How to create persuasive social proof
3 min read

How to create persuasive social proof

Yo! Welcome to the next episode of The Content Strategy Reeder where 3,320 subscribers get better at content creation and strategy in less than 5 minutes.

Four weeks ago I got to meet one of my idols, Robert Cialdini, AKA “The Godfather of Persuasion.”

(Talk about cool nicknames.)

His New York Times best seller, Influence, has sold over 5 million copies. Two of which are on my bookshelf.

Cialdini created 7 Universal Laws of Persuasion which have become globally accepted as some of the most effective strategies and tactics for getting people to say Yes. As a result, they are used across sales and marketing strategies worldwide.  

One of the most popular is social proof, which is designed to give people confidence they are making a good decision by showing that others have done the same.

You see it all the time.

Case studies on website navigation bars:

Client logos on the home page:

And “Nascar slides” in sales pitch decks:

Each example is designed to instill confidence. Because if all these other companies have purchased from them, it must be a good decision — right?

Social proof works because it triggers a subconscious sense of security. Think “safety in numbers.”

But here’s the thing:

Despite being extremely popular, social proof is widely misused.

That’s because effective social proof is more than rattling off a list of clients.

Because if you list the wrong clients, it’ll backfire.

Instead of pulling prospects towards you, you’ll end up pushing them away (and towards your competitors).

Here’s an example from a prospecting email I received recently at Gong:

We work with the teams at Walmart, Amazon, and Facebook, so I’m confident we can help you too.

This was intended to persuade me to take a meeting, but it actually did the opposite.


Because I’m nothing like those companies.

It definitely hit the “we’re legit” checkbox. But I don’t work at a Fortune 500, B2C, multi-billion dollar retail, logistics company, or media company.

I work at a B2B tech startup that sells revenue intelligence software. Put simply, I don’t identify with the companies listed.

That's why specificity is key for creating compelling social proof.

Because when prospects see themselves in your social proof, they’ll see themselves using your product, too. And if they imagine themselves using it, then they can imagine themselves buying it.

You can achieve this by adding another one of Cialdini’s Universal Laws, Liking, to your social proof.

Put simply, Liking, means we like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals (source).

So if you want to add potency to your social proof, show your prospects you work with other people like them who have the same goals, then they will immediately see your product as something they NEED.

Here are a few traits you can use:

  • Title
  • Geography
  • Industry
  • Role
  • Challenges

Here’s an example of them in action:

Meh: We work with marketing teams.

Better: We work with B2B marketing teams in Tech.

Best: We work with B2B content marketing leaders who are focused on building brand awareness in new territories.

The last one is so specific that it’s un-ignorable.

Add this level of detail into your strategy and you’ll help your audience self-select you and the best choice.

TL,DR (Too long, Devin Reed):

Social proof can be incredibly damaging when used incorrectly.

But if you know your audience and add layers of specificity, your prospects will sprint towards your offer because it speaks to their interests and challenges.

And THAT’s how you create persuasive social proof.

Holler at you next week,

Did you find this post insightful? If so, I’d be honored if you shared this link with your friends or on LinkedIn. Here’s an example from Axel Sukianto for inspiration.