What is Social Proof, and How Can I Build It?

By Rudi Davis Published: 10 March, 2016 Last updated: February 18th, 2022 at 11:39 am

people working with laptops

Have you ever Googled yourself? Try it now. What comes up?

Is it a bunch of Facebook photos from that 2008 trip to Greece? A more flattering LinkedIn profile? Or perhaps, if you’re lucky, your latest article in Forbes showed up.

I guarantee you – whatever you saw – it’s what the journalist you’re pitching your press release to saw as well.

Social proof, in a public relations sense, is all about credibility. It includes your professional background, education, and achievements. It’s the image you choose to project to the world, and also includes everything you’ve written, spoken about and presented.

In this tutorial, we are going to look at why public relations social proof is important and what you can do to build it.

What is social proof for?

It is used in pitches and press releases to highlight your background and give you the attention you deserve.

Anyone can set up a company and call themselves a CEO (and plenty do). Social proof, however, is what sets you apart. As a CEO or founder of a startup, you are far more likely to get noticed by a journalist running through hundreds of pitch emails if you have a solid track record.

Imagine you were interviewing for a directorial position in another company – what would you say that made you stand out? More importantly, how would you prove it?

Highlight your experience in other enterprises or startups; perhaps you have already built and sold other successful businesses, maybe you’ve won industry awards, or you’ve held a high level position in another company.

If you have 10 years’ experience as developer in a top company, say so. If you graduated from Oxford, Cambridge or an Ivy League university, highlight this in your press release pitch.

Former Samsung Technology Director Launches Social app is far stronger than Joe Bloggs Launches Social App.

But I don’t have any social proof, what can I do?

If you are a CEO or founder, you have already positioned yourself as a business leader. You can use your position to build your social proof in a number of ways.

Thought leader articles

By writing on an industry-related topic, you can build your public profile and set yourself apart as a knowledgeable commentator or specialist in a certain area.

It’s essential that you target a particular series of publications and that the topic you choose is interesting and appropriate for their readership.

Publications look for trends. Perhaps you are an expert on the internet of things, or have an opinion on a hot topic or debate. Find a niche and write a reasoned argument with evidence to back up your ideas. Ensure that your idea or point of view hasn’t been covered before, because it won’t get picked up if it’s old news.

Bear in mind that articles that feature in top publications don’t have an immediate impact on your social proof, but they do have cumulative benefits. The more value you add to the conversation, the stronger your personal brand and the more likely it is that you will get attention for your company in the future.

Professional and customer reviews

Pitching your product on service to review sites like CNET can bring your product favorable attention, and encourage other reviewers to write about your product.

Although this may fall into the grey area between PR and marketing, there’s nothing wrong with highlighting your positive feedback, or citing your number of downloads and user reviews. It shows journalists that your service is genuine and has a following.

Speaking at conferences

Although sometimes daunting, giving talks and presentations at industry conferences is an extremely effective way of raising your profile

Brainstorm topics you would like to talk about with your team and apply to be a speaker. If you are able to speak at The Next Web, TechCrunch, or Web Summit conferences, for example, you’ll immediately see networking benefits – and also build your social proof immensely.

Competitions and awards

Applying for competitions, like The Next Web’s Boost program, for example, has numerous benefits.

If you win, there’s usually prize money. Although that’s nice, it’s the laurels you’re after. Award winners stand out from the crowd.

“2016 winner of…” often makes journalists and editors sit up and take notice.

Even if you don’t win, focusing on a competition tends to hone your own idea of your company objectives. There’s publicity, the chance to pitch your company, lots of networking opportunities, and you build brand awareness of your brand.