Applause

Social proof is a phenomenon where people observe others doing something and start doing it too. They copy someone else’s behavior because it seems like the right thing to do in that situation. It’s a special kind of conformity, like clapping when you hear someone else start to clap or buying a TV because the reviews are good online.

Now, conformity gets a bad rap, but social proof is actually pretty cool. Let’s say your business does good work and some people really like you. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone else liked you too? Testimonials are signals to your website visitors that it’s worth their time and money to join the crowd. Here’s four ways to display these stories on your website.

Short Sidebar/Footer Feature

Most web designs have an area to the side of the main content or below it to display a short chunk of information. You might call this a sidebar, or if it’s below the content, a footer. This is where many websites put their calls to action, additional menu items and other info to support the main content. A short testimonial, about two sentences, is perfect for the sidebar. Whatever content management system you use, all you have to do is type in the testimonial content. Add a picture to dress it up a little.

What if you have more than one great story? If you’re on WordPress, there are tons of plugins to dynamically display several testimonials in one space. Try a slideshow style that shows one testimonial and then transitions to another. Or show a randomly selected testimonial for every visitor.

Testimonials Page

No time for configuring sidebars and plugins? Get your testimonial collection up in a hurry and just put them all one one page. I don’t think this is the most effective use of your social proof content, but it’s the simplest and most common format for small business websites. If you do it this way, pick ten of your best testimonials and edit them so each one is about four sentences. Put these ten on a page together and add the page to your website’s primary navigation menu.

Case Studies

Businesses that specialize in a redesigns and remodels often have great stories. And if they’ve been taking pictures all along, they frequently have cool before and after pictures. When you have a longer story, with five or more pictures and dramatic results, consider writing a short case study.

This content expands on the customer’s testimonial with additional writing to explain the problem or challenge and illustrates the results with pictures and even a chart or two if you’re fancy. A testimonial-based case study should still be short, just a couple of paragraphs and a photo gallery. Once you create this content, it’s reusable in a number of different ways on your site. Collect a bunch of case studies and make a portfolio. Better yet, make them blog posts.

Blog Posts

When you have a great story to tell, write a blog post. The best place for your testimonial case studies to live is your company blog. Make a new “Case Studies” blog post category and include them in your editorial calendar. Over time, that Case Studies category will fill up with useful information that proves how awesome you are. You might even add this category to your primary navigation menu so website visitors can browse the case studies filtered out of the regular blog stream.

Publishing bite-sized case studies with your blog integrates them with your existing inbound marketing. Blog posts are the bread and butter of content necessary for sharing on social media and powering your email newsletter. Adding social proof to your mix supports claims made in other posts and the unique post format keeps things interesting.

You can tell customers how good you are. But a movie review by the movie’s director isn’t worth much. Testimonials are the stories of customers who’ve already tried out your business and want to recommend it to the world. These stories don’t just prove your claims, they get potential customers clapping before they’ve even seen the show.

photo credit: Anirudh Koul via photopincc