We’ve all heard stories about people waiting in line for ridiculously long amounts of time for new product releases, movie premieres and advance ticket sales. Some even show up several days early and camp out, just to ensure they can get in on whatever it is they desire. (I hope you share my questions about regular bodily functions and hygiene, and how standing in line for that long would affect these things. Ew.)

But do these people really show up that early for the sole purpose of securing the next big thing? Researchers and psychologists say, “not quite.” People stand in line for connections. They want to connect themselves with whatever brand, product, service or event they’re waiting to gain access to, and they also want to connect with other people who have similar interests. Take iPhone releases for example. For the iPhone 7 release, a publication in the UK reported a line forming more than 5 days prior to the phone’s release. And that’s not at all uncommon. Care to venture a guess about how Apple feels regarding this publicity? Spoiler Alert: They love it.

What is this “social proof?”

And that’s what we call social proof. (Don’t worry – if you thought social proof was about social media, you’re not alone.) No, social proof is actually the credibility your business can build by being perceived as popular both online and in person.

But unfortunately for business owners like you, you can’t just snap your fingers and voila – social proof! Most of the local business owners we serve aren’t going to get long lines of people waiting outside your establishment for a first look at your product or service. Bummer. Instead, you’ve got to invest time and effort into building up social proof with your current customers and clients.

How so?

Once you set the framework for building social proof, your loyal customers and fans will do the rest of the work for you. According to a research done by Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know. That’s why instead of trusting commercials and advertisements, people are turning more and more to their peer networks for recommendations.

How do you get in on the social proof game?

1. Watch your online ratings and reviews closely.

Based on the stat above, one of the most influential things you can to do build trust with the online community is to manage your online ratings and reviews.

Positive reviews will contribute to building your social proof — which should make plenty of sense. But negative reviews aren’t anything to shy away from. Use a negative review to flex your customer service muscles.

Prospects who happen upon these negative reviews may be extra-impressed at your transparency and extended level of service.

2. Gather testimonials.

Whether you run a new small business or an established one, it’s likely you have at least a few hardcore fans. It’s time to put yourself out there, and ask them if they’d be willing to provide positive testimonials about your business. Most brand advocates are so pleased with you that they’re more than happy to sing your praises — all you have to do is ask.

Once they agree, there are a few ways to get the most bang for your buck for each testimonial:

  1. Get the testimonial on video. Written testimonials are great, but videos really bring them to life.
  2. Encourage them to share their positive testimonial on your social sites and on any other relevant review sites. The key here is that the testimonials come from their name, not yours.
  3. Repurpose the testimonial wherever you can – on your website and social media pages, on printed marketing materials and sales collateral, even on vehicle wraps or posters displayed in your storefront (think: before and after photos of fitness clients at the local gym).

3. Go after social media followers and fans.

Okay, so social proof is a little about social media. Think about it this way – if you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, and one reseller has 1,000 fans on Facebook while another has 10,000, which are you more likely to trust? Probably the one with the larger following. And that’s admittedly a little unfair. Because the more popular brand on social isn’t necessarily the brand with the higher quality service. But since they’re more popular, they’re likely to gain more and more business more quickly.

That also means there’s a little bit of a growth curve to building social proof on sites like Facebook. It’s a lot harder to gain the first thousand followers or fans than it is to go from 10,000 to 11,000. So start small. Ensure you’ve got your business’s pages established and are posting regularly. Then, consider budgeting for social ads. More on that here.

4. Collect certifications and badges.

People trust seals of authority, even if they’re not that familiar with the certifying organizations themselves. So if you’re in a business where you had to become certified to do what you do (and many of you are), show it off! Most professional certifications offer badges showing you took the time and effort to become legit. Append them to your website or business cards, and make them as prominent as possible.

Is your business part of any professional or trade organizations? Chambers of commerce and other local business associations are more than happy for you to place their badges on your website and other materials, given you’re a member in good standing. These lend lots of credibility to your business in the eyes of prospects and clients. More. Social. Proof.

5. Dish out your most impressive stats.

Here’s where you get to brag on yourself a little bit. If you don’t tell your customers all the cool stuff you’ve been doing, for whom, and for how long, they may not otherwise know! So if your small business has serviced 500 clients in the last month, promote that stat! If your team worked over 1,000 hours last week helping local customers with their biggest problems, share that stat as well! Though the stats are coming straight from you, the implication that more people rely on your business than a prospect might have otherwise thought can increase your social proof dramatically.