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I’ll be honest with you. Those Beats by Dr.Dre headphones are nothing special. Sure, they look cool but, come on, they’re really just regular headphones with Dr.Dre’s name on them.

That’s the power of social proof, though. We see all these celebrities endorsing different products, and we want those products too. Every time Oprah so much as mentions a product on her show, sales spike like Mount Everest. You could become a millionaire by just getting Oprah to endorse you.

But, you don’t really need an Oprah or a Dr. Dre. Of course, their influence does help, but social proof is more than just that. Think about your own shopping experiences. When you go to Amazon to buy a blender, would you look at the one with no reviews or the one with ten 5-star reviews? The answer is obvious.

Both blenders could be great, and the one with no reviews may even be a new and improved product, but the 5-star reviews and raving testimonials on the other blender will influence you more. Remember, these are ratings from people you’ve never met! Yet, customer reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions.

It actually makes sense, if you think about it. We may not know the reviewer, but if we see lots of people talking about something, we’ll likely follow them simply because we are social creatures. It’s this social nature that allowed humans to form civilizations and evolve from the Stone Age.

Are you starting to see how powerful social proof can be for your online course? It’s not a new concept. It’s something that we as a species have relied on for thousands of years. In this post, we’re going to show you how to capitalize on this.

How Social Proof Helps You

Ok, so social proof is awesome. But what exactly does it do for your online course? Here are three things it does –

  • It builds trust – As many as 80% of us look to reviews when buying online, and potential students for your courses will be no different. Reviews and testimonials act as social proof that your products are genuine and trustworthy because others have purchased them before and had a positive experience.
  • It improves sales – Use good reviews as a selling point. A high star rating is an instant and universally understood selling point for a product. You can set reviews to appear publicly on your course landing page to help seal the deal with new purchasers.
  • It lets you charge more – Students are hesitant to make large purchases when they don‘t know what to expect. By showing testimonials and course reviews, you can ease your potential customer’s concerns and start charging more for your course.

The Types of Social Proof

In general, social proof can be categorized broadly into two types –

Influencer Social Proof – The examples I mentioned earlier, with Oprah and Dre, are forms of influencer social proof. Any celebrity endorsement, press mention, or expert review can give you massive amounts of credibility and instantly build trust with your target market. For example, Brian Dean, who writes on the Backlinko blog, has a set of press logos where he’s been mentioned as well as testimonials from well-known experts in his industry.

backlinko online course social proofUser Social Proof – Like I said, if you haven’t been mentioned in the press or received praise from influencers yet, that’s ok. The other form of social, user social proof, can cover you there. This is type of social proof you find on sites like Amazon. Customer ratings, reviews, case studies, social media shoutouts, and even customer or sales numbers can do wonders.

Yaro Starak, who created Entrepreneurs Journey, uses case studies as social proof to sell his information products. He interviews people who have bought his products, like students of his training course, and publishes those interviews as podcasts and blog posts. By seeing how successful his students are, potential customers are inclined to buy his training.

Look at our ‘Thinkific Love’ Twitter box on the right for another example. If your customers love your online course, they’ll happily share it online and say good things about you. You can also get them to review your course on your site so that when new people visit your course landing page, they see these reviews. Let’s look at how you can do that.

Adding Social Proof To Your Courses

By now, you should be convinced that social proof is important for your online courses. At some point, as more people find your courses, you’ll be able to get press mentions and testimonials from experts and influencers. But, if you’re just starting out, it makes more sense to focus on the quick wins, like getting students to add reviews and ratings to your site and online course. Here are the steps you need to take to do that.

Step 1: Outline your value benefits

A general testimonial/course review is great, but a strategic testimonial that has your current students highlight the benefits that make you stand out is even more powerful. So first, you need to be clear about what your selling benefits are. What makes you stand out? Why should a student take your course over another course? What benefits are your students getting by taking your course?

Think deep here. If you are teaching a course on how to use Excel, your benefits are more than just learning Excel. It might be that your students save time and become more efficient at work, or maybe they can earn more in their business because they will have a better handle on their numbers. List the 3-4 main selling points for your courses.

Step 2: Start gathering

Your testimonials should address your key selling points. If your course is special because you include one-to-one coaching, find a testimonial that raves about your coaching style. If your content is super easy to follow, find a student who was able to learn a skill really quickly.

If your course is new, you arguably need social proof even more. But how do you get reviews for a brand new course? Consider adding trial students to your course. Allow them to try your course for free and gather their feedback. Also, think outside your course. If you are a coach, for example, get testimonials on your teaching style and credibility from clients you’ve worked with before.

Here are some more ideas –

  • Ask your fans: Ask! Reach out to some of your best students and ask them for specific reviews. Authentic reviews are the best, so let them be in your student‘s voice. You can, however, ask a student to give you a recommendation Ask that highlights a specific benefit.
  • Scour social media: Students who complete your course may tweet about their experience or share positive sentiments on their social platforms. Search your own social platforms and also public comments for good reviews on your course. Try to search for comments about your brand online.
  • Turn on course reviews: With Thinkific, you have the ability to turn on Thinkific‘s Course Review feature and display reviews directly on your course page. Course Reviews include both star ratings and written testimonials. You have complete control over what reviews are displayed.

Social Proof - online course reviews

Step 3: List your testimonials

Hopefully, all your reviews are great and everyone loves your course! But there may be one or two reviews that are not so flattering. You probably want to select the best reviews to publish on your site.

Now, that doesn’t mean you delete all the negative reviews and only publish the positive ones. In fact, negative reviews are actually quite helpful because they let you know how you can improve. The best way to deal with them is to talk to the reviewer and find out what you can do to give them a better experience. Then, if they are valid concerns, you can actually implement them and improve your course.

And for all the other reviews, don’t forget to thank the reviewers! Let them know what it means to you and that you’ve published their review on your site.

Social proof - online course reviews

Step 4: Get the word out

Now that you have a collection of strategic course reviews and testimonials, you need to share them with new potential customers. Add reviews to your course pages, incorporate them in your promotional material, and share them on your ‘owned’ media platforms: social media, blogs, website etc. You can enable Thinkific’s Course Review feature on your admin dashboard. To learn how to collect and display course reviews for your course, check out our step by step guide here.

Start Collecting Social Proof

If you’ve already got a course, start hunting for reviews. Follow the suggestions in Step 2 and go out and get them. There’s no better time to start than now!

And if you haven’t got a course, what are you waiting for? There are people out there waiting to learn from you and your unique experiences. It’s time to start creating courses and making an impact on them.