave perfect feedback?
To combat this: even if you run influencer campaigns, make sure you encourage & collect reviews from paying customers. Also, embrace 4 star reviews and reviews that point out pros and cons. These go a long way in showing that your product is loved by real consumers.
Even if you have a ton of 5 star reviews, having a few really bad ones can cause the clouds of doubt to form in your prospect’s mind.
To combat this: your product isn’t a perfect fit for everyone and that’s ok, reach out to the reviewers with a comment letting them know you take their feedback seriously and you’re working on improvement (if you actually are) or with a kind reply that shows you’re listening. It goes a long way in your prospective buyers mind to see brands being proactive and open to feedback.
Picture this – someone sees an ad for your product and they think it looks interesting. They click on your feed, and see a bunch of branded product content, little engagement and no real testimonial or transformation posts. Ok, not a deal breaker. They head to your website, and it’s beautiful, gorgeous photos, great descriptions. BUT there aren’t any testimonials or reviews. What gives? Is this a real product or is it too good to be true?
To combat this: even if you’re just starting out, ensure that you get reviews, collect transformation stories and testimonials. Give your product away and ask for honest reviews in exchange, prioritize collecting reviews and testimonials from the few clients you do have, and work at adding those to your socials and website on a regular basis.
Combat social doubt by having a strong and cohesive online presence, investing in good branding and photography, encouraging honest customer reviews and leaning into user generated content for social proof.
By taking these steps, businesses and brands can build trust with their audience and increase the likelihood of making sales.
Remember, social proof is powerful, but social doubt can be costly!