Why social proof matters on Instagram (and how to use it for better results)

Although “social proof” might seem like a technical and confusing term, it’s something that we come across and use daily; whether you’re shopping online or picking a place for dinner.

The logic behind social proof is that we believe the masses have more information than our own limited experiences. We look to others to tell us how we should behave, what we should wear, and even where we should eat.

But although we’re all familiar with choosing the product with the most 5-star reviews, or eating at the busting restaurant rather than the one that hasn’t seen a customer for days… How can this be used to improve our social media presence?

Types of Social Proof

In theory, there are almost unlimited ways social proof can be used to improve others’ perception of your brand or online identity. In practice, we can narrow the types of social proof into 6 main categories:

1. The Celebrity

Celebrity social proof is a powerful tool in the world of Instagram and any form of marketing. It works by focusing on people we idolize. When you see your favourite celebrity using a product, chances are you’ll want to follow their example.

2. The Expert

Scientists, dentists, fitness experts… Lots of people have expert status in a variety of industries. People trust expert opinion as they believe that person has more knowledge, having dedicated time and effort to learning something.

3. The User

User social proof is most commonly found by way of customer reviews, particularly when online shopping or checking whether your local hairdresser will do a good job… It’s almost like a ‘try before you buy,’ but someone else does the trying for you!

4. The Crowd

This is where the number of “likes” or “followers” your brand has comes into play and also works for the popular restaurant social proof example. Humans are hardwired to trust the opinion of the crowd… If thousands of customers are buying a particular product or are following a particular page, chances are they must be right!

5. Friends and family

93% of people say they would be more likely to buy something based on recommendations from friends or family members than any other form of advertisement. Therefore, knowing what your friends and family like is a key selling point brands can tap into.

6. The Certified

This stamp of approval by an authority figure stands out as an icon of trustworthiness and quality. This could be the fairtrade stamp on a bar of chocolate or the blue tick used by Facebook and Twitter to identify high-profile individuals or businesses’ verified accounts.

What kind of social proof is there on Instagram?

There’s a reason everyone is clamouring for likes and followers on Instagram, and it often comes down to social proof #4: crowd mentality. If vast numbers of people are following and (more importantly) engaging with a particular account, others will follow their lead.

Consider Appsumo, who pointed out how much more difficult it is to get from 0-10K followers than to increase from 10K to 20K.

But the other types of social proof come into play on Instagram as well. The rise in influencers, for example, is an excellent illustration of celebrity social proof in action.

Social proof in action

David Attenborough’s Instagram account demonstrates multiple types of social action in use: celebrity (people idolize him and want to be more like him), expert (people trust that he knows what he’s talking about). Although his account clearly states it’s inactive, his 6.2million followers tick the crowds’ box, and the blue tick next to his name shows this is a certified account.

In the screenshot, you’ll also notice some followers are specifically named. These are some of the accounts I follow, so you can see how the friends and family social proof is also covered here, as I can easily see which of my friends are also following Sir David.

The only type of social proof the great DA is missing is the user… Because he’s not selling a product, the user is less relevant for this particular account, but we’ll show you how to utilize the user’s social proof in a moment…

Why is social proof important to brands?

When it comes to Instagram, brands are mistaken if they think all that matters is how many likes and followers you have. 

Sure, millions of followers offer crowd social proof, but it’s engagement that you really want…. And this only comes from utilizing a range of social proof types.

By demonstrating that your brand has an engaged and loyal following, you’re not only likely to gain more followers, but you’ll also increase your brand perception and awareness.

Ways you can use social proof on Instagram for better results.

So, now we have a better understanding of what social proof is and how it matters, it’s time to take it into the real world to enhance your Instagram marketing strategy.

This isn’t about paid ads or getting millions of followers onto your page. It’s about organically growing engagement by demonstrating yourself as a trustworthy, knowledgeable, and well-perceived brand. The followers will come.

Utilize social proof to engage your followers and grow your Instagram organically. 

Expert Involvement

We’ll start with the first type of social proof: the expert. Getting this right will demonstrate your Instagram account is reliable, trustworthy, and the go-to to solve any problems you might have.

You could ask an expert in your industry to join you for a live video, post guest pictures with educational content, tell Instagram stories, or go for a full expert takeover on your Instagram for a limited time.

By having your account briefly in the hands of an expert, not only will your follower count grow, but it will also provide you with the chance to utilize some of that top knowledge to make your page more informative and helpful to your followers.

Women’s Health Mag, for example, frequently uses fitness experts to create short videos to feature on their feed. This offers their followers plenty of variation: each expert brings their own voice to the brand. It also increases engagement for both @womenshealthmag and the expert of the day.

Remember, when using expert influences, you should be sure to pick an individual and topic that’s genuinely helpful to your audience and in-line with your established brand. For

example, there’s no use in interviewing the latest TikTok sensation about their popularity if you’re selling mobility products for the elderly!

Celebrity Endorsements and Influencer Marketing

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the budget or pull to get

one of the great Kardashians to endorse your product! However, micro-influencers can be just as powerful as celebrities when they’re used wisely.

One company that uses influencer social proof incredibly well in their Instagram marketing Swedish watch company Daniel Wellington. This company frequently sponsors micro-influencers to promote their watches on Instagram.

They even provide their influencers with discount codes to share with their followers and a dedicated hashtag.

 

You’ll get the best results with brand ambassadors who are a mixture of experts, influencers, celebrities, and passionate users (everyday people).

User-Generated Content

User-generated content has successfully grown Instagram accounts by 400% in as little as 1 year!

This method can work in a few ways, and you’re likely to see the best results when you use a selection in your marketing strategy.

Firstly, encourage your users to tag you in images and use a branded hashtag to grow the conversation. This heightens brand awareness and gives you a chance to effectively take advantage of free publicity from real people who have (hopefully) had a positive experience with your brand.

Check out Herschel’s #WellTravelled hashtag, designed to encourage fans to upload their global adventures… With over 5.1million posts, this conversation is thriving!

Next, re-post social media posts about your brand. Boxed Water does an excellent job with this, using (and crediting) user posts in their own feed.

 

You can also re-post or post positive feedback your brand has received. This could be in a timeline post or as an Instagram story (use your highlights album as the perfect place to group together positive feedback and reviews).

 

Getting those positive reviews and shout-outs in the public eye is a brilliant way to enhance your audiences’ opinion of you and takes full advantage of various social proof types. 

Show appreciation 

Whether you’re growing your Instagram presence using our above tips or you’ve found your own ways to take advantage of social proof strategies, it’s essential to thank your customers, followers, engagers, or anyone else involved.

Showing appreciation and sharing landmarks is a great way to keep your followers engaged and feel valued during every step of your journey.

Remember that your millionth follower should be no more or less important than your third, and you’ll develop a successful Instagram account that converts.

Have you found success using any of these methods or have any more suggestions on utilizing social proof in your Instagram marketing? Let us know in the comments below!


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