When it comes to social sharing buttons, they can help or hurt your marketing.
Marketing is largely a study in psychology. One of the most powerful psychological triggers you can use in your marketing is a phenomenon called “social proof”. However, be warned as it can serve as a catalyst for your business’s growth or a nail in its marketing coffin.
Every single day, sometimes without your knowledge, you are bombarded with social proof. It comes in many forms, some subtle and some less so.
Business owners, bloggers, and marketers need to understand how social proof affects them, and how to harness it to push them towards success.
What Is Social Proof?
So what is social proof? Wikipedia defines social proof as:
“a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect current behavior for a given situation.”
While this sounds complex, in reality it plays out in everyday life all the time.
Social proof is easily seen in a common real-life decisions. One popular example is the decision of where to eat lunch. This scenario could be called “The Restaurant Effect.”
Imagine you are visiting Hollywood and you’re looking for some place to eat. You approach two restaurants, side-by-side, and one has a line of people out the door. The other has no one waiting for food. You instantly assume that the first restaurant is the better one. While you may choose the restaurant with no wait because you have a busy day, your mind still assumes the other is better.
This is social proof.
The Social Proof and Marketing Connection
So how does this relate to marketing? When it comes to social proof, you can tap in to a number of tools, including:
- Customer reviews or testimonials
- Celebrity or influencer endorsements
- Media logos (“As featured on … “)
- Trust badges (“Norton Secured”)
- Subscriber counts
- Social Connections (“Your friend liked this … “)
- Social share counts
Which of these is the most important?
Truthfully, they are all important.
Forbes quotes Preston Andrew, CEO of Social Proof Creative, who said,
“Businesses have much to gain when featuring multiple types of social proof on their website … .The trick is being authentic and using the right tools to showcase these different types of social proof.”
Many of these you are probably already doing.
Maybe you have a number of trust badges prominently displayed on your website. Perhaps you already have a page dedicated to personal testimonies about your product or service. You may even have influencers regularly come to your site and give their endorsement.
Yet, in spite of these efforts, you may find yourself looking for something more.
Social media could give you that edge you are looking for.
As the name implies, social media is, by its very nature, social. When done well, social media shares and likes can create the social proof you need to have your business or blog perceived as an industry leader.
How to Create Social Proof Through Social Media
To generate social proof through social media, you need to get people talking about your business or blog. Once they are, you can add that information to your website as social proof.
Using social sharing buttons and social media widgets, you can display the hundreds or thousands of other people who find your content, product, service or website profitable.
Social Media Buttons Can Help or Hinder Your Growth
Social media buttons can create social proof about your business, but unfortunately many marketers and businesses are using them incorrectly.
When done well, social media buttons can contribute to your growth, but when used poorly, they can actually hurt your influence and reach.Social media buttons can contribute to your growth, or hurt your influence and reach.Click To Tweet
Here’s what you need to know about the proper use of social media buttons.
Choose the Right Number of Buttons
According to Webaholic, one potential problem associated with social buttons is “decision paralysis.” This occurs when an individual is given too many choices and ends up not being able to make a decision.
This is also known as the psychological phenomenon known as the Paradox of Choice, which we’ve written about before.
The article recalls the 1995 “Jam Study” put on by a Columbia University professor. In the study, the professor set up a jam-tasting booth at a supermarket for two Saturdays.
On the first Saturday, she offered shoppers 24 flavors of jam. On that day, 60 percent of the shoppers stopped at the booth, but only 3 percent bought jam.
On the following Saturday, she only offered 6 flavors. This time only 40 percent of the customers stopped, but a full 30 percent bought jam.
This test shows that more isn’t always better.
When it comes to social sharing buttons, adding more to your site will not generate more shares.When it comes to social sharing buttons, adding more to your site will not generate more sharesClick To Tweet
People will become paralyzed by the choices offered and will simply click away.
As a general rule, use a maximum of three social sharing buttons for the top three sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, generate the best number of shares per post or page for your audience.
Bonus: We’ve created this helpful guide to help you know exactly which share buttons to add to your site.
Choose Buttons that Show Your Popularity
Another potential problem with social media sharing buttons is the fact that sometimes they can discourage shares. In fact, the poor social proof that comes from low share counts on social media buttons can drive people away from your business.
How damaging is the effect of a low share count? Sites for Profit did an A/B test on their page to determine this. They used three variations of the Facebook share button:
- the share button with no counter
- share with a zero count counter
- the share with the actual counter that had over 1,000 shares
This test showed that a share button with a significant count had a 60 percent higher click rate compared to one with a zero count. The zero count had the worst total performance over all three tests.
Taloon.com, an eCommerce store in Finland, found a similar result on their product page.
When they removed social sharing buttons that had low counts from the page, they lifted their conversion rate by 11.9 percent. According to Webaholic,
“The total number of shares on most of their product pages were zero. Here the zero or low social shares conveyed distrust about the company and the quality of its products. It takes two clicks to share a content through sharing buttons, and if the page has zero shares, then it’s telling visitors the page isn’t worth two clicks.”
What does this mean for your site?
If your share buttons have only a handful of shares, or none at all, adding them to your page with a counter could hurt your future shares. You are better off not displaying your share count at all than displaying counters with a low share count.Showing NO SHARE COUNTS is actually better than showing LOW SHARE COUNTS.Click To Tweet
Because of the phenomenon of social proof, people are less likely to have a positive opinion about something that seems unpopular. Instead, consider placing buttons that do not show a count until you get a minimum number of shares.
If you’re a Social Warfare – Pro user you have the ability to set a Minimum Share Count which means all share counts will remain hidden until a minimum number of total shares is reached.
Avoid Cluttering the Page with Buttons
Finally, the placement and number of buttons is important. Social proof is helpful, but you can confuse your visitors by giving too much proof.
If you have so much focus on social media sharing that the reader never comes to your call-to-action, your business will struggle to convert site visitors into paying customers.
If you choose to use sharing buttons, place them strategically on the page so they do not detract from your site’s overall message.
So What’s the Bottom Line on Social Share Buttons?
Social proof is real, and it can drive or derail your success.
When using social media buttons, make sure they convey what you want them to convey, or choose another form of social proof until you have the shares needed to showcase your site’s popularity.