I realized I forgot to tell you how I’m the world’s foremost expert on social proof. Not to brag or anything but I had a self-taught early start to social proof–it began in the 7th grade.

A quick rundown of the facts? No problem.

Chris Moreno. He was THE guy. Maybe not to everyone else, but to me, for sure. I had two clear disadvantages though:

  • I was in the 7th grade. He was an 8th grader.
  • I was also a 7th grader in his 8th grade math class. The 8th graders picked on me for that. But, I did get to sit at his round table in class, right next to him. Heaven.

Okay, three disadvantages:

  • If I’m being honest, I also hadn’t mastered my hair, or my wardrobe, or my anything.

I didn’t want my situation to deter me though, because Chris and I were destined to spend a lifetime together. This concept was firmed up in my mind when we ran into each other outside of school at a James Bond movie premiere. I knew then. No one else in the entire world loved James Bond but the two of us. It was a sign.

Back at school the next week I realized that I needed to create a buzz and a sense of urgency (on his part, to make me his one true love). “How shall we do this, Regina?” I asked myself. Yes, I talk to myself AND answer myself. It’s healthy. You don’t need to be weird about it.

“I know! I have to make him see that other people like and want me too.” Brilliant. But wait. This is pre-parents-letting-their-3-year-olds-have-cell-phones-days (actually, it was just The Pre-Cell Phone Era in general), so I couldn’t casually leave my phone on our shared table with a text message from some other guy about how in love with me he was. Also, I was the only 7th grader in the class (translation: I had very few friends in there), so I couldn’t stage a convo with friends where Chris overhears them saying amazing things about me.

Ahh, the 7th grade struggle. There was clearly only one option. Write a letter, using the best man handwriting skills I could muster, that seemed like it was from some other guy, asking me out on a kid date. I know what you’re thinking: That girl was a genius at such a young age. Her thinking was way beyond her years.

Aww. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Did I write the letter? Absolutely.
Did I chicken out about leaving it in a place where he would see it? A bit.
Did my very clever plan work? Not even a smidgen.
Did it start me on a non-loser path to greatness? I think so.
Did Chris eventually try to flirt it out with me years later when I ran into him at a Subway restaurant? Yep. It was the most epic moment of my life. Social proof worked! I no longer wanted to marry him and have his babies, but yes, it worked.

In assessing how to solve my 7th grade problem (I was not yet married to Chris Moreno), I had to observe what makes people get excited about something, what makes someone want something, and what makes people think other people are credible, fun, and soul mate-y.

Here is the big reveal you probably weren’t expecting:

People want stuff when they see other people want stuff. Just watch some kids and their toys in a daycare setting, if you don’t believe me. Actually, scratch that. That’s creepy, bro.

People think stuff is credible when they see other people say that it is.

People want to know/talk about the things other people know/talk about. It’s all related to our need for human connection.

Your online social proof consists of:

  • what other people say about you (which you can direct through your content, through the experience you offer your readers/clients, and the brand identity you put in place, among other things)
  • how others interact with you online
  • how you visibly treat others and how those people react to that treatment online
  • how many other people are tuned into you online (as in: your “followers” and subscribers on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
  • the number of people linking to you from their sites or social profiles
  • the number of people talking about you or to you online

The best way to build social proof is to get people excited about you and your brand. The best ways to excite people are authenticity and helpfulness. People get excited when you engage with them on a personal level and when you take time to notice them or to address the things important to them.

You’ve heard of The Five Love Languages? Think of this as the (6th and) main love language your audience responds to: Paying attention to the details.

7 activities to set up your mind + online presence for epic social proof:

1. Get rid of you-focused thinking.
Your primary concern has to be your ideal audience in order for this to work. You know how when you’re falling in love with someone, you care about all the little details of their life? You want to make sure they eat well, are comfortable, and have everything they need. That’s how love works in my imagination anyways, so don’t kill my vibe on this, okay?

Your heart and motivation have to be in a good place. If you are interacting with people because you want more followers, your game or gain is limited. If you are interacting with people because you actually want to help them and do all those little “in love” things for them, they will feel it.

Activity: Start each work day (for a month) writing down three needs, desires, or thoughts your ideal audience members might have that day. Spend 5 – 10 minutes thinking about them deeply and figuring out if there are any blog posts you can write, resources you can develop, products you can work on, or surprises you can deliver to meet those needs.

2. Make sure you know who the person is before you speak, respond, or engage.
Think about meeting someone (in real life) for the first time and not having much to talk about because the conversation is very casual and you don’t seem to have much in common. Then, think about meeting someone for the first time and discovering that you both love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and making Zoolander faces. Okay, bad examples, but there’s more to talk about with people the more you discover about them.

Whether the person is a commenter on your blog, a pinner on Pinterest, or a tweeter on Twitter, take time to look at their links, blog, bio, whatever they have available. Discover something about them. Look for things you have in common. Scroll through their tweets. Read a past blog post. Read through their Facebook Page updates. Is it their anniversary? Do they like the Miami Dolphins? If so, send me their profile info. I love them.

Find out more about them, their thoughts, and their habits. When you do, you’ll know what to say in response to their comment. You’ll know how to approach them in the first place. You’ll know how to authentically help them. And P.S. You’ll eventually know what to sell them.

Activity: Find 10 connections on Twitter, Instagram, or Google+ who you’ve never really interacted with but who seem to be an ideal audience member for your brand. Take some time to non-creepily look into their brand and presence. Spread out some sincere comments to them over the next three days. Also, get in the habit of finding out about the people who leave comments on your site (as much as possible) before you respond to them.

3. Use names.

Activity: Say/type their name when you address them. Make it a habit. Spell it correctly. That is all.

4. Clean up and audit your social feeds.
So, you switched your account from a personal one to a business/brand one? Uh huh. Time to go back and delete those inappropriate tweets, blurry Instagram photos, and pins that lead to nowhere at all.

Activity: Follow Day 21, 25, 26, and 27 of the #CreativeCleanse to audit your social platforms. Think of what you would want to see from a brand or person you love. Think of what would turn you off. For me, unnecessarily “foul” language and negativity make me disengage almost immediately.

5. Get rid of any and all generic responses to people on any platform.
Yo. Auto DM’s (direct messages) on Twitter make me sad. Engage with me on a real level please. Oh, and the ones that ask a question to which you can’t reply because the person doesn’t follow you back? I throw up in my mouth when that happens or when people tell me about experiencing that. It makes it seem as if you don’t care about true engagement.

6. Spend one to three months on any given platform before you try to sell anything.
Just get to know your audience’s needs and what it is they care about. Become a part of larger communities. Participate in online chats, classes, events, etc. Be helpful. Resist the temptation to tell everyone about your products all the time. Before you send a tweet or email, ask yourself, “What will make the other person care? What will make them happy? What will make them feel valued?”

7. Share you. And more than you.
Activity: For 30 days, share one tweet that is true to you. Something silly you did, a joke, something you find odd or entertaining. Try this Use Your Voice worksheet as a guide. For those same 30 days, share a resource or goodie from someone else that your audience will love (even if your audience is only 12 people right now). Make a consistent habit of sharing the real you every day, and sharing more than you every single day.

Do you perhaps remember how we talked about creating a superb experience for your readers the other day? Good. Think about this: If you’ve been sincerely getting to know people through the activities above, it will be much simpler to create an experience that will appeal to them. So, if you had trouble with the exercises + downloads in that post at first, try them again after 30 days of implementing the processes above.

What is an area of social proof that confuses or frustrates you? Which platforms are you trying to build social proof in right now?

P.S. Your responses are helping me put the finishing touches on Grow Your Blog Traffic With Social Media, so thank you.

Photo: Danil Nevsky