Social Media Can Boost Trust

Skip from stream to stream on Twitter and you'll see a trend among the brands and retailers posting there: most have something valuable to say. They may not be solving the world's problems, but they are answering questions, sharing tips, and putting forth advice as it relates to their area of expertise: their market segment.

As a marketing and public relations tactic, the concept of knowledge sharing has long been applied by businesses and brands. The idea is to demonstrate expertise through articles, commentary, and conversations that have a positive effect on the perception of your products and brand.

It's the online equivalent of an old-fashioned apothecary store, where the owner could pass for a general physician in his determination to diagnose your ills and identify an appropriate treatment. He's more concerned about your health than he is about selling his potions. That's how he earns the townsfolk's trust.

Since the rise of social media, there are more opportunities than ever for marketers to establish this same image of authenticity and proficiency in their fields. Message boards, forums, blogs, Facebook Pages, and Twitter all provide platforms for sharing knowledge. A skincare line might set up a Twitter account not so much to post information about its products, but to answer consumer questions about common skincare concerns.



On a local message board for outdoor enthusiasts, the only connection between your advice about repairing a bike tire puncture and the fact that you own a bike repair shop might be the signature and site link in your post. That information won't be lost on the consumer who happens to be in search of a credible bike store, however. Talk about a qualified lead.

In the same vein, Dell's recent Small Business blog post on the best approach to creating a business plan directly addresses a common concern among small business owners. The post is useful, not promotional, and in its usefulness it offers the sense that Dell understands what's important to small businesses. That bodes well for Dell when it comes time for readers to furnish their businesses with a computer system.

To successfully integrate social media into your marketing strategy, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Online communities and their users appreciate authenticity and transparency; they'll see right through a poster whose desire to sell his products trumps his interest in sharing what he knows.
  • Your objective should be about helping consumers first and foremost; the benefits to your brand will follow.
  • Accept the fact that using social media for knowledge sharing is, at its core, a branding and customer service effort, not a technique for quickly boosting sales.
  • Communicate effectively and informally, and leave the sales-speak at the door.
  • Play the part of consumer as much as corporate representative; put yourself in your customer's place, try to address his concerns, and deliver information that has some practical applications.

Sharing the knowledge that your company possesses through social media sites is one of the easiest ways to connect with consumers. Playing up your brand's market knowledge is a smart way to position it in the social media space.

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4 comments about "Social Media Can Boost Trust".
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  1. Bob Hallock, May 27, 2009 at 8:05 a.m.

    I agree with John's point that one's objective should be to first help consumers and then the benefits to the brand will follow. I would add to this that the more the social media and other interactive apps can be customized to the brand and to the targeted consumers' needs, the better.

    My experience within the wellness/nutrition/fitness industries has shown that merely adding a message board to an existing website usually gets only a modest response. Companies who do this may then interpret this modest response to mean that social media doesn't work, but in all actuality the fault lies with the company for not implementing social media well. Consumers have so many options today--they want to participate in sites which fully address their needs.

  2. Donald Bartholomew from Fleishman-Hillard, May 27, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.

    Very good, practical advice here. Post Enron and the recent financial sector collapse, trust is a huge issue for corporate America. The way to build trust is through social engagement. Social media tools, channels and communities are a key way to develop social engagement that builds trust.


  3. Gail Nelson from BurrellesLuce, May 27, 2009 at 3:32 p.m.

    While social media engagement provides a way to build trust, it has many antecedents. As a B2B marketer, I've created deeper relationships through informational resources -- webinars, seminars, white papers, tip sheets, and newsletters -- that help clients and prospects find out more about market trends and improve their skills. Today, I may use Facebook, Twitter and our BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog alongside old standbys such as email, webcasts and community websites to improve the quality and quantitiy of interactions with clients, build the brand, and generate leads. As an active participant, I am not one to downplay the social media, but really, it's just another set of (cool) tools with which to connect with customers.


  4. Jon-Mikel Bailey from Wood Street, Inc., June 3, 2009 at 11:32 a.m.

    This really drives home the major difference of "PR" using social media, it is all about the user experience. You must be a resource in this day and age, the days of the dog and pony show are dying fast if not already dead.

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