4 Ways to Use Social Proof
(Before Anyone Knows Who You Are)

image of hands waving in the air

Have you read the classic post from the Copyblogger archives explaining why you need to leverage social proof on your blog? If so, then I don’t need to convince you how important social proof is for online success.

Social proof is pretty simple. It’s just the human instinct that if someone else is doing something (buying a product, reading a blog, jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge) then it’s probably a good thing to do.

It’s not right and it’s not wrong — it’s just how we human beings are wired.

Social proof can give a blog great momentum. Once you have lots of readers, you’ll find new people purely because you have lots of readers.

But how can you pull it off when you’re just starting out and don’t have much social proof to leverage?

For example, new readers to Copyblogger glance over at the left-hand side of the site and see that more than 129,000 people already subscribe. The most common line of thinking is “Hm, maybe I should do that, too. 129,328 subscribers can’t be wrong, right?”

But when you’re just getting your blog off the ground, this kind of social proof simply doesn’t help. It took me a year to get 1000 subscribers on my blog, and when I did I proudly displayed my subscriber count for all to see — only to take it down a few months later because Feedburner was unreliable about displaying the right number.

You may not be able to use the same specific social proof techniques that the big blogs do. But there are at least four reliable ways I know to use social proof when your blog is still in the beginner stages.

1. Encourage comments

In the early days, a blog post that has no comments is like a party without people: no one wants to be the first one to show up.

A lively comment discussion shows new readers that your blog has an engaged community to interact with — that other cool people are at this party. The problem is, nobody wants to be first to comment, even if plenty of people are comfortable being second, third, and fourth.

One way to get readers over the hurdle is to specifically ask for comments. You can also end every post with a great question that encourages response. Some blogs even offer prizes for the best commenters.

But if you’re still having a hard time getting comments going on your posts, there’s an easy way to break the ice.

Get yourself a blog buddy who will comment on every post you write (you can do the same for them). Reply to each of their comments promptly.

When you respond to comments, others are encouraged to join in. Now that your blog buddy has broken the ice, others will be more comfortable about joining the conversation.

You may want to extend this to a small blog pack, a group of bloggers in a related topic who support one another’s work. It’s a great way to boost your traffic and subscriptions.

2. Tell stories

Social proof doesn’t always have to be about big numbers. You can also share stories that show how you’ve benefited others.

When I set up my web design company in 1998, I ran across many business owners who were skeptical about the need for a website. I started telling the skeptics a true story about one of my clients who shared their fears. That client took the plunge and cancelled his yellow pages ad so he could test the waters with a website instead.

He never looked back. His website was able to generate new leads for a smaller investment. And while his costly yellow pages ads ended up in the recycling bin the next year, his website is a great investment for years to come.

That story helped a lot of people find their courage and set up their own sites. Engage your blog readers by telling compelling stories that show how someone else has benefited from taking your advice.

You don’t have to go overboard — bragging will often chase readers away. Instead, tell the story like you would to a friend over lunch and you’ll hit the right note.

3. Get testimonials

In the early days of my blog I put up a raving readers page to let people know that yes, this blog did have some readers. And better yet, those readers were interesting, engaged, and global.

There are lots of ways to make testimonials work for you — but first you have to collect some.

When you start a new business or blog you may not have any clients who can vouch for you yet. Try giving a few people something for nothing and ask for a testimonial if they like it. Start with your friends and branch out from there. If you can’t outright give your product away, at least give out some free trials or samples.

Make it easy for people to give you testimonials. Try asking specific questions. You can also write up any compliments you get by email or over the phone, then ask for your fan’s approval to use it as a testimonial on your website.

(I hope it goes without saying, never write fake testimonials. You’re aiming to build credibility and trust here, not destroy it.)

If you offer a high-quality service or product, your customers will want to help you promote it. Include the name of the person and that person’s occupation or company if it’s relevant. Pictures can also improve your testimonials’ credibility and enhance the element of proof.

4. Incorporate media

Being mentioned in the media is another great way to leverage social proof. It’s surprisingly effective to add, “As mentioned/recommended in the Smalltown Weekly” to your blog’s About page, even if the media outlet is a minor one. Gather a few mentions and you might decide to create a dedicated media page. And while you’re at it, remember that a mention on a big blog can be at least as powerful as a print publication.

Two of my friends have a half-serious competition to get the most mentions in local papers this year. If the prize is a more successful business and bigger client list, I’d say they’re both going to win.

Spend some time brainstorming ways your business might be mentioned in the press, on social media, or on TV. Can you make a friendly call to journalists or bloggers who write about your topic, tell them what you do, and ask them if they’d like a free sample or a free consultation to offer to readers? Could you speak free of charge at an event to get your name out there and establish your expertise? What story can you tell that would interest your local paper or favorite blog?

Have fun and be creative. Even when your blog is brand-new, you can start leveraging social proof today while you wait for your RSS subscriber count to grow.

And of course, as your subscriber count grows, you’ll have even more options.

How about you? What’s your favorite tip for leveraging social proof on your blog?

About the Author: Annabel Candy has been teaching people how to win business online since 1996. If you want empowering tips for life and work including blogging, Internet marketing, and entrepreneurship, check out her blog Get In the Hot Spot.

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Comments

  1. Hey Annabel,

    I love to encourage commenting on my blog. That is one of my favorite ways to provide social proof. Next, I’m going to work on getting testimonials from my readers. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

    BTW…When I first visited this blog. The number of subscribers was the first thing I looked at and said…”They must be doing something right!”

  2. Thank you Annabel for these awesome insights on improving social proof.

    I know for myself it’s a measure that holds me back a lot because I feel like without any social proof I have nothing to stand on.

    I’ve also noticed that getting established and credible sources to highlight your products/services on their own site can help create more social proof.

    Above all, thank you for saying it took nearly a year to get 1000 subscribers. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never get there and you just reminded me that I just takes time. :)

  3. You mentioned some great points!
    I would also like to add that it is important to leave “meaningful” comments… rather than just a simple one-line statement such as “Great Post”.
    I think bloggers like it when you comment on something specific in their post, because it shows that you actually read their work and that you may contribute an opinion about it.
    Sometimes it’s about “quality… not quantity”.
    Those are just my thoughts.

  4. Listing reader attributes can help too because sometime it’s not large numbers that move people to action but the perception that “people like me” are doing something.

    For example, on my blog I started getting lots of hits from around the world so now I make sure to include a map that shows where readers are as well as list the countries. The more I promoted that the more the numbers kept rising. I’ve found people are more moved to action by the fact that readers from more than 130 counties have stopped by because it make them curious.

  5. Hey Annabel.. I never thought about telling stories as a way to build social proof. I can how those would make really good blog posts.

    Having lots of comments is a big sign that a blog is popular so, I encourage a lot of it on my blog. I noticed that the more comments I received, the more comments came in..

    Its great..
    thanks for this post

    Hector Cuevas

  6. Hi Annabel

    I love the idea of the ‘blog pack’. I have a number of business associates who tend to post comments because they already know me. But not enough new follk.

    I think that inviting them to be part of the ‘pack’ is a good plan.

    What is encouraging is that my average visitor viewing time is 6 mins – which tells me visitors are reading my posts.

    But then to be honest I don’t know what I am measuring the viewing time against? Any yardsticks you can suggest?

    Joe

  7. I love the idea of a blog pack. I have just completed 100 blog comment challenge with a number of fairly new bloggers to get a lot of blog comments.

    It took some doing I can tell you and the organizer is asking if we want to do it again and when. It was very time consuming so the idea of a small pack is very appealing.

    Now why didn’t I think of that?

    Sandy

  8. “Make it easy for people to give you testimonials.”

    So many folks are willing to give you great feedback on products, services and freebies. We often fail to ask or give them a cool example of how to leave a great testimonial.

    A third party recommendation/report from real people who’ve experienced your work is strong social currency.

  9. Hi there Annabel, thanks for your insight.
    A couple of years ago, we started our travel journals blog … with a map and no compass ;-) so it’s taken a loooong time to get it into the shape we want it to be … but now we’re ready to take it to the next step and your tips on social proofing are invaluable. Thank you!

  10. Great tips. I recently moved my blog from Typepad to WP and lost over half my readers (and all my commenters!!) in the process, so this advice is very timely.

    • Ouch, I did that a few years ago. Not pretty, but earlier is better.

    • Lain

      I moved my blog 7 months ago and poof all the commenters left but the strangest of all is that I have more subscribers. Take the good with the bad I suppose. I have been noticing that many blogs are not getting the 100’s of comments that they once had. I love comments and miss those that are not sharing their thoughts but the subscribers going up is a plus, to me at least. I know I am getting people who want to read each day and not fly by nighters who are reading and commenting to get a link.

      We can plug along together and see what happens.

      @SuzanneVara

  11. Hey Annabel – Thinking back to how I got my first comments (which was just the beginning of the year, and I can’t even remember), I’m pretty sure it was a result of trial and error with posting good stuff and doing a LOT of commenting on other blogs.

    Same with tweets and retweets. There seemed to be direct link between how often I was retweeting and how often I was tweeting good stuff of my own.

    Cheers,
    Tia

  12. Totally agree about the power of testimonials. When I first started writing and coaching I did it free asking only for a testimonial and I think I owe all mu subsequent clients to that policy.

    I like your idea of telling stories on the blog and will try to do that more often, but I find its difficult to get comments any advice on how to encourage them?

  13. Social proof is a concept that is talked about a lot, but you seldom recognise that it’s being used on you.

    For example – consider these phrases 60% of people write in our guest book upon leaving our hotel, or most people say we make the best coffee – okay, so you can spot these.

    But what if, your about to buy a new brand of deodorant? And you see two beautiful women surrounding the guys that purchase it – it effects you at a deep psychological level. Let’s assume that you spot this…what if all your friends are going to a particular bar – will go you go too?

  14. It seems like everything that has been written in this
    post is so much related to my new blog. I love the idea of bringing together bloggers from the same niches and leaving comments. It is going to be on my todo list.
    Great and Informative Post. Thank you.

  15. Thanks for this post – all great tips to put into action! I like the blog pack idea; haven’t tried that yet. I always find reminding and encouraging comments on every post (not just occasionally) is helpful.

  16. Great article. Social proof is huge.

    I read in the book “Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” by Robert Cialdini that one of those TV shopping channels increased their sales significantly by simply applying the power of social proof. I forget the numbers, but it was SIGNIFICANT.

    What did they do?

    All they did was change a line that said something along the lines of “Our operators are standing by and waiting for your call” to “If you call and cannot get through, please call again”.

    From bored and waiting to busy and selling. Social proof sending sales through the roof.

  17. As a complement to these tips, another strategy to think about is eliminating negative social proof on your blog.

    If you’re just starting out and you have a bunch of posts with zero comments, then why broadcast this to the word? Removing the “0 Comments” from the homepage until things gather steam might be a smart idea. Only when people click through and read the post will they discover no one has commented yet – but at least you’ve eliminated one potential barrier to getting your stuff read.

    The same goes for the Retweet button.

    Another social proof strategy I’ve seen some people utilize on websites and sales letters is displaying positive tweets other people have written about them or their content. You can favorite these and then use them where appropriate almost like mini testimonials.

    Thanks for the ideas :)

  18. I like the “blog buddy” idea. That is a great way to get the comments started. Thanks as always for a valuable post. Blessings, Amy

  19. Having “blog buddies” is a great way to get started. I gained a small pack of them literally by accident, but it’s something that I try to maintain adn comment on their blogs as well, because it has increase my traffic tremendously.

    It’s funny how a “0 comments” post is a HUGE deterrent for someone reading a new blog, but a HUGE reward if you are the first to comment on a a-list site like Copyblogger, because you know it will give you extra traffic.

    I also like the social proof power of the media page. When you are just getting started, you can list that you were mentioned on even the smallest site. It just shows more exposure. As you get bigger, you can change your page to show your best mentions.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  20. This article is bang on!

    I know for a fact that on one of my nich blogs I had to train and encourage my readers to leave comments by ASKING them like a call to action.

    Organizing a group pack was a good suggestion that I will implement on my newest site where my readers are a bit shy.

    There is a wordpress plugin that can manage and display your testimonials.

    To get the ball rolling you can pay a couple people to comment on all your posts and or Facebook comment.

    I am guilty of neglecting my RSS feed. I need to get on that

  21. Thanks Annabel,

    I’m a relatively new blogger, so that first 1,000 seems pretty intimidating. I love the blog pack idea. I’m going to start looking for some relevant blogs now.

    If anyone reading the comments is interested let me know!

    Thanks,

    Nicole

  22. My tip: Write with passion! When I see it (true passion with unguarded personality), I comment. When I don’t, I don’t.

  23. Thanks for this post. I’m in the middle of writing a how-to e-book and this gave me the idea to ask people to leave feedback on my site (or email me) in the book. This way I can get more testimonials and get ideas for revisions down the road.

  24. I never realized it was so hard to get people to comment. Many people will write me an amazing email, but not comment on the blog.

    My biggest numbers come from spammers:(

    • I think Twitter plays a big role — people put their comments there rather than on the blog. Which is nice, because it allows for others to see the remark and come check you out. But it’s also really good to have plenty of comments right there on the blog as well.

      And don’t feel too bad, Copyblogger has blocked more than one million spam comments. :) Thank goodness for Akismet!

  25. Very nice.

    Two previous blogs that I sold, had comment buddies. Friends of mine with whom I set up a revolving comment squad. It worked. But since I started a new blog and have not assembled the squad again, I’ve abysmally failed to spark interest. I know how depressing it is when you blog with comments from readers.

    Heck, I can’t even get my girlfriend to comment on my posts. She admires them but to comment is like pulling the teeth of a tiger.

    Start the ball rolling yourself by being the first to comment after each post. My logic is simple. You set the tone. When you don’t show up for your party, no one will.

  26. Hi Annabel,
    Thank you loads for such a useful post. I have a folder filled with thank you notes and positive comments that I’ve kept quiet but now I’ll enter them on my brand new testimonials page.

    I’m just building my blog now to support my website and give me and my customers a chance to connect. It’s only half-way there and I have no comments on anything yet.

    If anyone wants to join a blog pack related to proofreading, writing and publishing then please get in touch; I could use a start and I’ll willingly contribute to any blog worth its salt.

    Cheers everyone and thanks again Annabel,
    Jax

  27. This has been one of the most helpful posts to date; or the reminder came at the perfect time.

    Thanks again.

  28. Telling stories is so important. In all of my communications, either print or in person, I always start with a personal story to let them know who I am.

  29. Even though your readers might not comment directly on your blog, they might mention you on Twitter somehow.

    Like Mark said, use those tweets as testimonials, or use them in a post and expound on the topic to add some social proof. You can even send out a tweet later thanking those users and link them to the post.

  30. Great straightforward explanation of how to leverage (build) social proof. I have collected testimonials so they will be incorporated. I love to share my stories so they will also be featured in my blog. Comments will always be welcomed. Getting the media involved may be my biggest challenge but I will work on it.
    I am in the midst of a big learning curve and you are definitely one of my teachers, Annabel. Thank you!

  31. Tell stories! I love it! I will incorporate this idea.

    Annabell, since I have no idea who you are, a little social proof in your article woul d have gone a long way.

  32. Thanks Annabel! I like your suggestions for leveraging social proof. I forget to do that, but have noticed some of the things you mentioned in your post on other blogs. I will apply what you have said here to my blog and the one I’m creating with my writing samples. I was thinking of joining the Chamber of Commerce and speaking with Toastmasters to get started. Oh why not – I think I will, no excuses – just action.

    • Hi Gabrielle, toastmasters in on my to do list too:)

    • Hi Gabrielle, I visited your blog and I noticed that the past blog posts do not show the number of comments i.e. the ones that have been posted before your two most recent posts. The reason why you will want to show this is that you want to entice anyone visiting your website for the first time to immediately become connected to the posts with the highest number of readers.

      This may be something that you need to address.

  33. Hi Annabel

    Well done with this post. You have given some great advice on how to take advantage of social proof when just starting out. I took a lot away from this and I really liked your tips on providing reader testimonials.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Michael

    P.s Good luck with your efforts to get to Blog World!

  34. This is a great article. Everytime I visit this website there is always a nugget of wisdom that I can take away to implement on my blogs. Thanks for a great resource.

  35. I’ve been toying with the idea of testimonials on my blog for a while now–maybe I’ll actually go ahead and do it! Thoughts on format? Should there be a Testimonials page, or just list them on the side? Hmmmm…

    Thanks too for saying that blog comments are their own form of social proof. I can’t tell you what a relief that is to hear. As you know, my subscriber numbers aren’t huge, but my readers are incredily engaged. I really think I get some of the most thoughtful and insightful comments anywhere on the web.

    Terrific post, Annabel. One of the best I’ve seen here in a while, which is saying something!

    • Hi Jen, so good to hear you have engaged readers. That’s way more important than vast numbers of subscribers who don’t really care. Of course vast numbers of subscribers who do care would be ideal!

      Re where to put them. Slip them in anywhere you can. I got two in my blog post today:)

  36. You inspired me to change my “About” page in order to add the fact that I was published in a nationally recognized home-school magazine years ago. Thanks for the tips!

  37. Interesting point about showing how your well connected makes people flock to the blog more. What do you think about those choice boxes below a blog, intereting, boring, informative etc, are those good for making people comment?

  38. Don’t forget the killer strategy of putting an image on your site saying “xx monthly readers,” pulling the number from your absolute unique visitors.

    See Ittybiz for an example.

  39. What would we do without a community? Just read the ‘blog pack’ post. IT is quite difficult to get someone you met ‘out of the blue’ to form part of such an alliance. But once you have it pulled through, I reckon uit should work just dandy.

    I will explore this some more and post a ‘testimonial’ here when I have some ‘proof’.

    • Ivin, if you’re commenting on the person’s blog regularly and writing quality material on their topic, it won’t feel out of the blue at all. That’s how I’d recommend getting started in forming your blog buddy or pack.

  40. Thanks Annabel
    I’m launching my Life Dreaming blog next week as part of a phased in strategy before we launch the LD Expedition next year.

    One of the things I did at the beginning of this year was start a Life Dreaming Facebook page. Every week I’d add an update or video … give people the behind the scenes story of the development of the business.

    I have 90 or so delightful fans [I refuse to call them Likes!] and the first thing people see on the front page of the LD blog is the Facebook box with the 90 people in it.

    Small start but when people drop in they will see that there are already people at the party and hopefully will want to join in.

  41. My blog is considerable new, precisely less than two months old now since it went public. I get a lot of page views but little or no comments. Been creatively asking them to share their thoughts by commenting, but hasn’t been working. I guess i will just have to take it a step further by commenting first.

    However, I do have a question; commenting on blogs requires a lot of creative thinking, I know how hard it can get sometimes trying to come up with something useful to contribute after reading a post. What if your readers don’t have enough experience to share or too lazy to think, how can you help stare up their thoughts besides asking questions? I’ve tried that out in previous endeavours, didn’t seem to work. Just wondering if there are other methods available.

    Thank you so much for the tips!

    • Hi Tito, it does take time to build readers, and active ones are far and few between. Maybe avoid asking a yes/no question at the end of your post (like was this helpful?) and try asking something like: which leaders or business people inspire you and why?

      If you do get any comments nurture them by replying like Farnoosh does:) Keep at it. Looks like a great concept.

      • Oh thanks Annabel for this wonderful tip. wouldn’t have known that a yes/no question is a wrong approach. Will go ahead to re-frame all the yes/no questions i have littering on the blog, :)

        Thanks so so much!

        • Tito, I noticed that there are no comments links on your blog posts as well as the number of comments left on each post. I think you have broken one of the cardinal rules of blogging here. You need to make it easy for readers of your blog to comment.

  42. Great advice and a well written post.

    I have been working on replying to all comments lately to encourage more comments and conversation. Hopefully this helps to get more loyal readers and commenters.

    I will also ask some of the commenters if I can use their comments as testimonials. Such great advice!

    I also have a feedburner counter, but it’s only showing 200 readers. Should I keep it or do you suggest it is working against its intention?

    • I think you have to go with your conviction on this Marthe. If you have 200 readers that is a fantastic readership, provided you continue to put out quality blog posts out there it can only get better.

      Don’t let your motivation be driven by numbers because most of the times it is a false economy. Anyway congratulations on achieving 200 readers.

  43. Oooh, so much knowledge shared by bright and generous people. Copyblogger rocks! Thanks, Annabel and commentees.

  44. Dear Annabel, thank you for writing about a topic dear to every blogger…I love your tips! I don’t know when but at some point – a small tipping point happened to my blog where I started to get readership and comments. I started to respond to every comment without an exception – at first I thought it a silly thing to do but then I followed my gut which was the DESIRE to respond and talk to every reader – and I can’t second that suggestion enough BUT remember to respond with sincerity, to really want to respond and keep the dialogue going….Sincerity and kindness to your readers goes a very, very long way! That must be the one thing I am most certain of – and it’s the same way to live life too!

  45. From someone who’s just started a new blog, this post was extremely helpful. Writing great content that no one knows about can be very discouraging. The beginnings of a new blog is a lonely landscape that we must tread with single-minded focus.

    I know by laying the proper foundation and with expert guidance (by following grrrrreat advice like this one), the fruit of my labor is just over the hill, however distant it may seem now.

    The Blog Pack idea sounds like a great way to get the ball rolling, especially for new bloggers like me. Thanks so much for the wonderful tip!

  46. Thanks for a helpful post. I agree with Farnoosh above me that if you respond to every comment, you’ll start getting more and more. I also have the philosophy of being 100% honest when people ask me questions. Thanks for a great post.

  47. Hi Anabel,
    There are some gems in this post! I appreciate the great tips and advice.
    My company shows people the absolute necessity of introducing a properly executed Social Media campaign into their marketing efforts.
    While it’s caught on well in the States, Canada is lagging behind in their understanding of the power of Social Media. (we’re soooo conservative sometimes ;)
    I truly believe that giving visitors value for their patronage is the way to go and soon we’re going to see everyone giving away info on the internet to promote their business.
    Deliver alot, expect nothing and reap the rewards!
    Thanks again!
    Jacquie

  48. That is a fantastic article. We are all sort of lemmings!

  49. I think comments are my favorite form of social proof. My blog is only a month old, but I end every post with questions. In fact, I converted my newsletter to a blog for this reason. I want to hear others’ perspectives.

    Writing on parenting, marriage, and family issues may be too personal to comment? I am waiting for the brave soul to start the comments. Anyone interested in being a “blog buddy”?

    • Hi Marci, I visited your website and loved the content. It is right up my street. I have left you a couple of comments, and will do more when I can get to it. Well done!

  50. So I guess for a new guy like myself story telling is all I have until I am able to get tesimonials. Give me a good place to start with my new blog. Thanks,

    Joe

  51. Great post, Annabel. As a newbie blogger, I’m setting up my second blog. I’ve found plenty of posts & articles available on the web on “what” tools to use. They far outnumber the “how” tools so this is very refreshing. Thank you.

  52. Hi Annabel,
    Thanks so much for this great post. It has some really useful tips in it. It has a side-effect in allowing newbie bloggers to advertise for blog buddies, so…

    If there is anyone interested in being a blog buddy for a writing blog, I’d love to hear from you!

  53. Excellent. Simple. Helpful.
    Thanks !

    I almost didn’t write this comment, thinking how lost it would be among the 99 others, but then, I realized THAT’S YOUR POINT.

  54. I don’t know anything about blogging but that I want to write and get readership.

    I have some smallish stuff on Blogger.com but my experience so far is that it’s not being seen (and thus not read).

    I believe I’m at the very beginning. Anyone got any tips? It’s 9-14-10.

  55. This is the second time that I am reading this entry and I think won’t be the last. It is great to be reminded of what I must do.

    Thank you.

  56. It seems like these things are all very basic but it is GREAT to be reminded of them! My blog gets very few comments but it is picking up in social media with facebook and twitter. Well, I guess only time will tell.

  57. These are some helpful social proof tips.

  58. Another way to use social proof before your blog gets big is to get a ton of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Then you can display on your site how many Twitter followers or Facebook fans you have, and that will be proof enough to some visitors that you are a legit blog.

  59. Very informative. Thankfully I found this site talking about Social Proof. I’ll be checking other posts on this website and see how your information can benefit me.

    Again thanks for the topic.

  60. Ms. Candy – your article re: Social Proof was quite interesting and the tips are right on. I’m not a blogger, but many of my friends are. I do have a rather unusual request. In your article, you have a photo of hands waving. I’d like to use that photo for a flyer I’m making (I am deaf and we love anything with hands, since that is what we use to communicate). Do I have permission to use that photo? Let me know :) Thanks!