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Are Credentials Dead Online?

December 1, 2020 | Social Proof on Websites

Table of Contents

  • What Are Credentials?
  • Why do Credentials Matter Online?
  • Doctors Successfully Use Social Media to Grow their Real World Practices
  • How Did Dr. Miami Create His Social Media Following?
  • How Did Dr. Pimple Popper Create Her Social Media Following?
  • Where Did We get the Data that Shows Credentials are Dead Online?
  • Why Should You Care Who Uses Credentials Online Anymore?

What Are Credentials?

“A credential, as applied to a person and not a digital technology, is any evidence of authority, high status, exclusive rights or entitlement to privileges; usually in written form such as a license, diploma, certificate, degree, et al.  A credential provides the basis for consumer confidence, belief or credit and is often required to open or start a business in professional services.”

Recent survey evidence shows that eight of the major conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialist organizations in the world do not use professional credentials, by their definition, more than 5% of the time.

Instead, they use single influencers over 50% of the time as social proof to establish trust with web shoppers moving through the sales funnel.

Why do Credentials Matter Online?

If you are a doctor, accountant, engineer, architect or any of the credentialed professions then this chart below is simply a signal that website conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialists rely more heavily on online influencers than on licensed professionals.  

Am I worried?  

No, not when I see people like Dr. Miami and Dr. Pimple Popper (see below) becoming social media influencers in their own right. 

Should I be worried?  

Perhaps.  As more and more activity moves online – not just advertising – smaller, local businesses risk getting pushed aside by more internet savvy firms (which, due to their admin and marketing teams, tend to be corporate or franchise locations).  

What about the 2nd Dr. Miami?  Or, the third?  What about the 100th Dr. Pimple Popper?  How will they compete online?

Obviously, there are many skilled dermatologists and cosmetic (plastic) surgeons; many of whom have already started to move to online and social media marketing.  A veterinarian in my local community does a great job on Instagram – totally in-house marketing as far as I can tell.  

There are many, many doctors moving online.  There are 87 medical specialties and sub-specialties in the United States in 2020.

I actually see an opportunity when looking at this graph:  over 53% of the social proof used online by the 8 big CRO vendors (blue bar) is single influencer while less than 5% is in the form of Credentials, Licenses, Certifications and Terminal Academic Degrees, such as a PhD (green bar).  

Are Credentials Dead Online?
The Red bar is online Influencers; the Green bar are the credentialed professions

Seems like an opportunity to me!

The relative difference between Credentials and Influencers is largely driven by what is called the ‘Influencer Phenomenon’ of the last 10 years where individuals create an online following around their skill, passion, creative or personality.  

Doctors Successfully Use Social Media to Grow Real World Practices

Doctors and other people with credentials can bridge that gap – they can become online influencers, too.  

Here are two doctors that have successfully bridged the gap:  Dr. Miami and Dr. Pimple Popper:

Dr. Miami (Michael Salzhauer, center) a cosmetic surgeon with the entourage of rapper Fetty Wap
Dr. Pimple Popper (Sandra Lee, dermatologist) from Southern California

How Did Dr. Miami Create His Social Media Following?

Dr. Miami created his social media following by Snapchat-ing his cosmetic surgery procedures with the Snapchat app.  Many of these surgical procedures had never been seen before by the Snapchat demographic.

  • Breast augmentations
  • Tummy tucks
  • Brazilian butt lifts 

We’ll be providing a Social Media Audit of Dr. Miami’s whole YouTube and Snapchat social feed for free so sign up to our email list to get your notification.

How Did Dr. Pimple Popper Create Her Social Media Following?

Dr. Pimple Popper created her social media following by video-ing and YouTubing surgical procedures online; specifically large, gross pimples that had NEVER been seen online before within a medical context.  

The videos were shared extensively, creating viral growth in the demand for Dr. Lee’s dermatology services.

We’ll be providing a Social Media Audit of Dr. Pimple Popper’s whole YouTube social feed for free so sign up to our email list to get your notification.

Where Did We get the Data that Shows Credentials are Dead Online?

To be clear, WE created the four groups you see in the image above BECAUSE the eight CRO experts we looked at have actually created 64 different categories of social proof they used to improve website conversions!  

You can see the full story on social proof and how many actual categories exist on this blogpost.

To add context to the question of credentials is the backstory on the data – our team went and collected survey data from 8 of the world’s largest CRO vendors listed below.

The eight CRO experts listed here created the 64 different categories listed here:

Raw data matrix of 8 CRO vendors with each type of social proof listed
Raw data matrix of 8 CRO vendors with each type of social proof listed

To bring order to the chaos of 64 different types of social proof we tried to make sense of this by creating 4 groups of social proof – this is the color coding your see in the image.  The color legend is below:

We discussed additional details about the study here.  

Why Should You Care Who Uses Credentials Online Anymore?

First, my interest in credentials used online is somewhat selfish.  

I am a licensed physical therapist and I work with many other physical therapists, physicians, dentists, veterinarians and chiropractors – all licensed professionals – to improve their online social presence using social proof.  

So, it’s a VERY important question to me for those two reasons:  

  1. What is the value of my professional credential (license) online.  How much ‘social proof’ do I have as a physical therapist?
  2. What is the BEST form of social proof I should recommend to my professional clients:  credentials or single influencers?  

The shift to un-licensed influencers online appears to be a relative shift so many influencers have jumped online in the past decade and are attempting to monetize their followers while the supply of physicians, architects, attorneys and accountants has grown much more slowly.

The good news, it appears, is that licensed professionals are catching up.  Doctors, especially, face serious obstacle to the use of social media – mainly patient privacy and safety – but there are also objections from within the ranks that simply sound like old-fashioned resistance to change.

More good news!  There are ‘principles’ of social media that are based in social science with sound research going back 75 years that has just started to be described and used.

Check out the Seven New Laws of Social Media in 2020 that we’ve also put together for your use – hit us back with a comment or a question if you implement these in your own practice.

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