Have you heard of social proof? If not, I don't blame you. It is a term that wasn't all that common 18 months ago but is now becoming a popular buzzword, with good reason.  Social proof is paramount if you want to grow your business in the internet economy and connect with the modern consumer.

Now, what exactly is social proof? Simply put, social proof IS influence. Examples are when you see a line out the door of a restaurant, when you see money in a tip jar, or when you see that everyone is buying the new iPhone. Social proof isn't a new concept, but in our social media driven world it has evolved to another level. For Loan Officers and Real Estate Agents, social proof are our online reviews.

Social proof is what consumers are looking for when doing their research online. Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Zillow are the main players for when people are checking you out. How many of you check companies/people out online before you do business with them? Raise your hands, everyone. People do business with you because they Know You, Like You, and Trust You. Social proof plays a huge part in that. However, I see too many that aren't leveraging their reviews or even worse, not even publishing them at all.

Before you can give consumers your value prop, before you can sell them on your abilities, you need them to WANT to connect with you. If you have no reviews or testimonials online, you will have less than a stellar chance of that happening.

As we all know, over 90% of consumers start their home buying journey online, so you want to make sure that 1) you can be found and 2) have your online reviews published for WHEN you are found. The current market conditions with rates and inventory being what they are have become the great equalizer for competition. Now more than ever lenders should be championing a social proof strategy, not just for the company, but for their Loan Officers. If you are being shopped or compared to the competition, your social proof will be what separates you.

One of the biggest mistakes Loan Officers make is focusing on only one review channel for their testimonials. Some only want Yelp, or Zillow, or Google. But when it comes to online reviews, you want them on every channel that you have a presence on. This means LinkedIn, Facebook, your website, etc... The simple fact is that not everyone goes to Yelp or Zillow. If you are 100% Yelp, then you are missing out on traffic from everywhere else. It is never wise to limit your presence as it will limit the pool of consumers you can get business from. Syndication is a major key. In this market, I think we can all agree that the more places consumers can find your reviews, the better your business will be.

Another mistake I see lenders make is the process they deploy to get testimonials. Some use third-party survey vendors that put consumers through an archaic interface, canned questions, and a complicated process. Studies show that you will get less than a 25% response rate when taking a "default/out of the box approach" to your surveys.

To make matters worse, I see lenders use a multi-page, multi-question methodology when sending out their surveys. Don't get me wrong; I get why they do it. The more information they have on the consumer's experience, the more they can improve their processes. But if your consumers are abandoning your 25-30 question survey, then none of that really matters, does it?

In the age of declining attention spans, 52% of consumers will abandon a survey if it is longer than 3 minutes. The more time it takes, the higher that percentage gets. Also, you need to consider that over 70% of consumers see surveys as an annoyance, even if they were satisfied with your service. The consensus among survey experts is to use 5 to 10 well-crafted and simple question surveys to get the best response. In short, don't overthink your surveys.

When social proof is so important to your business, make sure you find a system that takes a multichannel approach to review syndication, while delivering a simple, modern, well-crafted survey to the consumer. There are many vendors out there that can achieve this for your company. Personally, I prefer SocialSurvey, but I recommend you do your research on what you think will fit your workflow best. What is important is that you start focusing on your social proof now and get your testimonials out there.  If your customers say you are awesome at what you do, don't keep it a secret. Consumers are looking for those reviews online; they want to know what the regular Janes and Joes are saying. That way, when they do decide to make the biggest financial transaction of their life, they are confident they chose the right person.