Brent Gleeson, Contributor
ENTREPRENEURS | 10/31/2012 @ 4:11PM
Using social media for business marketing has been a hot topic for years now, but brands are still trying to harness the power of the digital socialsphere to discover the best ways to directly impact their bottom lines. As social media use advances, so does the frequency in which brands are reaching out to their audiences to engage them through these channels. One tactic that might be lost in all of this is the importance of using social media channels to build trust with your current and potential brand advocates. As a Navy SEAL, I learned about the importance of team and trust early on. As humans, without trust, our relationships can never go past a certain level. The same goes for brands building relationships with consumers.
Before true customer engagement can happen, companies must first build a social media dialogue that leads to a trusting relationship. How do they do this? If you think about it, social media isn’t really new. Social media used for digital marketing is a form of traditional public relations disseminated through new channels. But unlike traditional marketing, social media gives brands a chance to interact directly and immediately with their customers.
Much of the talk in the digital marketing industry today is about how search engines like Google are continually updating their algorithms to provide the most relevant search results and content possible. What some companies don’t realize is social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest have become search engines themselves. Instead of going to a traditional search engine, consumers might go directly to a social media channel to search for content and to learn more about products or services. Social media audiences have grown substantially over the past few years and the demographics have expanded drastically. Brands can no longer ignore this opportunity for communicating brand value and building brand trust by engaging with existing and potential customers.
In this week’s post, I teamed up with Internet Marketing Inc.’s social media expert Carrie Peterson to develop tips on how brands can build trust through social media. Trust is the most crucial element of social media, but it’s where brands continue to fall short right out of the gate. The following are six ways brands can begin to build trust through social media.
- Communicating Thought Leadership: One way for a brand to lose credibility with a social audience is to simply spam them with “opportunities” to purchase a product or service without providing any value. This value can come in many forms, but should be designed to teach, entertain, ignite discussions, and gain honest feedback. Social media is the perfect platform for a brand to communicate their expertise in a given industry, and do so by providing great content that people will share with others. This is how companies can become thought leaders in their space.
- Transparency: This is an area that executives and decision makers have feared the most but a hurdle that must be overcome for a company to be successful using social media. In today’s digital world, transparency is an inherent reality, as people will be talking about issues associated with your brand online. Companies need to embrace this and get involved in guiding that conversation. In a report from eMarketer, 77% of buyers said they are more likely to buy from a company if the CEO uses social media, and 82% trust the company more. This is impressive, and telling of how consumers want to engage with brands and top-level executives.
- Quick & Responsive Customer Communication – If consumers know they can reach out to your company via social media and are encouraged to do so, this is a good opportunity to provide great service in front of a large audience. Don’t be afraid of customer complaints. Address them head on. These opportunities can often turn into great testimonials when customers are handled with care.
- Ensures Accountability: When companies are openly engaged in social media and encouraging their audience to interact with them, it ensures a certain level of accountability. In using social media aggressively, a brand can essentially hold itself accountable for providing great products, services, and customer service. They can’t afford not to! But isn’t that the goal anyway?
- Fun & Simple Engagement: Another way to build and maintain trust is through entertainment. Don’t always make it about your company and its services or value. This goes back to thought leadership and content marketing. Provide value in a fun and creative way through daily content, apps, videos, contests, sweepstakes, and infographics. The opportunities are endless.
- Social Responsibility: A great way to build trust with your customers is to let them know that you care about others more than just yourself. The same goes for building brand equity. Socially responsible brands often gain more momentum because their customers know they aren’t just about profits, but also giving back to their communities or the world around them. Social media channels are the perfect platform to communicate this message and let it spread organically. For example, Marriott is running a check-in campaign that encourages guests to check-in, and the hotel will donate $2 to charity. This promotion is intended to leverage a typical social interaction for the greater good.
Keep these six trust-building methods in mind when marketing your brand through social media. There are many other ways for businesses to build brand trust in the digital space.