As many of the traditional marketing strategies lose their influence with younger generations, school marketers need to start thinking outside the box. Social proof is becoming one of the most impactful approaches when marketing to parents who are debating about a school enrollment decision for their child or youth.
There are many ways you can build and leverage social proof to work favorably for your school.
What is Social Proof?
Social proof is showing your potential enrollees evidence of the popularity and quality of your school. This is usually done in the form of displaying your subscriber count, followers, reviews and social shares on your website or social media accounts. When you have social proof, it helps ease the mind of your parents that are on the fence about your product or service by showing them that other parents have already made the leap and are happy with your school.
Why Does Social Proof Matter?
Busy parents are natural procrastinators and, when it comes to enrolling their kids in school, they need to be fully confident in their decision. For example, imagine you are deciding between two Mexican restaurants that are right next to each other. One has only a few people inside and the other one is packed, with a line extending outside. Which restaurant would you choose? Most likely, you would choose the one that is packed with the line because you’re going to assume it has better food since it’s more popular.
Social proof helps give your school an edge over the competition by playing on the “herd mentality” of people (wanting to go with what’s most popular or trending). In fact, 88 percent of consumers read reviews to help them determine the quality of local business, and 72 percent say a positive review helps them trust the business more. (Source: Search Engine Land)
Sources of Social Proof
There are 5 common sources of social proof that are used in today’s inbound marketing environment.
- Wisdom of the Crowd
The wisdom of the crowd goes back to our restaurant example. There is power in numbers. Common numbers you might want to consider include likes, shares, comments, positive reviews and enrollments. When other parents see that a large number of families like your school and have enrolled, it helps to build trust in their mind, reinforcing their decision to enroll themselves.
- User Testimonials and Stories
Going hand-in-hand with wisdom of the crowd, user testimonials and success stories are a powerful source of social proof. These stories help to paint a picture that parents can relate to. This picture reduces the risk for potential parents in their mind by allowing them to see the experiences of others that have already enrolled and attended your school. To speak to the power of this source, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Source: Search Engine Land)
- Celebrity and Local Personalities
This social proof taps into the incredible power of celebrities. They don’t have to be national or international celebrities either – a well-known local personality will do. Celebrities have an enormous amount of social influence, allowing them to positively expose all of their followers and fans to any brand they endorse. Though it typically works best when the celebrity’s fan base can relate to the brand, this is one of the strongest sources of social proof.
- Experts and Influencers
This type of social proof works by using a credible expert such as a popular blogger, leader in education or other prominent figures that has influence over the same audience you’re targeting (i.e. a speaker or author). Not only is influencer marketing a great way to reach portions of your market that you may be missing, but it also shows parents that someone who really knows about education trusts your school, and so can they.
- Friends and Family
When friends and family start talking to parents about your school, magic happens. This source of social proof helps to immediately create strong connections with your school simply because it plays on the power of trust. When parents the opinions of their friends and family, especially if it’s positive, they’re going to be more inclined to become a customer without taking a lengthy enrollment funnel journey.
How to Earn Social Proof for Your School
First and foremost, you have to have an exemplary school that is truly providing your students with a top-quality education and is committed to resolving issues with students and parents. When you have a school that delivers on everything it promises, it’s naturally going to inspire positive testimonials, social shares and recommendations.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials and success stories as well as feedback from your current parents. Encourage them to share their positive experiences with others. Not only will this make them feel more valued, but it will also help influence those who are on the fence about enrolling.
Lastly, increase your social reach by offering free giveaways (ask local merchants for donations in exchange for recognition) for liking or sharing your social posts, blog posts or giving a referral that results in an inquiry. When you broaden your sphere of social influence with the help of your existing followers, social proof can go through the roof.
How to Display Social Proof
Once you’ve earned social proof, you’ll want to display it at key points along your enrollment sales funnel.
- Numbers and Badges
One of the best ways to display social proof on your website is by showing subscriber counts, social connections and authority badges (i.e. The Best Private Schools). This is a great way to instantly build trust with potential parents that are browsing on your website.
- Testimonials and Reviews
Display your student, parent and influencer testimonials on your website and landing pages to help potential parents feel more secure about enrolling in your school themselves. It’s also important to show your ratings and reviews prominently, helping to persuade parents that are on the fence. When you have lots of good reviews, influencers and testimonials, it’s easier to edge out the competition and foster a positive mindset toward your school with a potential parent.
- Social Media Channels
Use the power of social media to share important social proof milestones such as hitting 10,000 likes, getting featured in a prominent educational ezine or journal, or even success stories of alumni. This is one of the fastest ways to build social proof.
- Online Listings
Displays of social proof aren’t limited to your website and social channels. Simply getting listed in directories and review sites sets up yet another channel for people to leave and view positive feedback about your business.
Social proof is just one aspect of your school’s reputation. It can be a very powerful marketing tool for your school and is a good use of the time and effort it takes to generate. Social proof taps into customer psychology builds trust and credibility and lowers barriers to inquiries and enrollments.