Positive word of mouth has always been invaluable for businesses of all kinds. Now with reviews and testimonials so readily available online, it’s hard to find a consumer that doesn’t read a few reviews before making a purchase. Research by BrightLocal (local SEO tool specialists) found that 92 percent of consumers read online reviews.
Reviews provide the validation that we as consumers seek in order to feel confident about our purchasing decisions. Research shows that we are heavily influenced by the experiences of others. This concept of informational social influence can also be referred to as social proof. Wikipedia defines social proof as: “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.” In other words, though we like to be different, we usually end up following the herd; if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!
From celebrity endorsements to customer reviews to recommendations from a friend, there are many different kinds of social proof. And just as the Internet has made social proof more accessible to consumers, so has it made social proof easier for businesses to leverage as a powerful marketing tool.
In this post, we’ll look at different kinds of social proof you can add to your hotel or tour operator website that can help boost conversions.
With so many consumers turning to online reviews, it’s safe to say that customer reviews are one of the most influential kinds of social proof and, therefore, are the most important kind of social proof to include on your website.
A dedicated “Reviews” page accessible from your website’s main menu makes locating your reviews easy for website visitors, but you can also (or alternatively) highlight handpicked reviews on your homepage and other pages to endorse informational content.
Widgets and plugins that rotate through a selection of reviews can be embedded in the body of a webpage or in the sidebar of all pages.
WordPress offers numerous plugins for displaying review widgets on your website, whether reviews are handpicked by you or pulled from online parties like Google Places or Yelp.
TripAdvisor review widgets are popular too, pulling your business’ latest reviews directly from the TripAdvisor website. Lodging and tour operators can find out which TripAdvisor widgets are available for their website through the TripAdvisor Widget Centre.
A word of caution: you don’t want to draw attention to a lack of reviews, or worse, a bunch of bad reviews, so if your reviews are looking a bit shabby, do some work on improving review numbers and content before showcasing them on your website.
Social Media Plugins
If your business is successful in engaging customers on social media, flaunt your social prowess and positive user-generated content on your website. Social media and social proof go hand in hand; if you have hundreds of Facebook fans, you will seem worthy of “liking” on the other hand, if you only have 10, you won’t seem very popular and may not want to advertise that. After all, people are inclined to follow the crowd.
Plugins that display follower counts are usually combined with a “follow” or “like” button that allows your website visitors to click to follow you on social media without having to leave your site. Examples include the Facebook Page Plugin (new Like Box) and the Twitter Follow Button.
From “follow” and “like” buttons to single post embeds to feeds from your timeline, there are a variety of social media plugins available pick the ones that work best for you. For more information about available plugins and instructions on how to integrate them into your site, visit your social media network’s developers page (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
If you’re a social media superstar with lots of customer engagement you might like to showcase user- generated content through live feeds on your website that aggregate content from across your social media networks using a hashtag campaign. Social media hubs are great for sharing your customers’ positive comments, photos and videos in one place, motivating other customers to join the conversion and making a big impression on prospective customers.
Businesses that don’t yet have many followers on social media can still embed simple social media icons (without follower counts) into their website, popularly displayed in the page header. This makes website visitors aware of your social media presence and demonstrates transparency, which works to build trust.
While customer reviews and social media plugins (and icons) play a big role in gaining the trust of your prospective customers, recognized trust symbols are also very important in reassuring website visitors.
TripAdvisor badges and rating widgets have long been used on lodging websites to gain trust.
If your business is a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or can boast other professional affiliations and certifications that demonstrate you take your business seriously like eco-friendly certification, lodging association membership or star rating display these qualifications on your site.
And last but not least, your online booking engine should verify that the payment process is secure by displaying a secure payment badge when asking for credit card information.
Positive media coverage of your business is a form of expert social proof. Whether a travel blogger has recommended your business in a blog post or your property has been featured in a travel magazine, prospective customers will take note. Press releases you’ve issued and case studies by technology partners featuring your business are other examples of expert proof that help validate your business. Some businesses link to media reviews and articles from a dedicated press page on their website; others simply highlight positive media mentions on their blog.
Social proof is key to turning browsers into buyers so leverage its power by showcasing it on your website. WordPress offers plenty of plugins and widgets for adding various forms of social proof to your WordPress site. If you need some guidance, get in touch with your Web designer.