Providing social proof on your website means providing evidence that other users of social media platforms have visited you. This builds up trust.

Have you ever visited a webpage that displays a Facebook “box” displaying profiles of people who’ve liked the content? Or a Twitter “box” that shows how many people have tweeted that content? These are examples of social proof in action.

The theory behind providing social proof is both simple and powerful. People tend to trust things that their peers have already approved. It’s the same as selecting a restaurant based on the opinion of your neighbors. Or deciding which good or service to buy on the recommendation of friends.

An interesting study performed in 2013 by BrightLocal determined that 79% of consumers trust social proof as much as they trust personal recommendations. This quotient rose from 72% in 2012, and likely indicates an increasing reliance on the Internet community to provide feedback on its own offerings.

If you needed proof that online reputation management has become a primary thrust of successful businesses, look no further.

Providing social proof on your website is all about instilling confidence in your customers and leads. By showing them proof that other users of social media have been there before them and approved your site, you’re inviting them to become your next satisfied customer — one more link in a chain of mutual success: yours and theirs.

Interestingly, the same BrightLocal study determined that 85% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. This quotient rose from 76% in 2012. Consider how many people currently share their frank vendor reviews on Yelp. Or the astonishing number of people who check-in at multiple locations daily via Foursquare and Swarm (according to the company, this amounts to more than 50 million people who’ve checked in more than 8 billion times worldwide.) 

A large number of these check-ins offer reviews of their experience. Your business needs to involve itself in that movement, and immediately.

So how do you offer social proof on your website? By integrating social media widgets.

A perfect example is the Facebook “like” box. This mechanism shows your visitors that others have come to the very same page they’re on now. They’ve perused the content you’ve posted there and validated it. The more visitors who validate, the more brand prestige your company accumulates.

Best of all, boxes like these cross-pollinate your other social media networks. The more people who “like” your web page increases the “likes” on your business’s Facebook page.

Social media proof widgets are available for virtually every social media platform. Stern Inbound Marketing, therefore, offers the following advice. Leverage social media proof in a discreet, tasteful manner. But by all means, leverage it immediately if you haven’t done so already.