We all know social proof is essential.
In the mindset of consumers, the logic is that we collectively have more knowledge and information in a group than just human beings as individuals. That's why we look for products with thousands of reviews and businesses with lots of followers.
So many people can't be wrong.
As a business, you can use this to your advantage, building up multiple areas of your social proof to increase trust, credibility, and authority. And what's more, social proof can be a great way to organically nurture interest in your brand and get people talking about you.
Instagram is one of the best platforms for social proof because it's visual, and people are already engaged with it and so, in this guide we're exploring the many ways you can enhance your social proof on the platform for maximum business growth and reach.
Let's get started!
16 types of social proof on Instagram
There are lots of different types of social proof that can help build authority and credibility as an online brand, and making the most of these can help grow your business. We'll refer to these as 'social proof' triggers.
These elements of your profile, like a blue check mark, trigger the social proof response. In other words, someone sees whatever element we're talking about and thinks, 'okay, this page is legit and credible, and I trust what they're offering.'
This can apply to both your Instagram page and the pages of the businesses or influencers you're working and collaborating with, so keep your eyes open for new opportunities!
1. Verification badge
Perhaps the most common social proof trigger is the verification badge. This is the blue check mark we've all seen, and it's Instagram's way of saying that Instagram as a platform has actively verified the account as being legitimate.
For example, searching Rihanna on Instagram pulls up a range of accounts, and you'd be quickly drawn to the first result as the official page. However, Rihanna actually deleted her personal account several years ago. It's her make-up company, Fenty, that's still active. Notice how this is the only result that has the tick.
Interestingly, you can see how the fan account pages have used blue emojis at the end of the taglines in a bid to replicate the blue verification badge. If you're casually browsing and you're not really paying attention, your brain will most likely register the blue heart or circle as a checkmark, thus leading you to click.
We wouldn't recommend faking the blue checkmark, but instead applying for your own (if you're a public figure or official brand) or plan to work with pages that have it, as this can provide you with a significant boost of credibility and authenticity.
2. Follower count
Depending on who you speak to, follower counts may mean different things. For many businesses, follower counts are simply a vanity metric.
You could have ten million followers, but if you only get ten likes and a handful of comments on each post, then your engagement is incredibly low, and the followers are for nothing.
This is why buying fake followers, and bot accounts doesn’t work. Follower counts don't mean anything when it comes to engagement. However, there's no doubt that follower counts are a powerful social proof trigger on Instagram.
Imagine you're browsing Instagram and see a reel from someone like Casey Neistat. You know he's an influencer, and perhaps you've seen a Reel from a podcast appearance. You check him out, load up his page, and see this.
3 million followers. Instantly, you know this guy means business, and he's a legitimate person with an authentic presence, and immediately you want to know more.
But this doesn't just apply to high-profile people. Even small businesses can benefit. Oatly, a plant-based milk alternative, has small origins dating back to 1994 when the plant-based market didn't really exist. Today, it's the second most popular milk brand, but say you're someone who's just turned to a plant-based diet and you see Oatly, you might be curious to see whether it's a reputable brand.
That's a big presence that instantly settles any reservations about whether the company is real. That's why having lots of Instagram followers can pay off!
3. Collaborations between influencers
If you're working with an influencer who has social proof on their page, this can rub off on your own page.
For example, if you're a small business that makes eco-friendly cleaning products and you collaborate with an influencer who is known for being sustainable and eco-friendly, this social proof can help to grow your own page.
You're tapping into the market using high-profile people with their own communities and followings, which suggests that your business is legitimate because the figures they are familiar with are talking about them.
GoPro is an expert in this field.
They'll post regularly on their Instagram page, sharing how influencers use their products in their daily lives. Of course, the feats and the shots are impressive, which is precisely what GoPro wants people to see.
If you're a fan of athletes or artists, the fact they use GoPro cameras automatically persuades you that GoPro is a more legitimate brand. When a brand is trusted by the best in the field, they're bound to be good for everyone else.
4. Brand ambassador: Bio
Say you're scrolling through Instagram, and you're looking for inspiration for a change you're making in your life, be it travel, working out, eating healthily, getting a better job, and so on. There are more than a few fitness accounts out there (around 180 million users use #fitness), so how do you know who's authentic?
Well, the information you put in your profile bio can be a great way to share a social proof trigger, like Matt Does Fitness has done here.
As you can see in Matt's biography, he has several indicators that he's one of the most prominent figures in the industry since he has connections with high-profile brands like Morsia and, more specifically, Gymshark (5.8 million) and MyProtein (973k followers).
You don't have to know anything about fitness to know that Gymshark is one of the most competitive and successful brands right now, so the fact that Matt has links in his bio instantly suggests he's an authoritative figure.
And as we know, social proof is all about building trust and credibility with your audience!
Here's another example of the YouTube live streamer, Valkyrae, and her new partnership with the Gymshark brand.
5. Brand ambassador: Post
Another trigger that goes hand in hand with being a brand ambassador is linking to the content the high-profile pages are posting. Theoretically, anyone could put Gymshark in their bio, but if it's not legitimate, then you seriously risk harming your own reputation as a reputable brand or business.
On the other hand, if you're having your content featured by the leading brands themselves, then you're proving that you have significant links with the authority brands, thus boosting your own authority.
This is a post of Matt being featured on the Gymshark page (note the blue check marks for both accounts that help instantly trigger the social proof response). With so much authority, consumers know they are dealing with the best of the best and are far more likely to engage with the accounts and, therefore, the businesses.
Here's another Gymshark example, this time featuring the YouTube live streamer, Valkyrae.
6. Friends and family recommendations
This is an interesting one, and it's not one you have a lot of control over, but it's a social proof trigger that really helps to drive follows. Consumers trust their friends and family, so if they're following a page on Instagram, and someone else comes along and sees that they're far more likely to engage with the profile too.
That's why Instagram has this feature where you can see who follows.
Say you come across a brand and you're interested in what they have to say; seeing that other people you already follow are also interested in what the brand has to say will seal the deal for many people.
With so many people following, many of whom we can safely agree have similar interests, then this is probably going to be an account that we'll want to follow.
For your business, and when growing your own page, there are plenty of ways you can encourage this. Start by defining your target market and then run campaigns where Instagram users can get their friends involved in what you're offering.
You could do this by offering discounts, freebies, or even just social media shoutouts. Get your followers to tag and encourage them to join your page, which will create a ripple effect. When a follower on the outer social circles of your existing followers come across your page, if they're interested in the community, then they'll follow as well.
When this keeps happening, your account and reach will continue to grow!
7. User-generated content (UGC) and branded hashtags
This social proof trigger is more about encouraging engagement than anything else. If you can get your users to generate content for your brand, and then you can feature this content on your profile, then it creates a social proof trigger that helps to show just how popular and engaged your brand is.
This is pretty easy in some aspects because people love to make content for Instagram and will happily tag brands in the hopes of getting a shoutout on their main page.
Coca-Cola did this very well with their #shareacoke hashtag campaign, which currently sits on over 634,500 posts.
This is a simple yet effective campaign. Coca-Cola creates the branded hashtag and encourages people to share images and tag the company using the said hashtag. Coca-Cola then has the option to click on their hashtag and share any content they love on their front page.
8. Media mentions in posts or bio
If you've been featured in any type of media, whether that be online, in a magazine, or even on television, then make sure to post about it on your Instagram page!
When people see that you've been featured in other places, it helps to trigger social proof and show that you're an authority in your field.
It doesn't matter how big or small the media mention is; what matters is that you're using it as a social proof trigger on your page.
Take this example of Ro Kalonaros.
She's a Forbes 30 Under 30 entry, featured on the 2022 list, and manages a range of marketing projects and a podcast. As you can see on her profile, she's listed her Forbes 30 Under 30 position, which instantly adds credibility to what she has to say and the things she does.
9. Testimonial posts
A lot of businesses will post testimonials on their website, but not a lot of them will share these on social media. This is a social proof trigger that's often missed but can be so effective in helping to show just how great your products or services are.
When people see that other customers or clients have had great experiences with your brand, it helps to encourage them to want to try out your products or services for themselves.
This social proof trigger is easy enough to set up. All you need are some testimonials from happy customers, and then you can create a post featuring these, like clothing brand Asos has done here.
10. Testimonial page
You could even go one step further and create an entire highlight on your page dedicated to testimonials, just like Hanacure did by setting up their own dedicated testimonials page.
An active comment section is a fantastic way to trigger the social proof response that your brand is being talked about and that people are interested in what you have to say.
It also helps show that you're responsive to your audience, which is important for building trust. It also means that current followers love what you have to say and want to be a part of the conversation you’re providing.
This means you need to encourage people to comment. This is possible through prompting in the post description and replying to any and all comments in a fun and engaging way that tempts people into also joining in.
The more conversation you have, the better your social proof trigger is, and the more that encourages more people to comment on your posts in the future. More engagement over time means more success for your page and your business!
Check out this post from A Female Coder.
There’s an excellent prompt in the description that gets people talking, the content is valuable and provides a range of actionable tips that the followers love, and Matilda is replying to the comments in a meaningful way that engages people to want to comment.
12. Customer case studies
Customer case studies are social proof triggers that show just how effective your products or services can be.
Sharing a customer case study on social media helps to build trust and credibility with your audience, as they can see that your products or services have helped other people achieve their goals.
This social proof trigger is especially effective if you can share results and statistics from the case study, as this helps to add even more weight to your argument. For example;
Oreo does an outstanding job at highlighting their customer experiences and frequently posts case studies on their page and story. Within their content, they highlight how their products are being used in beautiful, interesting, and unique ways, showcasing just how versatile their product is.
And this is only a cookie brand!
Case studies like this show customers just how integrated the products are into other people's lives, which is the social proof trigger we’re looking for!
13. Celebrity endorsements
If you can get a celebrity endorsement for your products or services, then this is social proof that can help you to attract more customers and grow your business.
People are always interested in what celebrities are using, so if you can show that a celebrity has endorsed your brand, then this is likely to trigger social proof and encourage people to want to try out your products for themselves.
This social proof trigger can be a bit tricky to set up, but if you have the budget for it, then it's definitely worth doing. Start slow with smaller influencers if you can, and then work your way up and scale as you grow!
A famous example of this in play is David Beckham.
He has had plenty of lucrative endorsements over the years, and just him as an individual has become a brand in itself. When companies are looking to boost sales and draw attention to what they offer, they get David on board.
This is usually done via two posts, one on the celebrity’s page and one on the brand’s page, and perhaps a range of Stories uploaded around the same time.
Of course, this can be problematic if the celebrity has controversy and you’re seen to be associated with them, as can be seen from David’s same post.
This does happen from time to time and usually can be resolved with a released statement, so it’s certainly something to bear in mind.
14. Award-Winning mentions in bio
If your business has won any awards, then mention this in your social media bio. This information is always available for potential followers and customers to see. When people see that an external organization has recognized you, it helps to trigger social proof and show that you're a credible and trustworthy brand.
This social proof trigger is especially effective if the award is from a well-known organization, as this helps to add even more weight to your digital representation.
Of course, if you’re living outside OKC, then this probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but the whole idea of a yoga studio is to attract people in the local area who will have heard of this award, therefore giving them the authority they need to succeed.
15. Award-Winning posts
Hand in hand with the trigger above, you'll, of course, want to post when your business has won an award. This social proof trigger is a great way to show off your successes and share this information with your followers.
When you post about winning an award, make sure to include images and details of the award itself. You could even tag the organization that awarded you in the post, as this helps to add even more social proof to your social media presence.
Yuan Yuan Tan, a ballerina from the San Francisco Bay Area, does a stellar job of this, presenting the fact she won the Audience Choice Award for Best Dance Soloist in a way that highlights her achievement but also does with humility and remaining humble, rather than showing off.
16. Podcast previews with industry leaders
Whether you have a podcast or you're featured on a podcast, then Instagram is the perfect place to share previews of your episodes. This social proof trigger helps to show potential listeners what your podcast is all about and why they should tune in.
However, from the perspective of social proof is making sure you're podcasting with industry leaders.
For example, if you're featured on the podcast of an industry leader, then it shows both audiences and newcomers that what you have to say matters. On your Instagram, this would look something like this;
While Andrew has his own rapidly growing following, there’s no doubt that Joe Rogan remains one of the most popular podcast shows in the world, and so being featured on it will have a considerable effect on his audience’s growth and Andrew’s overall credibility and authority as an important public figure.
On the other hand, if you're hosting a podcast, then having an industry leader come and talk to you shows the world that the industry leader believes your podcast is credible and is, therefore, happy to share their views and talk to you. This would look a little something like this;
Since Andrew is a leading neuroscientist and one of the leaders of the modern field, having him on gives Rogan’s podcast credibility because he’s hosting guests that know what they’re talking about.
Both are great when it comes to boosting your social proof and getting the credibility and authority you're looking for. As a takeaway, just remember that if you’re on a podcast, then you can create content around the episode that helps to promote both yourself and the show you’re involved with.
As you can see, there are extensive ways you trigger what we call the social proof response within your followers and new followers. It’s simply a case of getting creative with what you have supporting you and how you can present this in the best and most engaging way.
When using testimonial content to make these reviews stand out in an impactful and interactive video format, be sure to check out Niva.io. It's a powerful storyboarding and editing app that helps you take video testimonial content and turn it into a high-quality content piece designed to draw attention and gain interest.
If you’re ready to up your content game and trigger the social proof response yourself, check out Niva.io today!