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Why you need social proof on your web site - and how to get it

On too many web sites, companies talk about themselves, all day long.

  • Since 1958, We Are Chicago's #1 Remodeler.
  • The Bay Area's Best Heating and A/C Company!
  • Voted #1 By A Random Organization.

As a business owner, this is you talking about yourself. Tooting your own horn. While some amount of this is necessary, there's a better way to establish credibility with visitors to your site: social proof.

1. Testimonials

Testimonials are especially valuable: what your customers say about you is far more compelling than what you say about yourself. Testimonials show that someone who did business with you is willing to put their name (and sometimes their face) behind your work. This is powerful way to establish credibility.

2. Third party review sites

For service industries, especially contractors like plumbers, remodelers, construction firms and the like, reviews on sites like Angie's List, Google, or Yelp show that users of your business have taken the time to give you a positive rating.

3. Facebook Friends Grid

Using a Facebook Friends Grid to build credibilityFacebook "Likes" are especially valuable, because you can show images of customers' Facebook friends right on your web site, enhancing your image as a known and trusted business. Assuming you have a Facebook page and a decent number of Likes (you do have a Facebook page for your business, right?) adding a Facebook Friends Grid to your site is a quick process for your web editor. See the Facebook Developers page for "Like Box" and be sure to include the Friends Grid.

How to get positive testimonials and ratings from your customers

Depending on your industry, this will vary a bit, but here's the idea: we'll use the example of a home remodeling company. They'll simply add these steps to their project workflow. 

When you complete a job you're especially proud of, particularly if it has strong visual appeal; with your customer's permission:

First, take professional photos of the job. No iPhone snapshots!

Image of completed job

  1. Take professional photos of your customer. Get it right. They may need to do their hair or adjust their clothing. Take the time to compose a good photo. You want a happy, relaxed customer, not one who looks like they just got bad news, or who's squinting in to the sun. Once again, no iPhone snapshots, hire a pro.
  2. Ask your customer to write you a testimonial. If they don't write well, or can't come up with something good, enhance what they've written or write it yourself, and ask them "Does this accurately reflect your experience with [our company]?"
  3. Get your customer to sign off on use of their property photo, their own photo, and testimonial for use in all your marketing materials, print and digital.
  4. Optionally, for customers who help you in this way, offer a small token of appreciation, like a gift card to a local restaurant, a book, or a box of chocolates.

Now you can create a library of testimonials for use on your web site, in direct mail and other promotions. 

Photo credits: Stairs: Greg Emel; Whispers: Henry Burrows; Headshot: Jonathon Coleman; FB Friends: Dan Taylor.