How to Earn Social Proof for Your Certification Program
What is social proof, and why do you need it for your marketing?
One of the greatest challenges for any business when trying to win over new customers lies in convincing them that you're worth their investment. Most consumers are naturally suspicious, particularly when what they're buying comes with a high price tag or a significant time commitment. That's a good thing for them, but it's challenging for you.
When considering ways to address the problem of trust in marketing, your first instinct might be to start talking about how trustworthy you are and what a great course you have to offer. Unfortunately, doing so usually strikes a false note. The next best thing is to start informing the consumer—by writing a blog, for instance—so that they can learn for themselves why your course is worth their time and money.
However, nothing wins over a hesitant customer like a satisfied customer. When someone without a stake in the game, who shares the concerns and aspirations of your prospective learners, and who has made the same decision they're facing speaks up and says "I'm glad I made that decision because it worked and I had a good experience,"...well! What else is there to say?
We call these kinds of remarks "social proof." They take the burden of proving the worth of your program off your shoulders, and they place it in the hands of people who are willing to back you up out of sheer good will. It's a great tool to use in your marketing, but it can be hard to come by. Here are five different kinds of social proof, and how you can earn it from your learners.
When someone completes your course, prompt them to leave a review at the end. Reviews are most convincing when they are public and unfiltered. They're even more convincing when they're tied to an external profile, such as Facebook.
Some people are anxious about allowing public reviews on their course, because they worry that a negative comment could damage their image. And they're not entirely wrong: a slew of angry reviews will hurt. But a wall of five-star reviews hurts, too, because it raises questions about the integrity of the review system.
So, don't be afraid to let in some bad reviews. It will make the good ones seem more genuine, and you can always learn from someone's bad experience.
A testimonial is like a review, but it is one you usually have to solicit personally. If you have a lot of reviews coming in from learners, you may not need to collect any. But if reviews are slow, or if you're just getting started, try asking learners or beta testers if they might have a kind word to share about their experience. Let them know that you'd like to put it on your website and other marketing materials, and ask if you can use their name.
Also, pay attention to positive comments that people make spontaneously. If someone says something great about you in an email, respond with something like "Wow, thanks for that! Do you mind if we use that in a testimonial on our site?" It's a great way to get an authentic comment from someone, and they didn't have to stop to compose anything themselves.
3. Case Studies
Case studies are the most sought after kind of social proof for many businesses. A good case study lets you tell a longer, detailed story about someone's experience. The format means you can ask more detailed questions, offer some background on the learner, and follow up about any positive results they gained from achieving certification.
That said, good case studies take extra work to develop. You need to find a learner who will consent to work with you, find time to interview them, and then edit their story into something that's attractive and worth sharing. It's well worth the effort if you can pull it off, but doing so can be a trick.
If you want to write a good case study, keep an eye out for good candidates. Focus on learners you have established some rapport with, and ask them if they'd be willing to be interviewed shortly after they complete the course. Make sure they know what you plan to use the case study for, and what the time commitment will be on their part. Then prepare to write it quickly and send it to them for approval. If you can catch people quickly and turn them around fast, you can start building up a collection of case studies from a wide range of learners.
4. Social Sharing
Reviews that appear on your website are great social proof for visitors. But social media sharing amplifies that message for people who may not have heard of you yet. When your learners complete something in your course, make it easy for them to share it with their network. One of their friends may be interested in your course, or may know someone who is interested.
If your learners post about their new certification to their news feed, that's one thing. But what about their profiles? On platforms such as LinkedIn, or other online resumes, a certification badge can be a more permanent way for learners to share their achievement.
When learners add their badge or certification credentials to their social media profiles, those credentials stay there for any visitor to see. They might not even remember it's there after a while. But they'll still be endorsing your certification program.
Social proof is more convincing than anything you can say about yourself.
Adding the right functions to allow for social sharing, badges, and course reviews may take a little time to set up. But any effort you put into it will be paid back many times by the positive affect of a certificate recipient leaving their seal of approval on your course. So, stop worrying about how you're going to convince learners about the value of your course, and start looking for ways to help them do it for you.
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