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How to Use Social Proof Successfully in Tourism Marketing

Social Proof is essential in tourism marketing.

It amplifies the selling power of word-of-mouth, instils confidence and trust, and bolsters the claims you make in your marketing – all by using the megaphone of your website, social media and other online platforms.

Aileen Lee, Partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has described it best: “Social Proof is the new marketing. It’s a powerful marketing tool that when done correctly can lead to conversions as high as 68.7%”.

What is Social Proof?

Social Proof is simply the positive actions and opinions of others that influence your customers to purchase.

Soical proof forms can include:

  • Testimonials
  • TripAdvisor & social reviews
  • Endorsements
  • Certifications
  • Awards
  • Social engagement stats

By displaying Social Proof on your website or other marketing materials, it shows your potential customer that previous customers (and other influential connections) have loved your tourism business, product or experience.

The presence of this external validation is highly effective at creating instant trust and providing additional proof that your claims are valid because it hasn’t come from your salespeople or marketing team.

Think of it this way….
Who wants to make a decision without the comfort of a recommendation and be at risk of making a significant, BIG mistake?

This is where social proof comes in – it builds trust quickly.

The most common sources of Social Proof come from:

  • Customers: from individual customers or a ‘crowd’ of customers
  • Celebrities & Influencers: those who have visited in person, have bought or loved your product, or paid associations.
  • Certifications & Trust Symbols: credible certifications and other symbols that add trust to the buying process (including security symbols, industry accreditations and partnerships).
  • Experts: positive reviews and mentions, or high point ratings.
  • Influential 3rd parties: a great example is media mentions.

Why is it crucial to display your Social Proof?

It’s more important than ever that you use Social Proof in your tourism business throughout the buying journey because the vast majority of your prospective customers will be scouring your online offering before they commit to visiting and finding out for themselves. Or before they commit to paying for your product or service.

According to research, nearly 70% of consumers will look at a product review before completing their purchase online.
In addition, Word of Mouth is known to be the #1 Most Trusted Source of Advertising.

As Nielsen reported, a whopping 92% of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.

Then Online Consumer Reviews came in second at 70%, meaning that almost three quarters of your customers will trust a review from someone they don’t know.

10 Ways You Can Use Social Proof

No.1 Customer Testimonials

Undoubtedly, testimonials are still one of the most persuasive forms of Social Proof you can use. But you need to be careful how you use them.

Here are our top tips for including testimonials on your website:

  • Don’t fake it – Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to write your testimonials. It isn’t very ethical, and when you get found out, there goes all of your credibility.
  • Benefits are best – The best testimonials point out how your product has solved the problem for the customer. In other words, it talks about the benefits, not the features.
  • Use photos – Online testimonials work even better with a customer’s image because it increases trust. Make sure you use high-quality pics where the person looks inviting and friendly!
  • Stories connect – Interesting anecdotes, case studies, or customer stories are relatable, persuasive and trustworthy and stick in our minds more than stats and averages.
  • Video it – With online testimonials, you don’t have to be limited to words on a page. Why not test out video to see the impact on conversions.
  • Know your target market – If your testimonials or reviews are from people who don’t resonate with your target audience, they will not convert. In short – people are influenced by those they perceive to be similar to them.So try to find a customer that truly represents what you believe is your ideal customer.
    Another form of implied testimonial is saying that many customers have bought your product or visited you in person.
    This highlights your popularity and instils trust because all of these people couldn’t be wrong!

No.2 Customer Recommendations, Reviews & Ratings

The majority of people are willing to provide a review if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it independently. But remember, reviews make it easier to get in the door with new customers. So if you aren’t asking your customers for them, you are missing opportunities!

When we talk about the online review component of Social Proof, of course, your website is not the only place you’ll find reviews about your wine tourism offering.

TripAdvisor is the most prominent and influential example of this and has been nothing short of a gamechanger for tourism.

A staggering statistic about TripAdvisor is that “every month, 456 million people – about one in every 16 people on earth – visit some tentacle of TripAdvisor.com to plan or assess a trip.” This website can make or break tourism businesses.

So, you want to make sure that what you promise in your marketing matches your offering. Your customer service is top-notch. You’re encouraging positive reviews from your customers and swiftly acting upon any negative reviews.

No.3 Social Media Like & Share Count

What’s an easy way to show potential customers just how many loyal fans you have?
Make your numbers visible for social media engagement – including blog shares, subscribers, followers, fans, tweets, likes, and other social shares.

Potential customers can see this on your social media channels. Facebook has plug-ins you can add to your website and blog content such as the Activity Feed, Recommendations and Likes to show visitors to your site images and names of people they know who have already interacted with your content.

Keep in mind that this works if the numbers are there – if they’re too low, people can think you’re not popular enough, which can negatively impact trust and confidence.

No.4 Social Media Proof

Facebook Reviews are another sought-after version of Social Proof, which can be seen by your Facebook followers, highlighted in an additional post and used as a testimonial on your website.

Then there are embedded Tweets – if someone Tweets something positive about your company, you can embed it on a relevant webpage to create more social proof.

No.5 Celebrity, Influencer or Expert Endorsements

When we talk about celebrity or influencer endorsement – there is the natural kind, where you get approval or a positive review from a celebrity or blogger.

This can help your cause and drive more interested and engaged traffic to your online platforms.

Then there’s paid endorsement, where you have a formal, paid agreement with a known celebrity or social media influencer to represent your brand or share what they love about your brand or product.

Expert endorsements can come in the form of industry awards, wine show results, a positive review from a known wine critique, or the prestige associated with scoring high points for wine, such as in The Halliday Companion.

No.6 Media Mentions

Don’t forget about one of the more traditional forms of Social Proof that is media mentions.

This includes:

  • Newspapers & magazines
  • Unpaid reviews
  • TV spots
  • podcasts

Being featured in the Press still carries weight, so keep your Media Page or files up-to-date and make it social so people can easily share the positive Press you’ve received.

You could also publish snippets of the mentions on your website alongside the logo or include the symbols of recognisable media outlets you’ve featured.

No.7 Certifications, Badges and Symbols of Trust

Have you been Certified Organic? Or have you received any other certifications or accreditations you can display online that will boost confidence in your potential customer such as the Quality Tourism Accredited Business.

Go through the buying process steps and see if there are any other partnerships, badges, or trust symbols you can include.

No. 8 “Best Seller”, “Most Popular”, “Customers also bought…”

Displaying simple cues to your potential customers when visiting your website or online store can help influence their purchase.

This includes banners or badges to identify ‘Best Sellers’ or ‘Most Popular’. This instils confidence because many other customers love that particular product.

You can also assist your cross-selling by telling your online shoppers what other customers have bought alongside their current viewing product—a recommendation in part and proof that others are buying your products.

No.9 Real-Time Stats

Do you show how many people are currently viewing a particular product or page, or how many people are purchasing that tourism experience or product?

This is not only another excellent example of Social Proof but also throws a sense of urgency into the mix as well.
Hello FOMO. Who wants to miss out on a hot product?

No.10 Earned Media & User Generated Content

A great way to create a Customer Showcase is through ‘User Generated Content (UGC), also known as ‘Earned Media’.

This form of Social Proof is best known as ‘Let Your Customers Promote for You!’
UGC is any content that has been created or shared by your customer that can be used to promote your business and, in turn, have a positive influence on your potential customer. This includes photos, imagery, videos, infographics, comments, blogs and reviews.

Think selfies, epic food and wine pics on Instagram, check-ins. The gold that you want to share widely!

Just make sure that you get savvy and learn what it takes to legally and ethically use that unique user-generated content. Some pretty complex copyright laws govern the online world.

How to encourage Social Proof

Now that you understand the types of social proof, it’s time to put your thinking cap on and get creative.
Going through the list of 10 tactics mentioned in this article, what gaps do you have in your Social Proof strategy?

Even more importantly, how can you encourage and increase the social proof you have from your customers and other influential third parties?

  • Do you ask your customers for their reviews and referrals?
  • Do you encourage testimonials by going above and beyond with your customer service and product offering?
  • Are your staff trained to ask happy customers to leave their positive comments on TripAdvisor, Facebook, GMB, other social media or your website?
  • How do you promote and stimulate ‘User Generated Content?
  • Are there visible photo opportunities and hashtags in your cellar door, restaurant, accommodation or experiences?
  • Do customers know how to ‘check-in’ or tag their favourite experiences?

Then, turn your attention to third party endorsements. Have you investigated the use of social media’ influencers’ or approached any experts or celebrities who fit your brand and marketing?

In terms of implied endorsements, what about media mentions? Do you have a PR strategy in place?

How do you share your Social Proof? Tell the world if consumers and the Press are saying awesome things about your tourism business! Add customer reviews to your website and share them on your social media pages.

There are always ways to improve and extend the strategies you have in place to create happy customers and other glowing relationships and share them with the world!

Social proof is only compelling if it’s visible.

So that means it’s time for you to start leveraging your Social Proof wherever you can!

With the power of the internet at their fingertips 24/7, consumers can find out an immense amount of information about your tourism business before they decide to set foot in your cellar door, restaurant or experience. Or before they commit to purchasing from your website.

But keep in mind that your competitors are only a click away.

So, what are you telling them online? Are you making Social Proof accessible to influence their decision?

Make sure you include your testimonials, endorsements, credibility and figures throughout your social media channels, website and blog, as well as in other marketing collateral and email marketing communications.

Without a doubt, online Social Proof speeds up and amplifies the word-of-mouth process. Gone are the days when you’d rely on your loving customers to pass on how great you are – it’s now all there for the whole world to see.
And, remember the compelling statistic with which we began? When done correctly, Social Proof can “lead to conversions as high as 68.7%”?

There’s no doubt that Social Proof is more important than ever.

By integrating Social Proof into your tourism marketing strategy, you benefit from its potential to significantly improve your online conversions.

Need More Inspiration?

Tania Shirgwin

Tania Shirgwin

Founder + Head Consultant

Tania is a marketing strategist specialising in tourism, wine and hospitality marketing. As founder of Decant Digital (formerly bizeez communications), Tania’s unique role over the past 14 years has enabled her to follow her passions of travel and her marketing obsessions of strategic marketing planning, consumer-focused web development, search optimisation, and training. With over 80 customised websites built to date, successful event marketing campaigns and new business branding, Tania’s wealth of experience ensures businesses continually increase website traffic, direct bookings, and sales via proven marketing tactics.

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