With a background in journalism and marketing, Heather is well versed in all things content and inbound marketing. She’s passionate about delivering content that helps her reader take action almost instantly.
If you’re a marketer, you’ve definitely heard the term ‘social proof’ thrown around with frequency. It may seem like it’s a word concentrated in our digital age, but social proof was actually coined back in 1984 by a marketing, business and psychology professor named Robert Cialdini. He defines social proof as when “we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct.” Put simply, social proof means that we trust testimony or reviews from others to determine what we think about a particular topic, product, or thing.
Social proof is a powerful tool for school marketers, as people are incredibly likely to believe personal testimony when they’re choosing an educational provider for their kids. According to Cialdini, there are six types of social proof:
We’ll run through each type of social proof, how it applies to your school’s marketing strategy, and strategies for gathering and encouraging it — keep on reading to discover how you can leverage social proof for your school.
Expert social proof means your target has been endorsed by an expert in that particular field. It’s not particularly accessible for schools, as your ‘experts’ will be teachers and administrators within your school’s walls, which blurs authenticity. However, you could try utilizing any previous testimony from outside experts in a specific area, such as coaches who have praised your school’s athletic program or local theatre directors who loved your most recent musical.
Celebrity social proof is exactly as it sounds — it refers to when the target in question is endorsed by a celebrity or someone with a great deal of influence. Generally, this element of social proof doesn’t apply to schools, as you’re dealing with celebs very irregularly. However, a few small ways you can implement it include gathering testimony from prominent alumni or highlighting local influencers that attend your school’s events.
User social proof is one of the more important elements for schools, as it refers to regular people endorsing your institution based on their own personal experiences. This could include parents, alumni, and even past staff members who are satisfied with the educational services you’ve provided. User social proof can be evidenced through reviews on Google or other sites, social media reviews and follows, testimonies, and more.
Another beneficial type of social proof for schools, the wisdom of the crowd refers to the collective recognition and admiration that comes with a business that’s widely praised, with hundreds or thousands of testifiers. The greater the volume, the greater the proof. Once again, this is usually generated online via sites like Google, as well as your social media pages.
Have you ever gone out and bought something because your friends raved about it? What about a service they recommended, or a show you just had to watch? This kind of social proof is known as the wisdom of your friends. We’re inherently likely to believe the opinions of people we trust, with friends and family right at the top of this list. This social proof is evidenced mainly by word of mouth, whether that’s actually communicated in person or on social media through wall posts, direct messages and mentions.
Finally, certification refers to social proof that has come directly from a body of authority from within your industry. This is a very strong form of social proof for schools, as prospective families are often looking for tangible results that their children can be a part of by attending your school. An example of a certification in the school context could be NAPLAN results, OP scores or even family satisfaction as measured by a simple survey.
We’ve established social proof spans quite a few platforms and mediums, and can be translated in a number of ways. So, with all of this information in mind, how do you use it to your advantage, and in the most effective way possible? Here are a few tips for encouraging and utilizing social proof.
Gathering social proof refers to the process of acquiring reviews, testimonies, social followers, and more, all of which contribute to your school’s reputation, thereby making it seem more ‘correct’ (respectable or ‘worth it’ by parents’ standards). Here are a few ways to encourage the people in your community to generate social proof for you.
Now that you’ve got testimonies, reviews and more up your sleeve, it’s time to put them to use. A lot of the time, these speak for themselves, as they already exist in spaces people visit regularly — for instance, on Google or Facebook. But, there are still a few ways you can promote your new social proof in order to generate more, as well as benefiting your school’s overall marketing strategy.
Now that you know what social proof is, and how to gather it, it’s time to go out there and use it! Scour those reviews, send out some surveys and shout your achievements from the rooftops!