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Forget Referrals. In 2022, Focus on Social Proof

This article originally appeared on Advisor Perspectives on December 4, 2021, and can be found here.

When we don’t know how to act or behave in a given situation, we look to others and copy their actions to emulate their behavior, assuming a “herd mentality.” This psychological phenomenon is known as social proof. We assume, “If everyone else is doing it, we should be too.”

First coined as a term in 1984 by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, social proof is the reason we assume restaurants with long lines must be great, and why we spend hours reading reviews before making a big purchase.

In financial services, social proof is integral – no one wants to hand over their life savings to an unknown entity or someone they can’t be sure whether to trust. For years, social proof in financial services came in one way – referrals from existing clients. But thanks to the updated SEC Ad Rule that went into effect May 4, 2021, incorporating social proof is one of the Biggest Marketing Opportunities for Advisors in 2022.

How can advisors use social proof in their marketing?

In marketing, social proof is used to persuade your audience to perform an action. For example, if your goal is to have your clients sign up to receive your newsletter, then you want to include elements of social proof on your site to show the benefits of signing up (and why others did it in the first place). Below are a few examples of social proof and ways you can use them on your website to improve the trust of clients and visitors.

1. Testimonials and reviews

Testimonials and reviews are of the best forms of social proof. And with the new SEC Ad Rule and approval from compliance, advisors can use them in their marketing. Testimonials and reviews are effective because they come directly from your clients. This shows potential clients what it’s like to work with you while avoiding the skepticism that comes with traditional marketing methods. To get the most out of your reviews and testimonials, position them before calls-to-action, on their own page, or a combination of both.

For example, Global Wealth Advisors uses a standalone testimonial page, which is linked to a button on their homepage, above their services:

Global Wealth Advisors Testimonial Example

No matter where testimonials appear on your site, they should include a button or CTA guiding readers to your reviews and to write their own.

Pro tip: The more authentic reviews and testimonials appear, the better. Including a photo of the person who left the review or even a screenshot of their Google Review will be perceived as more trustworthy (like this image below from Schad TenBroeck).

Twenty Over Ten Testimonial from Schad TenBroeck

2. Email list subscriber numbers

The best way to attract new subscribers to your blog and newsletter lists is to create fantastic content.

Even then, it can be hard to get readers to subscribe, especially with how many emails we all receive.

-To give your email list an extra nudge, start using your subscription numbers in your marketing. A blog that says “Over 500 subscribers, and growing!” shows potential subscribers that your readers enjoy your content enough to stick around!

For example, check out the copy in this popup from Michael Kitces’s site:

newsletter subscriber marketing example from Michael Kitces

Pro Tip: You can pair displaying the email subscriber numbers with a reader review for even more bang for your buck. Like this one from Joel Cadesky

Comment example from Joel Cadesky

3. Industry awards

Every industry has awards and accolades. Winning a recognizable award is great for social proof.

An award shows that your services are exceptional, even amongst your competitors.

Qualifying and winning the award are obviously the first steps. But to use them in your marketing, include them in a prominent location, like your homepage.

For example, FMG Suite features its award from the T3 Software Survey Report directly beneath the homepage header:

FMG Suite award example on website

Pro tip: Don’t just display the award logo, but give some context as to what the award is for, how difficult it is to win, etc. to provide context.

4. Google screened

s one of the most popular ways to find a financial advisor, Google offers a great tool for social proof.

Google has a new way for financial advisors to increase their visibility in local searches, and it is going to be a game-changer.

It’s called Google Screened and it allows financial advisors and other professionals to go through a qualification process to receive a badge. This badge appears as a green checkmark, and will show up next to the business in certain searches – like Local Service Ads, shown below:

Why is this a game-changer?

  • Because getting the "Google Screened" mark provides immense social proof from Google (building trust in your brand among prospects – who already trust Google).
  • You rank higher in local search results
  • You get the ✅ green checkmark next to your listing

Google Screened example for financial advisors

This adds an extra layer of qualification to a business, which improves overall trust, especially for firms with limited reviews.

How do you get Google Screened?

  • Sign up for Google Local Service Ads (you don't actually have to run an ad or pay anything, but this is the only way to sign up).
  • Get three stars in Google Reviews (in order to get reviews by sharing your link with clients, first sign up for Google My Business).
  • Pass license and background checks.

Pro tip: Check with compliance first before embarking on getting Google Screened setup, as this is a very new feature, and some firms are not yet ready to roll this out as an option for their advisors to use.

5. Publications and media

The names of notable publications and media outlets are a great way to leverage social proof. If you’ve had content shared in third-party media, feature it on your site.

The more well-known the third party, the better. Like our other examples on this list, your “as seen in” section adds an additional sense of authority to your qualifications and information.

To maximize the benefits of this section, you’ll want to include it on your most visited pages. Often, these include your homepage and “about” page.

For example, the WealthKeel site uses an “as seen in” section to increase the authority of their blog articles:

WealthKeel website blog example

Pro tip: Don’t link the logo to the publication – as that could lead to broken links in the future if the publication updates their URLs (and broken links are bad for SEO).

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the different ways to use social proof. Keep an eye out for other examples of social proof and more ways to enhance your site’s marketing.