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How to Use Your Blog to Leverage Social Proof and Increase Your Authority

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell.

Have you ever wanted your readers to take more notice of what you have to say?

You’re not alone.

And have you ever wanted other bloggers, journalists and writers to reference you as an expert in top publications on the web?

Countless others have done this and you can too.

But HOW?

The answer is social proof.

With social proof comes authority, and all the benefits that it has to offer.

And authority is an awesome thing to have because most of us are inclined to trust authority figures implicitly.

In this post you will learn exactly what this social proof thing is, how to avoid negative social proof, and the specific steps you can take to leverage positive social proof – starting today.

What is this social proof thing all about?

Social proof is a psychological concept which highlights how people look to those around them in order to make decisions and decide on a course of action.

This is based on the assumption that those actions are indicative of the correct course of action.

A popular example of social proof is how nightclubs limit the number of people that can come in at a time. When others walk past, it appears that the night club is more popular than it actually is.

You can use this concept on your blog and it’s easier to do than most people realise.

And there are different types of social proof that you can leverage, including a large number of email subscribers or even testimonials from industry influencers.

But, you have to be careful to avoid any negative social proof because there is the potential for social proof to hurt you, when you do it wrong (more on that in a moment).

The key to successfully leveraging social proof

Social proof can be positive or negative.

Negative social proof can have very damaging effects.

A good example would be going into a restaurant at peak time only to find that you and a few other people are the only ones there – this sends the message that nobody else enjoys going to the restaurant and usually prompts the thought of “is there something wrong with the food?”

The same can happen with your blog.

Telling people about your 165 email subscribers or drawing attention to a post of yours which has only had 15 tweets will send the wrong message to your readers.

So, if you don’t have the numbers – leave them out.

On the other hand, if you do have something to really shout about then it’s worth letting your readers know.

We’ll talk about exactly how you can do this in a moment.

6 ways you can leverage social proof right now

It only takes around 1/10th of a second to form a first impression.

So, first impressions are a big deal and you need to take every step you can to ensure that the first impressions your blogs visitors get is a great one.

Social proof will make a difference (when it’s done right).

#1 – Your home page is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted

If you check your blogs analytics, chances are that your homepage will be one of the most visited pages.

Instead of a standard blog page, you could try something different, something that would place higher focus on social proof elements.

Try creating a landing page with key social proof elements.

The added benefit of this is that you can use this to funnel more subscribers into your email list. 

It’s a win win.

A great example of this in action is the home page of Noah Kagan’s blog; OKDork.com:

okdork-home-page-noah-kagan

This page screams “I know what I’m doing and you should listen to what I have to say”.

Here’s why:

Noah highlights exactly how successful he has been (2 multi-million dollar businesses and growing a 700,000+ email list).

Noah has two fantastic testimonials from big names and these names are 100% relevant too.

Studies have shown that pictures increase trust, Noah includes a smart picture of himself so you can put a face to the text.

Another good example is Ian Brodie’s homepage.

ian-brodie-example

Here’s why this works:

Ian includes logos of publications where he has been featured, they hyper relevant to his audience and big names in general.

Ian has incorporated two testimonials, these speak volumes about what Ian can do for his readers.

There is also a picture of Ian for added which increases trust.

How to implement this yourself:

You need to decide on how you want the page to look; the best thing to do here is to create a wireframe – just a rough example of how you want it to look.

You could do this with Microsoft Powerpoint, a free image editing tool like Canva or something similar.

Once you know what you want the page to look like there are two main options.

You could either hire a developer via a site like PeoplePerHour.com or Elance.com (for example).

If you’re a WordPress user, there are plenty of plugins on the market that will allow you to create your own landing page.

Joe Fylan discusses some of the best plugins you can use in this post.

Hiring a developer is more expensive but will require less work on your part, although using a plugin to do this means you can tweak the page without having to go back to your developer. 

#2 – Social share counts can be more than a vanity metric

If someone comes to your site and sees that your posts are being shared by lots of people, this acts as a very positive form of social proof.

On the flip side, it takes a few seconds to share a blog post, so if visitors see that your posts aren’t getting shared then this is where negative social proof will come in.

A rising trend is to display a total share count rather than individual share counts. A great example of this in action is Mashable:

social-proof-mashable-example

This is really powerful for several reasons, first of all there are a lot of social shares and secondly displaying the total social shares has a higher impact than showing individual social share counts.

How to implement this yourself:

For WordPress users, there are a number of social share plugins available that will allow you to accomplish something similar (most are free), you can find a few examples here.

If you don’t use WordPress, AddThis have several solutions available. Aside from the free options, the most effective would be the “Jumbo Share Counter” however this requires a monthly payment.

#3 – Use your sidebar to create a positive first impression

Take a look at the sidebar on your blog and ask yourself this:

“Does everything in my sidebar really need to be here?”

The first step to using your sidebar to create a positive first impression is to remove anything that doesn’t provide a function or doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

What should you consider removing?

The answer is; it depends on your goals but there are a number of things to consider:

Adverts – If your site relies on adverts, keeping them is a must, but you have to ask yourself whether the money you receive is worth sending visitors away. If ads aren’t performing, remove them.

Badges – If you have badges that mention article directories or web directories, these provide no benefit and just serve as a distraction. On the other hand, if you have won an award that would be difficult for other bloggers to attain, that is a keeper.

Facebook like boxes – I’m personally not a fan of these, but if you have a large following they can provide a significant level of social proof. Also Facebook displays pictures of your friends who are also fans which can be very powerful.

Twitter widgets – Again, if you have a large following these can be worth including but if you don’t, they are worth removing.

Blog rolls – These will only distract your readers from your content and send them away from your blog.

How can you leverage social proof in your sidebar?

If you have the numbers, display them.

A great example of this is social widget Darren uses on Digital Photography School:

dps-social-proof-sidebar-example

If you don’t have those sorts of numbers, don’t worry because there are more ways to display social proof.

You could display a testimonial from a big name in your industry like Derek Halpern does on Social Triggers

social-triggers-sidebar-testimonial

Another option would be to display the logos of blogs you have written for or been featured on like Marya Jan does on WritingHappiness.com:

social-proof-example-writing-happiness

#4 – Highlight how many people comment on your posts – engagement matters

Blog comments are a great way of determining how engaged a blogs audience is.

If you get a lot of comments on your blog, its well worth drawing as much attention to that number as possible.

Pat Flynn does this by displaying the comment count in an eye-catching bubble:

comment-bubble-example

How to implement this yourself:

If you use WordPress and your theme runs on Genesis, Josh Kotsay has a great tutorial which shows you how to do this (and style your bubble exactly how you want).

For other themes and platforms, you may need a developer to help you.

#5 – Leverage social proof to build your email list

One of the smartest things you can do as a blogger is to build your email list.

It will provide you with a method of selling products, courses or even your services at the click of a button while serving as a reliable way to get more eye balls on your latest blog posts.

Francisco Rosales does a good job of leveraging the number of subscribers he has in his sidebar on SocialMouths.com:

list-building-social-proof-socialmouths

Brian Dean displays an incredible testimonial from Neil Patel on the homepage of Backlinko.com:

list-building-social-proof-backlinko

I especially like this because while it may be a testimonial from one person, it’s from a relevant influencer and the testimonial itself is relevant to Brian’s audience.

How to implement this yourself:

First you need to identify an element of social proof that you can use.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Testimonial from an influencer.
  • Reader success story.
  • Number of subscribers.
  • Total number of followers (including email, RSS and social media).
  • Total number of monthly visitors.
  • Logos from other influential sites you have been featured on or written for.

Once you have identified an element of social proof you can use, it’s time to add it to your opt-in forms or in close proximity to them.

#6 – Invite key bloggers in your niche to contribute to your blog

There are countless bloggers in your niche that already have an established audience.

If they were to contribute to your blog, they would not only expand your existing audience, the mere fact that they are contributing to your blog would act as a form of social proof.

Expanding your audience, increasing traffic and social proof – how could you say no?

The reality is that this does involve some leg work but the payoff is huge.

How can you try this for yourself?

Find out who the popular bloggers are in your niche, these tools will help.

Identify whether they are actively writing for other blogs.

Start engaging with them via blog comments and social networks.

Drop them an email and invite them to contribute – this is the most challenging step of all, you have to highlight the benefits while avoiding any negative social proof. This post by Kristi Hines includes a good selection of resources to get you started.

Over to you

When you do this right, you will eventually get to the point where your blog acts as its own social proof.

Your authority will increase and opportunities will appear, as if by magic.

And the biggest sign that things are moving in direction is when other bloggers start using your logo as an element of social proof.

What are you doing to leverage social proof on your blog?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below.

About the author: Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard and spends most of his time helping bloggers to increase their traffic and email subscribers. If you want to blog smarter and not harder, download his free guide and learn how you can leverage the influencers of others to climb to the top.

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Comments

  1. Hi Adam,

    Congrats! Great to see you on problogger. This post was spot on because each screen share indicates a different way to tap into social proof. Even the least likely to be swayed person raises their eyebrows at some of these numbers.

    You also gave me a great idea through Derrick’s Social Trigger’s Chris Brogan endorsement. May be time to put mine in the sidebar.

    The thing is, we’re more likely to act on advice by trusting a source and social proof can accelerate that trusting process. I recall visiting Tony Robbin’s site for the first time the other day. He lists like 5 big name superstars, people like Andre Agassi, and Serena Williams, offering their testimonials.

    When you’ve helped the best in the world at their craft improve themselves you’re gonna gain almost everybody’s trust. Quickly.

    How do you gain social proof? Work like heck, intelligently, to hone your skills and of course connect with authority bloggers and other folks in your niche to boost your numbers and to receive hearty testimonials.

    I received a testimonial from Chris Brogan for my new eBook after commenting on his blog for months – back when he had the comments section open – a few years ago. I planted the relationship seed then and popped up on his radar.

    We usually chat via email after his latest newsletter. These nice little bonds, and seemingly tiny acts, set the stage for me receiving some awesome social proof.

    Adam, this post was sensational. As you explained so well, studying the pros and learning from the best can give you ideas into how you can work social proof into your blog, which of course instantly boosts your authority.

    Thanks Adam, tweeting in a bit.

    Enjoy your week.

    Ryan

    • Adam Connell says:

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks buddy! Definitely, numbers have a huge impact.

      You should totally leverage Chris Brogan’s endorsement, you’ve got plenty of social proof elements to work with after the awesome month you’ve had!

      Great point about Tony Robbin’s – when you see those names the impact is huge.

      It requires a lot of leg work, but works so well as you’ve experienced yourself. Especially like how you took things that bit further than blog commenting with Chris and engaged via email too.

      Thanks for the kind words, my friend – appreciate the comment and shares!

      You too!

      Adam

  2. Brian Dean says:

    Adam, so good to see you published at ProBlogger.

    You always bring it with real-world examples and this post was no exception. Great stuff!

  3. Hey Adam,

    Great post, and thanks for the mention. Also good to see Brian Dean here.

  4. I have always been aware of social proof and even still it effects you. When I go to a blog and I see no shares when they have a share counter, it instinctually tells me something is wrong, even if it may not be. I think these are valuable tips. I liked the subscriber counters that includes all of the subscribers. What is a good number for that? I am around 10k right now in less than 3 months, but I feel like waiting until I am at 50k or 100k is best.

    • Adam Connell says:

      Thanks Sebastian, sounds like you’ve been making a lot of headway, that’s a great number for under 3 months.

      For a subscriber count, I feel drawn more to 50k+ as a number but it’s all down to the perception of your audience.

      What sort of numbers are your competitors displaying?

      • I’ll go with the 50k then.

        It depends. Some display their amount no matter how low while some of the people who have been around for years have over 50k to 100k. Yeah I try not to focus too much on my stats or else I get sad because no matter what it will never be enough haha. I am just trying to be grateful to write a blog.

  5. Jonny Duncan says:

    Because of this article I have replaced my social media share plugin on posts to one that just shows the total shares and not individual. Looks much better! Am trying to read as much about all this as I can, so thanks for the great advice!

  6. DNN says:

    There’s a few good writing and blogging sites in those images above DrewryNewsNetwork never heard of before. May possible mention this post from ProBlogger and link to it in the near future. This is good stuff. :-)

  7. Thanks so much for the specific examples and links. Lots of great tips to look into. I’m really interested in the total share plugins and also the guest blogging concept. I’ve been meaning to dig into that kind of thing for the longest time just didn’t know where to get started. All this seems overwhelming at times, but having this information and taking a few suggestions at a time helps a lot.

    • Adam Connell says:

      My pleasure, Andrea.

      You’re right, it can seem overwhelming. I’m glad this post has helped – feel free to drop me an email via my website if you have any questions :)

  8. Hey Adam, I’m really glad I signed up to ProBlogger’s RSS, and this way had the chance to read your article. Awesome stuff, cool examples, everything’s in its place..Congrats!

  9. metz says:

    Hello Adam!

    Social proof is one of the important fundamentals to improve or leverage your authority, and no wonder that blog could help, and also known as informational social influence is simply a positive influence created when someone finds out your actions.

    On Noah’s example on number one’s “Your home page is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted” obvious it is creaming that Noah knows what he is doing and like him, we should be like that, who knows what we are doing. While “How to implement this yourself” reveals ideas.

    I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing social bookmarking and networking site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

    • Adam Connell says:

      Thanks Metz!

      Definitely, social proof is huge when used in the right way.

      You’re right about Noah, he really knows his stuff – his home page was a perfect example :)

  10. Kevin Duncan says:

    Hey Adam,

    So, I’m browsing ProBlogger for the first time in a week and a half (I’m still behind on my blog reading after writing that 8,317-word post!) and what do I find? My friend Adam has written a guest post!

    First off, congratulations! I know you’ve written here before, but anytime someone gets to write for ProBlogger it’s a big deal and deserves a kudos.

    Secondly, very informative post. Well done.

    I’ve given some thought to turning Be A Better Blogger’s homepage into a landing page. I know Blogging Wizard does this, as does VideoFruit, Traffic Generation Cafe, and several other blogs I read. Your post gives me more to consider on the subject. I really AM missing a golden opportunity, it would seem…

    Once again, great job, Adam. Talk to you again soon, I’m sure.

    - Kevin

    • Adam Connell says:

      Hey Kevin,

      Great to see you over here my friend!

      Thanks buddy, it’s always good to be over here on Pro Blogger. Glad you like the post!

      Definitely worth considering. Not too many are doing it right now.

      Drop me an email and remind me to show you my new home page – should be going live with it soon :)

      Cheers Kevin – talk to you soon!

      Adam

  11. Ian Brodie says:

    Hey Adam – just spotted my home page up there. There’s no I don’t know the right emoticon keys for blusing – but take it from me I am :)

    Just to let folks know what tech I’ve used for this. The page design is a tweaked version of the LeadPages Social Proof Giveaway page with the “trust panel” of publications moved down, a big button to go to the blog added, and a big footer with more content to keep google happy and share more about me and my stuff.

    I originally coded it up in Thesis 2 – took me ages. More recently I switched over to using the Epik theme on my site generally so I used the Optimizepress plugin to create the home page and it took less than an hour. Nice!

    Ian

    • Adam Connell says:

      Hey Ian :)

      Thanks for giving us a run down of how you’ve put together the page. Your site is looking really good with the move to the Epik theme.

      Great to hear how straight forward it was to create using OptimizePress!

      Adam