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You Have Trust Issues

August 17, 2010

Given recent events, people just don’t trust corporations as much as they used to. But who do they trust? When it comes to social media, people trust mainly two categories: credible third party experts (academics, some media sources, analysts, etc.) and people they know and trust.

This is demonstrated rather well by a recent study highlighted at eMarketer: “What Makes Social Media Trustworthy?” where they look at which sources of information are trusted by users of social media:

Notice 30% or less feel they trust a brand, product or company based on a Twitter feed or participation in an online community; less than 40% trust a brand’s Facebook updates or blog posts. However over 60% trust blog posts and Facebook updates from someone they know.

When asked to rate what was most important to making social sites trustworthy, users’ main concerns were that the dialogue be open to both positive and negative comments, the quality of content and the responsiveness of the content creator. These all point to best practices for companies participating in social media, which must show they are willing to deal with consumer complaints in a constructive way and be authentically involved in the conversation with social site visitors.

What are marketers to do? Forrester analyst Augie Ray posted a list of seven things he recommends organizations do to inspire trust and avoid the recent problems of Nestle and United Airlines. The list makes for interesting reading:

  1. You must be proactive: Nestle knew the palm oil/deforestation issue could blow up, but did nothing about it until it did
  2. You must improve customer support: Poor customer service now has the potential to do widespread damage to your brand. As Ray puts it,  “Marketers must view their customer service organizations as a key component in brand-building efforts”
  3. You must listen: It’s becoming more and more important for organizations to monitor online discussions to avoid escalating issues. There’s no risk – if you’re not listening to online conversations about your brand, you’re neglecting your brand
  4. You must participate: You don’t lose control when you participate in online conversations; you gain the opportunity to be heard. What’s more, it’s easier to address an issue on a central property than in a fragmented environment, which you may have to do if you don’t have a place to engage
  5. You must respond: As Ray writes, “how can you ignore damaging accusations that accumulate within your own Facebook group?  You can’t; inaction breeds frustration, annoyance and distrust”
  6. You must move faster: Responding to an issue in days risks the accusation of moving slowly. Expectations have shifted, and people expect organizations to respond quickly
  7. You must realize every employee is a marketer: Your employees can affect your brand messages just as much as broadcast messages in traditional media.

So, get out from behind that logo and let your employees represent the company in a real and human way. Let your employees and best customer brand advocates be evangelists for you. Make it clear that real people — just like your customers — work for you and that they represent your brand or product in an authentic manner in places where it matters to your target audience.

Who do you trust, and most importantly: why?

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