How to Use Social Proof for Boosting WordPress Plugin and Theme Sales (special announcement!)

We naturally like to feel validated that we’re making the right decisions. Whether it’s having the right dish at a restaurant or buying the right WordPress plugin for a new website project. When making these decisions, what better feeling is there than to know you’re part of the ‘popular crowd’ who also made the same purchasing decision?

This is called ‘social proof’ – a concept deeply rooted in the psychology and behavior of humans and now used as a highly effective marketing strategy. As a WordPress plugin or theme seller, it’s important to understand the various types of social proof and how they validate your customers’ decision making process. Additionally, some ‘social proof’ marketing tactics are easier to implement for startup WordPress businesses, so I’ll describe how each type of social proof can be used at various stages of your plugin or theme business’ marketing strategy.

By understanding how social proof impacts the customer journey, you can build more trust with those interested in your product and increase conversion rates.

Sales, Marketing, & Product Development

Social Proof Theory, Source: Psychology Notes HQ

Types of Social Proof

There are 5 different kinds of social proof that offer validation for purchasing decisions. Let’s dive into each one.

User Social Proof comes in the form of reviews and testimonials from users of your plugin or theme. As potential customers research your product, publicly displaying positive feedback you’ve received from other customers reinforces the decision to buy your product. Placing reviews or testimonials near an important location on your website, like your Call-to-Action (CTA) button, can have a significant impact on conversion rates.

The best part of user social proof is that it’s easy to implement on your website and free to obtain from your current customers – you just have to ask nicely 😉

“Wisdom of the Crowds” Social Proof is the idea that the purchasing decisions of a group will influence their peers to make the same decision. If something is really popular, this positive feedback loop can turn into the “Fear of Missing Out”. Commonly known as FOMO, this is a process that is psychologically proven to make people anxious. As WordPress plugin and theme sellers, we certainly don’t want to make our buyers anxious – and we probably won’t because our products are not exclusive – anyone can buy them and there’s no risk of limited supply.

In using FOMO as a marketing tactic, the goal should be to reinforce the idea that a lot of people like your WordPress plugin or theme. One of the main ways this can be accomplished is by adding recent customer activity notifications on your website, like free trial activations, sales, upgrades, and renewals. You know – those little animated pop-ups that say things like “Freebo just purchased XYZ Plugin!”

In using FOMO as a marketing tactic, the goal should be to reinforce the idea that a lot of people like your WordPress plugin or theme

There are a few plugins out there that can achieve basic FOMO strategies at no cost, but if you want features like Google Analytics integration, that will usually come at a premium. The main point is that it’s not hugely time-consuming to implement FOMO tools, nor is it very costly for the different options available (more about the cost later, plus a little surprise announcement!).

WPfomify Social Proof Event Notification

WPfomify Social Proof Event Notification, Source: WPfomify

“Wisdom of your Friends” Social Proof includes the recommendations and suggestions we get from trusted contacts, like friends or colleagues. Utilizing this form of social proof in your marketing may be a bit more abstract, but think of the “refer a friend” option you see on many websites nowadays. Referring a friend is one form of an affiliate program, but most advertising-based affiliate programs don’t offer many more social proof strategies.

Referring a friend or colleague is a far more personal and credible approach. Implementing this type of incentive should have a benefit for both the customer promoting your product and the person buying it. For example, you can give both customers 20% off their next purchase or renewal. This not only incentivizes sharing of the discount and purchasing of the product, but also fully incorporates social proof marketing tactics. Technically, this could be achieved with only discount codes tied to each referral partner, or better yet, a fully featured affiliate program that offers a “refer a friend” option via email, so everything can be tracked automatically for you. Dropbox made the “refer a friend” option famous by giving away free storage space for life for every invited contact who joined:

Dropbox Refer a Friend

Dropbox Refer a Friend, Source: Sumo

Expert Social Proof comes from industry thought leaders or influencers approving or recommending your product. This could be in the form of blogging, social media posts, or direct quotes, among other things. This is usually most appropriate for WordPress businesses that have had at least a few hundred sales or more and want to jumpstart their business even further using some high-level endorsements.

However, getting in touch with influential people who would be the right fit for marketing your product may not be easy regardless of the size of your business. They may also require fees to make a post about your product, and sometimes the posts can clearly appear to be “paid”. One option is to offer them a free license to your product in exchange for a public review, but paid recommendations in any form aren’t often a sustainable form of marketing for your business unless you can afford them regularly or can make the connections 😉

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Celebrity Social Proof comes from a celebrity endorsing a product publicly and is probably irrelevant for most WordPress plugins. However, celebrities can take different forms, and you might consider some of the big names in the WordPress ecosystem to be celebrities in their own right, but I would probably put most WordPress celebrities under the category of expert social proof because they’re experts in WordPress! So there’s a bit of a gray area on this one…

Key Factors Impacting the Buying Process

Leveraging social proof in your marketing is an almost guaranteed way to improve conversion rates based on some pretty simple and well-known factors of human psychology. Mainly, our need to belong is one of the fundamental aspects of our humanity. We want to be part of the ‘in-crowd’ (or at least identify with a group). It’s also worth mentioning that social proof increases transparency in your sales process, allowing customers to feel more confident and secure in their decision to purchase. Overall, social proof marketing allows you to build trust with potential customers, more closely identify with them, and offer transparency about customer satisfaction with your product.

Overall, social proof marketing allows you to build trust with potential customers, more closely identify with them, and offer transparency about customer satisfaction with your product.

So, clearly the different types of social proof should be used as part of an effective marketing strategy, but how can they be used in action to facilitate the buying process? What does it look like when implemented for WordPress plugins and themes? I’ll share a few examples of easily implemented social proof marketing strategies that can be added to any WordPress plugin or theme’s marketing strategy.

Example #1:

Publicly displaying other brand logos that have used your product or the number of users/customers your product has can create a lot of credibility in the buyer’s mind. They would be joining a huge number of customers who have had successful experiences with your product.

200k Websites Can't Be Wrong

Trusted by Other Customers

Example #2:

Showing high-quality reviews or testimonials with a photo and star rating on your website can be a highly motivating factor for buyers. While similar to testimonials, reviews are different in that they can be a bit more in-depth, should generally show up elsewhere on the internet (like, and the star rating visually helps to reinforce the quality of your product. Here are some other creative examples from WPMU.

WPfomify Social Proof Event Notification

WPfomify Review, Source: WPfomify

Example #3:

Upselling users to a higher membership plan or additional product can be promoted with social proof using banners on your pricing page, such as “Most Popular” pricing options.

Most Popular Pricing Option

It’s all about making your buyers feel like they’re joining a community they can identify with. In order to make buyers feel that level of inclusion, you can offer some type of exclusivity associated with your premium membership, like a “club” or members-only group. This can be anything from a Slack channel to a special forum or live chat support. Additionally, if you sell add-ons or bundles for your plugin or theme, explaining that these combinations are more attractive for other customers who saved money may also have an impact on the buyer’s mindset.

A perfect example is the Freemius DEV Slack, which is available to registered users who have started our SDK integration process with their plugin or theme. We’re glad to offer plugin and theme sellers this valuable resource to learn from each other.

Special Announcement: New Integration with WPfomify


WPfomify, Source: WPfomify

As promised, and since we embrace social proof in the buying process, we are happy to announce our new integration with WPfomify! They’re one of the leading providers of social proof and FOMO marketing solutions for WordPress. Their new integration with Freemius means you can display a wide variety of Freemius events directly on your website in real-time!

Since we embrace social proof in the buying process, we are happy to announce our new integration with WPfomify!

It’s worth checking out WPfomify features regardless of which social proof marketing solution you want to implement. Many tools out there use similar practices, but they don’t all have awesome integrations with Freemius!

Freemius Sellers can contact our team for a discount code.

cartoon girl with a laptop on a hammock and a sample code on the side an image of a sample codes
  1. Interesting article thanks! I have previously considered using FOMO popups on our own site where we sell WordPress plugins, but decided not to because I was concerned that it would distract customers from the all-important information and calls to actions about our plugins.

    Do you have any stats about the impact of FOMO popular for theme or plugin sellers compared to the risk of distracting the user?

    1. Those specific numbers might be hard to get, but we’re hoping to keep doing analysis on the impact of specific Freemius features on seller conversion rates. We’ve got solid stats on other features, like the automated cart abandonment recovery emails we send, but not yet on FOMO’s impact on conversion rates.

      Thanks for the awesome question!

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