Consumers are more savvy than ever these days, so simply claiming you are “the best” is not enough. With testimonials, though, you don’t need to work to convince your audience you are awesome – because other people can do it for you.
Testimonials offer an independent indication that you have done a great job. They can also help reassure new or nervous customers, as well as distinguish you from your competitors. Using reviews and comments from your satisfied customers can transform your sales pitch into a credible, unbiased recommendation for your product or service.
If that’s not enough to convince you of the value of testimonials, adding them to your site is simple to do, and adding even just one good review of your product or service can generate more selling power than some of the best sales copy out there.
Building your audience or customer base all begins with building trust in your brand, and once a few people trust and enjoy your brand it’s only natural for them to spread the word – and conveniently create testimonials for you.
In this article we’ll explore the psychology behind testimonials and how you can select quality ones to publish on your site. We’ll then take a look at some of the plugins available for publishing testimonials on your site.
Why Testimonials Are So Effective
Testimonials can be a powerful tool because of a psychological phenomenon known as social proof.
Social proof – otherwise known as informal social influence – is the idea that a group of people unanimously supporting something or someone can influence others to also give their support. It works by an individual deciding that the group has quality experience and knowledge that they don’t and they adjust their actions to be in line with the group as a result.
You can’t go anywhere without seeing this in action.
By clearly displaying proof that your brand is popular, you show your visitors that many people trust you and your business. This is best demonstrated by the adage:
Hundreds (or even thousands) of people can’t be wrong.
The end result of positive influence doesn’t just have to come from a large group. It can also come from one trusted friend, a satisfied customer, an expert, or even a celebrity.
Social proof is most effective when you can use a variety of these methods – the more, the merrier.
When you’re able to showcase genuine proof that a large number of influential people love your products, site and brand, you can use this as leverage to influence others to join in, too.
This is one of the main sources of generating engaged users – the kind that hangs on to your every word and genuinely wants buys from you because they have come to trust your business and love the work that you do.
When you have engaged users and customers, they’re more likely to like, share and comment on your site and on social media, creating more social proof for your business. If the cycle continues, you can generate invaluable goodwill for your business.
Testimonials are a fantastic and effective way to create social proof via displaying your many happy brand supporters and customers, but it’s important that you put your best foot forward. After all, posting mediocre testimonials won’t do you any favors.
Creating Quality Testimonials
It’s important that the social proof you choose to display on your site or though other channels like social media is genuine. If your visitors find out you’re buying “likes” on Facebook or paying an actor to talk-up your products, the positive social proof can quickly go south and turn negative – you’ll have a large group of people advising others against you and the word will quickly spread.
It’s easy to tell when social proof isn’t genuine so it’s a good idea not to fake it. When someone sees thousands of likes on your Facebook page, for example, but there are no comments, likes or shares, it becomes pretty obvious to them that you’re cheating the system.
It’s also incredibly important that your testimonials are of high quality.
It’s amazing how many businesses don’t consider this – if they even have testimonials displayed on their site. Effective testimonials are surprisingly difficult to come by.
There are a few key factors which can improve the positive influence of your testimonials. The more of these tips you can incorporate, the better:
Pick testimonials that are between 2-5 sentences – Shorter testimonials such as “It’s great” don’t inspire trust. If a customer is able to speak about your greatness in length, it shows they have sufficient experience, which leads to others trusting their opinion. Just remember that you can lose a visitor’s attention if your testimonials are greater than five sentences.
Attach a full name, website and location to the testimonial – If your testimonials are anonymous or it isn’t clear that it’s a genuine review of your business, it can potentially look as though the testimonial isn’t real. You don’t need to sign the testimonial with every single one of these tidbits, but as long as it helps validate the testimonial, that’s what matters most.
If you have testimonials from well-known experts or celebrities, make them a priority – These kinds of testimonials tend to hold a higher state of credibility and influence.
Attach a picture of the review’s author – This will add another layer of validation that the testimonial is genuine and can be trusted.
They should confirm your product delivered a transformation – Many marketers believe that you don’t sell a product, you sell a “transformation.” In other words, your product or service solves a problem for your customer.
Highlight importantkeywords or phrases – If you use a header or bold text on words or phrases that best describe your quality of work it’s more likely your visitors will pay attention and stay focused on your site.
Ask for a video instead of text – Following these same basic guidelines, consider reaching out to a few of your extremely happy customers and film them answering a few of your pre-prepared questions. The resulting video doesn’t have to look like an Oscar-worthy feature film, but it should be of high quality. The more professional it looks, though, the more impressive it will be to your potential customers.
The Key to Quickly Growing Your Fan Base and Traffic
An important thing you should do is to thank the customers and visitors who have contributed to any social proof that has helped your business.
As music entrepreneur Derek Sivers explains in one of his TED Talks, this is important because you need to show your fans they are valued as equals, especially when they do you a favor that can help your brand reach new heights.
The most effective way to accomplish this is to first thank your customer or visitor in a fun, colloquial way. This will show them you think of them as your equal – the subtext being that you care about them as you would your family and friends.
The second step is to then give them a thank you gift with no strings attached. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge gift, but a meaningful one is needed.
The trick here is not to offer them a gift if they share, like, comment or otherwise interact, but give them the gift as a surprise after the fact. While offering them a gift for an action works, most people will have seen this a million times over.
A surprise gift keeps you fresh and relevant while also forging a strong connection with your brand.
The reasoning behind this is that getting a surprise gift for something they already were going to do anyway will delight your customers and visitors like you wouldn’t believe! It will be difficult to keep them from raving about you.
All you need to do to understand how well this could work is to imagine it happening to you when you last visited a site that interested you. Now imagine hundreds and even thousands of people sharing that same feeling, but with your business. That’s why this is a great step toward building traffic and social proof.
8 Effective Plugins for Displaying Your Testimonials
It doesn’t stop here, either. There are many different ways you can showcase your best testimonials.
Here are some of the most popular and free testimonial plugins, and all of them are updated frequently for the best possible results:
Jetpack has many robust features, but what you may not know is that this plugin also has the capability to display testimonials with its Custom Content Types feature.
Once you have signed up or logged into your WordPress.com account, then installed and activated the plugin, go to Settings > Writing > Your Custom Content Types and check the box to Enable Testimonials for this site. Finally, click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.
A Testimonials tab will appear in the admin dashboard. Select the Add New link in the sub menu. You’ll be able to create a testimonial and enjoy the same WYSIWYG editor as you do for writing posts and pages.
Once you’re done, your testimonials appear on the Portfolio, Testimonials page or with shortcodes.
It’s a simple way to add testimonials to your site, although, there aren’t an immense amount of customizations or options, but it works well and it uses your theme’s styles for seamless integration.
This is a newer plugin, but it’s gaining steam fast with many loyal users and it’s not difficult to see why after taking a look at the stunning testimonials it produces.
It’s highly customizable and uses shortcodes to display client praise. Features and fixes are being added regularly and include a sliding or rotating carousel, further customizations with CSS, front end submission form, star ratings and a widget for the sidebar.
It’s installation process is easy and it’s a useful plugin that’s only going to get better with time.
This plugin creates eye-catching testimonials to use on individual pages or in the sidebar. Strong Testimonials also includes a simple user submission form for your clients to use.
Strong Testimonials also includes a simple user submission form for your clients to use. The form also has many anti-spam options to help protect you and you can choose from Captcha, honeypots and others.
It’s easy to install and use as it has the same WordPress post editor we all know and love. You also have the ability to review testimonials before they’re posted so you can be sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
GC Testimonials can help you create snazzy testimonials manually or through their front end submission form. You’ll also receive an email when a new testimonial has been created by a client.
This plugin is chalk-full of customization options and testimonials can be displayed with pagination or a carousel. You can also show them in the sidebar with a widget or on any page with a single shortcode.
It’s as easy to install as most other plugins which is an added bonus.
It may be helpful for you to know that while most of these plugins aren’t necessarily meant to be used with Multisite installations, they did work for me when I tested each of them. Still, it may be wise to test them out for yourself on a local install, otherwise you can use a tool like our Cloner plugin to copy any one of your sites in your network so you have a place to safely run tests.
Building Your Audience from Scratch
The plugins listed above are great and all, but if you’re wondering how to grow your audience in order to get testimonials, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you.
The truth is, you don’t need hundreds of users in order to find testimonials, all you need is a handful of happy people. Even if you have just started your business try reaching out to past clients or colleagues and ask if they wouldn’t mind giving you a few sentences about the work you have done for them.
An even easier and effective way to do this is to check your Twitter mentions and embed any positive tweets from customers or clients clients who have said something nice about you.
Not sure what @wpmudev have been putting in their coffee, but pretty much all of their blog posts recently have been amazing! Keep it up!
If you don’t find any that are good enough to use, send a tweet out asking your past clients what they thought of you and your work. You never know what replies you might get back. This same idea can be applied to other social media sites like Facebook or Google+, or even LinkedIn.
Better yet, you might want to try creating a landing page that simply has a title, description of the testimonial process and a custom form with a few questions that your clients can fill out, including their name, location and a place to upload a photo of themselves (or integrate it your site with social media sites to pull in that information for you, automatically).
Simply email your clients the link with a short message and when you receive the information from the form, pull the answers to your questions into one short paragraph to post as your testimonial.
Another helpful way to boost trust in you and your business is to display a small section on your site with an As Featured In title, followed by the logo of the sites, magazines, books or other periodicals you have been mentioned in or have written a guest article for in the past.
Once you start building up steam, you can begin to use the plugins mentioned already to start showing how many people like, comment, tweet and all around enjoy your business and respect your brand.
You should be all set now to start using testimonials on your site and build greater trust in your business and traffic.