If everyone else is doing it, would you? Well, maybe not, but you’ll want to, and you’ll probably at least consider it. That’s the power of social proof. And knowing how to grow association membership using social proof can help you hit your organization’s goals during the next enrollment period.

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What is Social Proof?

Social proof is the belief that you should do something because others are doing it. When you see that someone else has done something, you feel it is a correct or worthwhile behavior.

Dr. Robert Cialdini studies influence and social proof. He discussed the concept in-depth in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Cialdini said, “We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.” So, the more you see other people doing something, the more you think it’s the right thing to do and want to do it too. Or, as Cialdini said:

“We seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t.” —Dr. Robert Cialdini

It may sound like psychological manipulation, but humans seek out social proof. You probably read reviews of a new restaurant before you try it out. When someone says they prefer a certain product, you may seek out that brand because you feel it’s more trustworthy after the endorsement. You’re probably more likely to hire a certified contractor than a contractor with no listed credentials on their website.

That’s social proof. It’s a way humans ease their minds before they spend hard-earned money. And when it comes to your association, social proof can help encourage potential members to join your organization.

The Power of Social Proof

Social proof can be a powerful tool in your association’s marketing arsenal. 

Social proof encourages potential members to join your organization by:

  • Building trust. Reviews and testimonials are a great way to show potential members that your association will bring value to their lives. People trust third-party endorsements.
  • Motivating behaviors. When potential members see who else has joined in the past, they feel like they should do so as well. This motivation doubles if your social proof can show what they’ll get out of the experience.
  • Creating engagement and retention. Social proof is many voices speaking about your association instead of just your marketing department. 
  • Clarifying value. Your association’s website shares the value the association has to offer, but social proof can clarify that value by showing how it impacts your members on a personal level.
  • Removing doubt. Knowing others have made and enjoyed the purchase can put doubts to subside.
The Power of Social Proof to Grow your Association Infographic

Types of Social Proof 

You can use many types of social proof to better market your association to potential members. You may want to consider using a mix of the following methods.

Types of Social Proof: Member Directories, Testimonials, Case Studies, Host Experts, Influencer Endorsements, Reviews, Social Media and Trust Seals, Certification and Badges

Member Directories

A member directory tells you who is part of an organization and how long they’ve been an active member. It’s like the who’s who of an organization. It shows that there is activity within the organization, and people are loyal to it. When people see that others they know and admire are part of your organization, it makes them want to join.  

When member directories work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
You’ll want to build directory information from the beginning of your membership, but don’t launch it publicly until you have what you see as enough members to make a splash.Compiling your membership directory manually and building a page would be relatively difficult. But it’s simple with PMPro. The plugin does the work for youDisplay your directory as a public page on your membership site.
Infographic of When Member Directories Work Best table

Testimonials

Testimonials are incredibly powerful. Displaying them on your website can greatly encourage new members to join. 

Simply ask current members to write a testimonial about their experience. You could send an email asking them to do so or create a survey with specific questions to guide their answers. 

Adding these testimonials on the association website and a photo of the member who submitted it can be a powerful way to help your potential members overcome objections to joining.

The best part of testimonials is that they show that people have paid money and are happy with their purchase. So people who are on the fence can see that your membership will add value to their lives. 

It also decreases the risk associated with the purchase when potential members see that others have received a good return on their investment.

When testimonials work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
Display testimonials as soon as you have them, regardless of the age of your organization. When people start raving to you about what they’re getting from their membership, it’s time.Compiling testimonials is easy. You just have to ask members for them.Display testimonials on your membership’s homepage. You want people to see them immediately when they visit the site.
Infographic of When Testimonials Work Best table

Case Studies

Case studies are like testimonials, only better. Instead of just sharing the member’s experience, a good case study dives into the outcomes the member experienced. It paints a picture of a journey a potential member can take and shows them the transformation that’s waiting for them once they join. 

The best case studies are incredibly detailed. Take a look at PMPro’s case studies as examples. Consider sharing before and after information that illustrates where the member was when they joined the organization and how far they’ve come since then. Be specific about results and the steps that members took, especially if they’re an outlier in the organization. This case study will illustrate a transformation that your potential member will want to undergo.

When case studies work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
When your organization is more well-established and has strong examples to provide and stories to tell.Case studies take longer to compile because you need to gather the information and write them.Display case studies on a special page on your membership site.
Infographic of When Case Studies Work Best table

Host Experts

Invite experts in your industry to share a guest post on your association website or to take over your social media. This approach will do a couple of things for your association’s platform. 

The expert’s online following will see the content, follow your association on social media, and maybe even join your organization. 

And if that isn’t enough, the message the expert shares on your platform will be attributed to you. 

Because the content will stay on your blog or social profile, you’ll be the source of authority for that message. This content builds your trust and shows that you are a reputable source of information.

When expert events work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
Having experts associated with your organization is always a great idea, but they’re really helpful in the beginning when you’re trying to attract attention to your organization.Finding and scheduling the expert probably is the most difficult part. But it’s really about knowing what you want and need from them from the beginning. How will you use their expertise to best serve your members?Where you display expert information is all up to you. You can have them do a guest post, promote their endorsements on social media, or ask them to speak to your members
Infographic of When Expert Events Work Best table

Influencer Endorsements

If there’s an influential person in your industry or niche, having their endorsement can greatly grow your membership. 

A respected person’s endorsement is excellent to have on your association’s sales page and share on your social media. 

People make purchases based on endorsements from people they admire. An influential person in your industry’s endorsement can do wonders as social proof.

When influencer endorsements work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
Influencer endorsements are always a great idea for your association, but they’re really helpful in the beginning when you’re trying to attract attention and build credibility for your organization.The most difficult aspect of influencer endorsements will be finding the right person and getting them to agree to endorse your organization. It’s simple to get and post what you need after that.Display influencer endorsements on your membership’s homepage. You want people to see them immediately when they visit the site. Also, don’t forget to share them on social media to attract attention.
Infographic of When Influencer Endorsements Work Best table

Reviews

Reviews may not seem applicable to a membership site, but they can be a great form of social proof. 

Instead of looking for reviews of your membership, look at the businesses run by your members. Do those businesses have good reviews? If so, they can be a way to show the professionalism you encourage in your association. 

Also, if someone on the board of the association has a highly-rated business or even a book about their experience with good ratings, those can be used as a form of social proof as well.

Check out PMPros reviews as an example of how to use them on your site.

When reviews work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
Reviews are beneficial for the lifecycle of your association but especially helpful at the beginning or when you’re trying to build your membership.Reviews are simple to compile. All you have to do is ask members for them.Display reviews on main public pages of your membership site or a special public page dedicated to reviews.
Infographic of When Reviews Work Best table

Social Media 

It’s no surprise that social media can be a great source of social proof. Influencers can share about your association, and you can allow experts to take over your social media for a day. But there are other excellent ways to use social media to find social proof. 

User-generated content is a great way to spread the message about your association and show off who is currently a member. 

You can create a posting challenge for a specific social media platform and ask your members to tag the association in their posts. Offer a prize to the users who complete the challenge. In effect, you’re getting exposed to your members’ social media following when they share about the association. 

Other ways to achieve social proof with social media include highlighting what members are saying about you on social media. Share their posts and thank them. 

WordPress plugins also show how often people share your website content across social media. This count can show how trustworthy your site is and that your association can help potential members.

When social media works best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
Social media will always work well for building your membership and attracting attention. Members expect active social media.Being active and responsive on social media can take a lot of time. Carefully choose the social media outlet where your members already are and focus your activity there.Display social media buttons on every page of your membership site. You want to make it easy for nonmembers to find your social and members to use it.
Infographic of When Social Media Work Best table

Trust Seals, Certifications, and Badges

If your association is certified, part of a larger association, or has earned certifications, display those badges proudly on your website. These stamps show larger organizations recognize and trust the association. 

Similarly, if you’ve won an award or have been featured in prominent industry publications, make sure those awards are visible or the names of those publications are listed in a location that’s easy to find. Not only is this great social proof, but it’s also impressive.

The Member Badges Add On, for example, makes your members feel special and helps more active members stand out. Badges can identify certain types of members, members with specific responsibilities, or even boast about their longevity or accomplishments within the organization. 

When member badges work best:

Stage of BusinessEase to CompileDisplay Location
You can assign member badges to membership tiers from the beginning, helping to differentiate your members.PMPro makes adding member badges to member profiles easy.Display member badges on the member’s account.
Infographic of When Member Badges Work Best table

How to Grow Association Membership by Using Social Proof

Understanding social proof is one thing, but how do you leverage it to grow your association? Consider all or some of the tips below.

Growing association membership by using social proof:

  • Focus on the mission/goal. Follow your association’s purpose. It enables you to serve your members, who will be a strong source of your social proof.
  • Create a strategy to gather social proof. Create surveys and gather feedback from your members. Document as many member events as possible and share highlights.
  • Focus on a few channels. You don’t have to be on every social media platform, but you should be on the platforms where your members are. Focus on using the channels that make the most sense for your organization. Use them well.
  • Enable conversations. Remove all the barriers that prevent people from talking about your association online. Create social media templates and encourage your members to fill them out and share the blank file so others outside the membership can share too.
  • Do your research. Ask members what they want or need from the association. Use the qualitative data you already collect about your members to learn more about them.
  • Test what works. Not all social proof will resonate with potential members, so try a few methods before you decide which ones to use regularly.
  • Be consistent. Create an editorial calendar for sharing social proof as well as a calendar for collecting surveys and reviews. 
Grow Association Membership using Social Proof infographic

Grow Your Association with Paid Memberships Pro

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