No, You Don't Need Social Proof
Lots of folks build a product like they’re checking boxes.
Product validation? Check. MVP? Check. Landing page? Check. Places to tell people about it? Check.
Social proof on your landing page? You don’t have to check that box. It might help, yes. It might also be a smell.
Instead, just pay attention to your visitor’s mental back-and-forth. Then, you decide if getting social proof will be helpful.
Spend enough time reading about writing landing pages, and you’ll come across the common trope:
You need your landing page to include testimonials, reviews, or “proof” of your product’s success from other people.
Careful. That’s a mental model. A story people tell themselves, a belief that can be challenged. In your mind, it’ll take hold and will install itself like this:
“Unless I add social proof to my site, surely nobody will buy it.”
The proper reply to spotting a burgeoning mental model in our mind? We’ve covered this before.
- Maybe you’ll miss out on sales without showing social proof.
- Maybe you’ll miss out on sales if you add social proof just to be like everybody else.
- Maybe that’s not what your visitors thought was missing from your landing page.
- Maybe people left because of other anxieties they were feeling about your product.
- Maybe your visitors felt cynical about the testimonials you added.
- Maybe they left because of your so-called social proof.
First, Reduce All Other Anxieties
In the mind of the visitor, there are four forces at play, pushing and pulling toward a “yes”, or away toward a “no”. For a “yes”, the top two have to be stronger than the bottom two (which are usually stronger by default).
- The ⚬→ Struggle of the moment propels the buyer to say “enough is enough” and look for a way out or through. “There must be something I can do about this”. The stronger this force is when visitors land on your page, the easier it is for your product (or service) to be pulled into the visitor’s mind as a “maybe this.”
- The →⚬ Attraction of the solution is like a magnet. You present your product. They see what it can do, it’ll “do the job (to-be-done)”. It attracts toward a “yes”. This is the force that social proof typically increases. But not always.
- “Will this work for me? Will I have to learn a ton of new things by using this? Do I have to move all my stuff over? Do I need to commit to a new process? What if I decide I don’t want to continue with this? Will it work with my…” These ←⚬ Anxieties about the solution are more numerous than you imagine. “These testimonials don’t tell me anything. They’re probably fake. They’re probably from friends who want to help promote it.”. This force puts the brakes on the momentum, and brings people back to…
- “I’ll just figure something out/do it myself/continue looking”. “Not this, not now.” This force is called the ⚬← Habits of the present , your product’s real competition, what they will revert back to.
You don’t have control over forces 1 and 4, except of course to only build products that address a strong struggle.
But on your landing page, you do control the →⚬ Attraction and ←⚬ Anxieties forces.
And as I’ve mentioned in another article, to add appeal, first reduce anxieties:
- Reduce all anxieties about pulling the product into the life of the buyer. Remove or downplay features that don’t help the product’s job-to-be-done.
- Reduce anxieties about the long-haul. What if your product fails, will they have to extricate their stuff from your app?
- Reduce anxieties about the money. A high price adds anxiety, but sometimes it brings reassurance. “This will be around for a while, they’re serious.” A low price or a free price can add anxiety.
- And lastly, reduce anxieties about your legitimacy.
Great social proof can allieviate any hesitations about your legitimacy. But shoddy social proof can make you look suspect.
Good Social Proof Supports the Visitor’s Job-To-Be-Done
Your visitors come to you with a struggle, and want to make progress. They want to leave something behind, and they want to switch to whatever will “do the job”.
To model this struggle→progress vector, it helps to use when statements. In this example, let’s revisit the struggle causing people to look at ProdHunt, a data set of the products posted on Product Hunt, a data set “hired” for the job of creating a mini product:
- When I’ve been failing at selling software and I see people sell small no-code or informational products, I want to find a new starting point so I can have a small win fast.
That “so I can” is the aspiration, the job-to-be-done. The “when” is the struggle. The “I want to” is the next step in their search.
Right there, you’ve got material for what you can write on your landing page…
You’ve been seeing other people do the no-code thing, and you want in.
Maybe precede that with a catchy headline:
Find a new starting point.
You’ve been seeing other people do the no-code thing, and you want in.
And you’ll spot the kind of testimonials you’ll allow on your site.
“If you want to get into no-code and you’re looking for something to build a quick product from, check out ProdHunt” – person on Twitter.
This means you’ll have to be patient until you only get the good testimonials flowing in.
But having a landing page with the right copy (inspired by your knowledge of their struggle→progress momentum) will help people find the words for their word-of-mouth.
With this high bar set, is there anything else you can add to your landing page which can stand in as social proof when you don’t have it?
An Alternative: Write Examples of Struggles
The “when” exercice we covered above is surely one great use of your time for when you don’t yet have social proof that meats the high bar of “helps attraction, doesn’t produce anxiety, communicates the job-to-be-done” that we set.
With that knowledge, there’s something else you can add to your landing page that does the job of testimonials.
Include examples of struggle in your copy. Make it a struggle-first landing page. It doesn’t have to be citing anybody specifically. Just make it convey that you understand the visitor’s struggle so they answer with “I feel understood!” and respond by scrolling to know more.
You’ve been burned by building a whole product, investing a ton of time, and now you’ve got to let it go. Not enough interest.
I didn’t want to build something big again, but I knew I wanted to build something. Keep the wheels in motion.
I invested a lot of time in trying an idea. For next time, I’m going to try a small idea first, see where it goes.
I see all these people selling small info products, selling them at $30 a pop, and making some good revenue. I want in.
With a struggle-first page like this, you’ll get people talking, buying, reporting back and telling others. You’ll then have plenty of material for displaying the good social proof on your site.
In the meantime, no need to rush to get that “social proof” checkbox checked off. Just focus on the visitor’s mental back and forth. There’s plenty other things you can do to add appeal, reduce anxieties, and help your visitor make a decision to fix their struggle, with your thing.