Social Proof: How to Pass the Popularity Test in Blogging

Let me make a far-fetched assumption:

If you blog on WordPress you probably want to feel popular online.

You want the likes, tweets, and +1’s. Nearly all of us do.

In this post I’d like to break down something called social proof.

I actually don’t think anyone aside from Wikipedia has covered this to date so I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.

What is social proof?

A lot of my readers have asked me questions surrounding the issue of becoming more popular online. I just never had a concrete term for what we were talking about, until now.

Even Googling around for “social proof” I didn’t find much. So it must be a relatively new subject in the blogging world.

And that makes me absolutely ecstatic to cover it. I love being at the forefront of what’s going on in the blogging world. It takes a lot of digging through the daily junkmail but it’s definitely worth it.

So, what does “being social proof” really mean?

If you are social proof then people assume you are correct, popular, or otherwise worth their time. You’ve made it, at least in your niche.

It’s more than just getting likes and tweets because it’s doing larger things to create an aura of popularity on your site.

An Example:
Think back to middle school for a painful second. Do you remember that kid who cracked any joke he wanted, often in the teacher’s face, and got away with it. He was social proof. His antics were irresistible and it resulted in a lot of popularity in most aspects of life.

It’s like a landslide effect. You do a few things right, others notice and approve then the popularity freaking snowballs until you’re unstoppable!

And why do I even care about it??

Because being socially proof is like reaching the holy grail of blogging!

I want my eBooks to go viral.

I want to write “Good Morning” on Google+ and get 500 pluses.

And, I’d go so far as to assume you want similar.

To show you how important this whole mess is, let’s go see who out there in our blogosphere is socially proof, then, look at how they are using their social status to grown an empire.

Some Socially Proof People on the Web

Who: Guy Kawasaki

Guy is a former Apple employee who now runs his own businesses, like Alltop. He has close to 4 million followers on Google+.

What do they do?

Guy’s uses his social proof to publish books on publishing books, and on Google+. His audience and reach are so humongous that you can bet he brings in sales with the drop of a hat.

Who: Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh is an artist. She is hilarious – and it’s pretty clear she sees the world uniquely. She created HyperbolandaHalf to showcase her…cartoons. They are fantasticly funny and I recommend everyone read them, at least this one.

What do they do?

Allie has a humongous Facebook community she uses to sell merchandise related to her artwork. Yes, I’ve bought a shirt.

Who: Glen Allsop

Glen is a rogue internet market who’s been around since the early days. He runs a viral marketing workshop that teaches online marketers how to create their best content.

What do they do?

Glen sells a WordPress plugin he built and in a ridiculously tight market consistently tops the charts. I remember when Glen put up a Facebook page button, and within days it was over 1K.

Wonder if Glen will notice this little plug? And bud, post some better photos 😉

Who: Darren Rowse

Darren is widely regarded as the godfather of blogging and you may have seen his bald head and wide smile around the web. He’s got a huge Facebook community and ranks 1st in Google for many competitive blogging terms.

What do they do?

Darren leverages his social proof to sell wildly popular eBooks on a variety of blogging and photography related topics.

Who: Greg Narayan

Greg Narayan is the author of this post, and he’s becoming more prolific with each post that goes live 🙂

What do they do?

Greg shares his knowledge of blogging topics and often finds himself answering a large volume of blogging queries when he’d rather just be sleeping 😉

Now let’s move on to the good stuff.

How to Create Social Proof on Your Site

If you’ve made it this far in the article you’re probably curious. You want to know how to social proof your own site.

Well, disclaimer:

There’s really no exact science behind social proofing and some people are just plain better than others at it. Kinda like basketball.

Here’s how the definitive 4-step guide to social proofing the heck out of your site. Having written posts with 100+ likes and 50+ comments I like to think I know a thing or two about this, so please listen up.

Note: Notice how there’s only 4 steps? This isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a comprehensive plan you should follow and refer back to each day!

Step 1: Empowering and Sharing

The first step to building social proof is to give valuable content that empowers your readers to go out there and accomplish things.

Things like unseen information or even a free eBook.

Do this and you’ll create an initial relationship.

And think about it, if a blog gives you something amazing, more likely than not you’re at least going to hit “like” a few times.

This is social interaction 101. Giving…

Obviously there will be those who always take and never give, but they’re typically a minority.

The next step here is to make your content shareable from reader to reader. Because, as I explain, readers are the ones who grow your blog. You can only do so much as a lone content creator.

To get the reader-reader interaction going you have to do everything in your power to make your blog an interactive space of learning. Make the comments attractive, encourage the discussion, and most importantly create an insider feel for subscribers.

People should feel your blog is both welcoming and has exclusivity to it.

Weird, I know. Creating an email list one way to accomplish this, or maybe you really up the ante and give your followers access to a forum (something I’ll be talking about in a future post).

Step 2: Be Extra Personal

The next step to earning social proof is to be hyper-personal.

Don’t forget this. You probably ever heard this before, but people can get their information anywhere on the web today!!

It’s true. People have to like you enough to choose to return to your blog for whatever you’re pitching.

Fashion advice, cooking lessons, tech reviews, or like me, blogging advice. These niches are all so freaking beat up they look like the cast of Jersey Shore after a long weekend of acting like animals.

So that’s the lesson for this section.

Being extra personable, even if you have limited content, and you’ll set the foundation for social provenness to come.

Step 3: Use Hard Sells

Why would I put “Hard-Sells” in a post about social proofing?

Because it shows respect.

Hard-sells tell someone a) you mean business and b) you respect their limited time.

Mutual respect is huge in social proofing. You need to respect the reader and deliver epic content and the reader must respect you in return.

There are a million ways to earn respect, but my favorite is just interacting with my readers and solving their problems in the comments.

Content creators are finding more and more nowadays that soft-sells just don’t work, so go practice how to use hard-sells.

Finally for this section, the socially proof people above use hard-sells!!

So, mimic them! Driving your deals in firmly will even convince readers you are already socially proof!
Look at that.

Just think, what sorts of content on the web do you connect with? Wishy-washy “maybe this will help you out” crap? Nope.

Step 4: Always Deliver

The final step to social proofing is to always deliver on your promises and on the expectations.

Yes, this may seem like a burden. It’s reality.

If you create two amazing YouTube videos that get lots of views and likes and the your third one is a flop, people may wonder what happened.

Is this guy giving up?

Likewise if you write three great blog posts, the fourth one better be good too!

Of course, one aspect of social proof is the ability to cruise. What I mean by this is you can produce average content and it appears amazing because of your past, socially-awesome, reputation.

But don’t use this freebie move too often.

Remember, people are busy. People are selfish. People want quality content often. Even if you just publish once every two or even three weeks, if you deliver consistent quality and value folks will return and help social proof your work.

That’s it, social proof in a nutshell. You’re welcome, now go use this.

Now, I want to get personal

Now that I’ve armed you with tools to social proof your site, it’s time to get personal.

  • Do you consider yourself social proof?
  • Are you popular in your niche?
  • How did you get there?

I know a lot of members of the Dear Blogger Community work hard to build popular blogs. I’d love to hear from you guys.

Join the discussion and post a comment today.

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13 Responses to "Social Proof: How to Pass the Popularity Test in Blogging"

  1. Once again, an awesome post from Greg!

    We are social animals, and because of our busy schedules we try to shirk the hard work and outsource whatever we do not really have to do ourselves.

    It has become so bad that we crowd-source decision making – to join or not to join; to buy or not to buy – believing that ‘24,000 subscribers can’t be wrong!’

    Sometimes that model works, but it does pay to do your due diligence because at times even the crowd can get it wrong.

    1. Awesome points Yeremi, and as usual a pleasure to have you here.

      Outsourcing scares me, personally, so I do all the nitty gritty work myself.

      How do you social proof? Do you have a killer strategy?

  2. Wow. Again a great post, Greg. I love reading this as well. Darren Rowse is really awesome blogger. I like him so much.

    And yeah to be social proof; you have to be original! That’s it.

    I’ve noticed all of your points. I, specially, love ‘Get Extra Personal’. And I dont know but it feels like you are my good buddy/pal. Thanks, BTW. Stay blessed. It helped a lot. Thanks again.

    1. *Internet knucks* Abdul!

      You’ve definitely got a friend here 🙂

      Getting extra personal is tough though, really gotta put yourself out there. But if you do more times than not you’ll get rewarded.

  3. Nikki Elledge Brown · Edit

    I first heard the term “social proof” a few weeks back when listening to a Michael Hyatt podcast. I think of it more in terms of creating, demonstrating, and providing social proof rather than being it.

    Simon Sinek’s TED talk on leadership mentioned the “law of diffusion of innovation” which relates here too. We are more likely to get involved, step in a line, or buy a product when we know others have gone first! The idea, product, or service has been pre-approved, so there’s less risk on our part.

    Great folks posting helpful content or valuable services in a smart way will naturally attract the social proof they need to build a tribe! At least I hope. I’m starting that process now 😉

    1. Oh nice, how’s it going on your end Nikki?

      I could go for a good TED. It’s true, lots of great products just die out because of no social traction. I’m trying to think of my favorites…why is pogs all that comes to mind?

  4. I think it all ties back to the lessons we learned when we were young: Be kind, be humble, be honest, be hard working. When you think about it, these are things you would do to gain favor with face to face interaction and people forget that just because you’re behind a computer, that doesn’t mean you can slack on being a decent human being.

    Great post, thanks for the share.

  5. Bieng social proof is one of the things that I’ve been working on from day one of my blogging journey.

    Creating reader-reader interaction on a blog is the most daunting tast that needs you to be able (social proof) to encourage people to stay on your blog.

    Great steps to creating social proof, Greg. And an interesting topic too.

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