It determines, at some level, who will buy from you instead of going to a competitor, how well your audience will react when you ask something of them, and most importantly, what level of brand loyalty you’ll see, whether you’re a coffee shop or a precision manufacturer. Without trust, it’s hard to get customers to keep coming back.
Interestingly enough, trust in business has been going down recently. Fewer than one in five people trust corporate or government leaders to tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue. And yet at the same time, trust in social media is fairly high amongst many groups, making social media a great outlet for businesses to build relationships with customers and strengthen their brand.
That, of course, can’t happen without trust. Here are a few specific reasons why trust matters so much on social media:
- Strong relationships drive social media. Social media is just that: social. Strong relationships are still a primary driver of success on social media, and building strong relationships requires an audience that trusts you. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t seem honest, open, and authentic–all key elements of building trust online–and without relationships and community, it’s hard to find success on social media.
- Switching costs are low. With many more people publishing today than ever, and with an abundance of brands, switching costs for consumers are low (this is true in B2B as well, though perhaps less so than with B2C). Because it’s so easy for customers to walk away and go to another brand, you need to be especially careful about what you say and do on social media.
- Do something that causes your user base not to trust you, and they’ll be gone. Social media creates great opportunities for driving loyalty, but it also is very easy for your followers to switch their allegiance if you give them a reason not to trust you.
- “It takes a chorus.” As Edelman notes in their 2014 Trust Barometer, it takes a chorus to build trust. More specifically, “strong leadership sets the tone and tenor for engagement throughout an organization.” Although we don’t want to say that social media is a suitable replacement for strong leadership, diversifying your voice and creating multiple data points about your brand is a great way to drive people back to your brand.
- At the same time, presenting a unified message across all of your publication mediums is key to making your business seem trustworthy–so don’t skimp on that opportunity. Trust is good business, and social media is a great way to strengthen trust.
- Social media is now a trusted medium. Although traditional media once ruled the day (and is still a trusted medium in some circles), social media is now a trusted medium, too. 45 percent of people trust social media, and 63 percent trust online search engines and reviews; together, they give you a powerful set of tools for finding customers, engaging with them, and building trust. Use this trust to your advantage in order to help build your brand.
What does all of this mean in real terms? It means that you won’t get anywhere without first establishing trust. Trust about what you’re publishing, who your organization is and why people should care about it, what you’re trying to accomplish with social media, and more. It also means that authenticity is key. Trying to sell? Don’t attempt to veil it–be up front about what you’re trying to do. Make a mistake? It’s okay to own up to it–don’t act like it never happened.
Despite general claims that social media is anything but (which in some cases is true), social media is called social media because it’s social. You won’t get anywhere without taking the time to build a community and make honest connections with those you care most about–your customers. Like anywhere else in life, relationships on social media are founded on transparency and trust, and that goes for businesses as much as it does for individuals.
In an era when many people possess a deep-seated distrust for most forms of media, social media remains a bright spot. Being on social media means that you have access to an audience that trusts you, but that also means returning the favor and treating your followers with honesty and respect.
At least for the time being, social media is a very powerful tool for creating relationships. Don’t ruin your chance at building those relationships by betraying the trust of those who follow you on social media.
Image credit: CC by Adrian Ruiz