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Social Media 101: Building Customer Trust!

Social Media 101: Building Customer Trust!

“When you deliver something unexpected… things go to a whole new level”

These days, one of the hottest buzzwords in marketing is “social media”.  It seems that this “social media” somehow, perhaps wishfully, offers a storehouse of people just waiting to buy  from you if only you could somehow put a leash on all of them and drag them in. While “social media” does offer some marketing opportunities, there are also issues with how to successfully handle it.  Many of the difficulties/challenges start with the name itself:  “social media”.  From a marketing standpoint, at what point are “social” and “media” compatible?

Thinking about “media” as an institution, do we trust “the media” more than “our friends”? While “social media” offers a method of communicating with a group of people that are close to us, it really serves more of the function that the telephone or a letter used to, except it can involve more than one person simultaneously.  It is another form of a one-to-one (or perhaps one-to-many or many-to-many) trusted communication.  This is much different than a classic advertising/marketing “media” in which some type of syndicated content is delivered with no personal trust connection.  The challenge of “social media” marketing is therefore how to bring two fundamentally incompatible concepts together to coexist in harmony with a marketing goal.  One of the keys to successfully bringing “social” and “media” together as a marketing tool is “trust”.  In order to gain a better understanding of “trust”, let us review how trust is gained and maintained through the insights of three different industry advocates.  We will then look at how that applies to “social media”.  Perhaps the best “social media” campaign evolves from the building of customer trust as a direct result of the actions and messages of the business, rather than a stream of messages plastered on websites.

Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of, wrote in an article for “Auto Retail Business” (August 29, 2012) titled “To be ‘Liked’ or to be truly liked, that is the question” in which he states:  “The best way I have found to build trust is to engage with consumers over time; where salespeople make small promises on which they can easily deliver.”  He goes on to say “Customers are happy when they get what is expected.  But when you deliver something unexpected – a surprise – things go to a whole new level.  Not only do more customers return, but they spread positive messages about the dealership and refer the dealership to their friends.”  This is a key component to the “social” or “trust” part of “social media”.  Suddenly people actually want you to succeed because you have become a worthy friend.  What would it take to “do it right” in your business? What would it take to keep your promises and perhaps surprise customers that they got something better than they expected?

What would it take to actually sell the right product to the right person?  What would it actually take to make the customer see the value in your product, and know that they got a good value from you? Mr. Anwyl suggests a post-sale delivery meeting for a car in which additional help with such things as vehicle technology could be provided.  “This post-sale delivery accomplishes many things, but one of the most important is that the customer will be thrilled.  It is the kind of experience that will trigger conversations that begin, ‘You won’t believe what my dealer did for me today…’”  A great start at a real “social media” marketing plan consisting of customers offering their own unsolicited testimonials about your company.  This type of positive attitude towards your company won’t start and end with Facebook, but will enter into conversations of all types.  This type of approach would ultimately build an advertising campaign that keeps going, and going, and going.

In an article titled “3 Ways to Build Consumer Trust”, Nadia Goodman, from (October 9, 2012), indicates that to build trust the customer must believe:  “1.  You have their best interests at heart.  2.  You are capable of delivering on your promises.  3.  You are honest and authentic.”  Ms. Goodman goes on to make several points about trust.  She is concerned that companies spend too much time worrying about trust, and instead should be concerned about “delivering what you’ve promised.”  Trust is something that can’t be forced, rather it is earned over time.  Transparency about mistakes is the next point made by Ms. Goodman.  “When you make a mistake, own up to it immediately, share what you’re doing to correct it, and follow through.”  The final point made is “Once you have it (trust), you can’t rest on your laurels.”  You have to actively and continuously prove yourself to your customers.  Think about the reviews you may have seen on Yelp, and other review sites.  What if that “big bad story” could turn into some “even greater happy ending”.  How much would it have cost to do it right?  Why did things turn sour in the first place?  Was there a commitment to pursue trust from the start?  The start of the social marketing plan needs to be when the customer walks into your organization through the front doors (or whatever door they come in through).  The culture of the organization needs to insist on building the trust relationship from the first moments all the way through the end of the transaction and after.

An article written by titled “Few Consumers Trust Social Media Marketing, Internet Ads” (March 25, 2013) adds a little more flavor to the mix by summarizing some statistics from Forrester Research.  They indicate that very few people trust social media marketing (only 15%).  Other sources of information such as messages from mobile applications, website ads or company branded text messages are even lower on the scale.  “Recommendations from friends and family (are) trusted by 70% of US respondents).”  The other interesting data item is that professionally written reviews were trusted by 55%, while consumer-written reviews were lower at 46%.  The article indicates that this is a flip from previous research which had indicated the opposite to be true, especially for consumer electronics purchases.  No matter which way you flip it, however, these are still relatively high percentages of people to be communicating with on a high trust level.  This is vital information for “social media” marketing, as it focuses the marketing effort.  One must foster the trust relationship in order to gain the 70% acceptance rate of the message from friends.  After that, concentrate on providing useful information, such as reviews.  Reviews of both professional and consumer-written types are something that can be found or encouraged.  Show the customer that your product will actually meet their demands, and that your organization will be the one that will make sure that it happens.  Make sure that the customer trusts the product, trusts the delivery mechanism (your company to deliver) and in the end you will be able to know/trust that the customer will be your best marketing voice.

All three articles, in their own way, show the importance of trust in running a successful business, and especially a successful social marketing initiative.  While marketing has often been about painting an image of a product, there is now a challenging transition, as the marketing effort now needs to dig deep into the actual business effort.  The message is now “trust” and it needs to run through every business vein and channel, not just some marketing message or social media posting.

Not sure how to guarantee you are Relationship Marketing and not just posting? We can help! Contact us today for a analysis of your company’s needs.

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