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50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: How The King Harnessed Social Proof to Enhance His Market Power

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50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: How The King Harnessed Social Proof to Enhance His Market Power

150x150_socialProof_v1Say what you will about Elvis Presley, but the original American idol not only knew how to belt out a tune and break some hearts, but he was a pretty accomplished marketer too.

That’s because The King used “social proof” long before marketers borrowed the term from psychology—and defined it as whenever a consumer uses a product or service, then talks about it online. Whenever consumers give your brand positive reviews, testimonials, or endorsements, they’re helping you enhance your market power.

The Best Ways to Use Social Proof for Online Marketing

But how do you get customers to talk about your brand online? The key is be proactive (and creative!) when it comes to unearthing social proof. For example, Elvis named his 1959 greatest hits album “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.” He hadn’t even sold the album yet–but he leveraged social proof (X people like me, so you should too!) in his album title to increase sales. And guess what? The album went gold (selling 500,000 copies) and then platinum (selling 1 million-plus copies).

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Okay. So you may not have golden pipes, dreamy eyes, and censor-worthy hips. But you do have the tools you need to put social proof to work for you. All you need is a decent social media strategy, a little  social media monitoring, some planning, and a few customer satisfaction and market research surveys.

It sounds like a lot, but we won’t be cruel! Our Elvis-inspired social proof plan boils down to six simple steps:

1. Get the data to back up your claims. Sure, Elvis was able to draw on his fan base to create his epic album title. But you may not have numbers at the ready. So you should survey your target demographic with a market research survey to learn more about how you stack up against your competitors.

First, send a survey to your target demographic. (You can use SurveyMonkey Audience to find the right people to take your survey, including moms with kids under 18 years old who shop for products online.) And you could ask them a question like this:

Where do you most prefer to do your online shopping?

If 55% of moms name your website, you could shout, “1 in 2 moms prefer our brand over our major competitors!” And you’d have a nifty chart to back it up.

2. Capture customer success stories. You’ve got customers—now send them a customer feedback survey to kill two birds with one stone by:

a) Gathering customer feedback see where you stand, set goals, and make improvements to your business and

b) Using comment boxes to gather open-ended feedback from customers. Suddenly, open-ended feedback like, “I love your product—and I’d be lost without it!” can be used on your website, social media, and more—to show potential customers that people just like them think there’s a lot to love about your business.

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3. Pay Attention, Be Authentic, and Respond Quickly. RCA Victor released Elvis’ album as a CD in 1984 using fake (processed) stereophonic sound. Fans objected and the CD was quickly re-released in the original monophonic to appease them. Just like RCA Victor, you should actively monitor how people feel about your brand.

But now you need to practice social media monitoring to keep tabs on what people are saying about you online. If a complaint pops up, address it honestly and promptly. Don’t think of it as a problem but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate you’re paying attention to your customers and you’re genuinely concerned about their satisfaction.

4. The Buck Stops With You. No one knows your products and services and better than you do. Elvis knew that. Even though his original record label, A&R, had an in-house executive to oversee the sessions, Elvis acted as his own producer on the recording sessions. Brand management starts with you. Your social media strategy should include key people in your organization—and you!—actively practicing social listening by finding out what people think of your brand so you can be sure you’re putting your best foot forward every day.

5. Flaunt Your Successes. Elvis’ album was a compilation of Elvis’s hit singles (A-side songs that made Billboard’s Top Five and his best-performing B-side cuts). Fans like seeing Elvis, so the album cover featured Elvis in a gold lamé suit—14 times. This social (and visual) proof concept was so effective, it inspired no fewer than eight imitators from Bon Jovi (“100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong”) to Soulwax (“50,000,000 Soulwax Fans Can’t Be Wrong”) more than 50 years later.

6. Exceed Expectations. The album was reissued in 1997 with double the number of tracks, “bonus tracks” as they were called, giving the impression that buyers are getting even more than they paid for. You can use social listening to boost your social proof (and enhance your market power) by going out of your way—even just a little—surprise and delight your customers.

These are just a few ways you can leverage social proof to boost your market power. Get creative with the feedback you get from surveys. And remember: Listen up, respond quickly, and use surveys to track customer satisfaction over time. Pretty soon, you’ll get everybody singing, “We love you!”

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  • imw101

    “Even though his original record label, A&R, had an in-house executive to oversee the sessions, Elvis acted as his own producer on the recording sessions”

    That will be news to Sam Phillips (RIP) founder of Sun Records (his original record label) and every Elvis fan on the planet. fail

  • Elliott Brown

    Knowing when to brag is always a tough challenge–especially for a small business who might be biting off more than it can chew by being too audacious. Obviously, the King new how to take care of business, but is anyone concerned about the risks of claiming too much fame?

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