It’s tough out there, no matter what type of business you’re trying to build. With an increasingly competitive landscape, it’s important to differentiate your brand from your rivals. One of the most effective methods for doing so isn’t necessarily focusing on having superior products or services but on building a case for how trustworthy your brand is in compared to others.
Social media is the best landscape to accomplish these goals. While there’s still need for a professionally-designed company website — you’ve got to host your content somewhere after all — you’ll need to share it on social media platforms as well. With digital ad spending set to outstrip television media marketing in 2018, your best bet is to follow the writing on the wall and harness the power of social media marketing to build trust around your brand.
Why Traditional Marketing Methods on Social Media Won’t Work
Social media is no place for a traditional marketing campaign. This is something you will have to learn if you want to build consumer trust. It sounds more than a little counterintuitive but it’s the truth: run-of-the-mill marketing techniques, even old-school digital marketing ones, are less than ideal in a social media context. Mixing traditional marketing copy with a social media environment is the kiss of death for any business, especially if you give consumers the impression that you’re just looking for sales volume — research shows that over half of social media users (51%) would unfollow brands that make posts they found “irritating”.
You’ll have to abandon some rather deep-seated marketing techniques, and there will be an adjustment period. You’ll likely feel that you’re being foolish by focusing on not direct sales copy but instead posting videos, images, or other types of social media content. The truth is, though, that with every non-direct sales pitch you’re showing that your company isn’t just chasing sales figures — you’re instead focusing on building relationships with an audience that has your care and attention even if they’re not paying customers. That, in turn, shows your audience that your brand is worthy of their trust.
Providing Value to Further Build that Trust
So if you’re not running traditional ads, what are you posting? Social media marketing is all about providing your audience with content that has value to them. There’s a number of ways to provide that value, both in the composition of social media content and how it’s presented, but it’s best summed up as what you’d typically see on anyone’s social media feed: images, videos, interactions, and blog posts.
Does it seem like a subtle distinction between sharing direct sales copy providing content that offers value? It may be, but it’s an important one. Your products and services and should stand on their own merits in a social media environment. If you simply must cleave to direct sales, make sure that your promotions provide value by using free giveaways, offering promotional rates, or providing discount codes to your social media audience.
Honest and Transparent Engagement
Because it puts the average internet user in a position to interact directly with those they normally never could, social media has had a profound impact on society. Celebrities like musicians and actors can now have direct interactions with their fans, and businesses of all types have also taken advantage of this new interactivity and accessibility as well. These interactions are quite often public, providing opportunities to build trust by ensuring you’re engaging honestly and transparently with individuals on social media.
What does that mean in this environment? You need to provide a corporate identity that uses frank, straightforward language that can best be described as the communications equivalent of “business casual”. Even your blog posts should be made using accessible language — something the best bloggers out there already know. The quickest way to turn off a social media audience is to use language that can be interpreted as “corporate doublespeak”, so leave the professional language in professional environments.
Make ‘Em Laugh
Value comes in a number of forms when it comes to social media content that builds trust. Offering free or reduced-price access to your products or services is a solid method; another is to entertain an audience while doing so. This is possibly the core of what social media can do: using humorous, whimsical, or heartwarming content to drive home a point about your brand.
Social media use is ubiquitous. In fact, around 97% of adults from the ages of 16 to 64 are on social media use once a month, which means sharing funny or entertaining content has the potential to reach a massive number of prospective customers. At the same time, it showcases your company’s personality and culture, reinforces that you’re not just trying to boost your sales figures by bombarding people with advertising, and — most importantly — there are real people on the other side of your company’s social media account.
Interactivity is Key
Posting amusing and entertaining content absolutely humanizes your brand and helps to build trust. Yet social media is about bilateral communication; you’re missing a major opportunity by simply posting content and never engaging with the audience that reacts to your content. Responding and engaging isn’t just recommended, though, it’s expected: according to Spredfast’s social media research, an overwhelming 95% of interactions on Twitter are at a rate of 1:1.
While these rates may vary from one social media platform to the next, the need to showcase how much your audience means to you by engaging with them remains. While it may not be feasible to react to each and every interaction you have on social media, it’s important to provide personalized responses to the best of your ability. Consumers then see that and understand that your company is ready, willing, and able to have a two-way conversation with them. That, of course, further builds trust for your brand.
Show How Socially Responsible Your Brand Is
Consumers today want to ensure their hard-earned dollars aren’t going to companies that aren’t socially responsible. Research bears this out — more than three out of every four Americans said in a 2017 research study that companies need to be public about the stances they take towards their own social responsibilities. Social media is an ideal forum for expressing your brand’s social awareness and what types of policies you have in place to support important causes.
Social responsibility comes in a variety of forms. Environmental conservation efforts like using renewable energy to offset your brand’s carbon footprint, for example, shows consumers you’re serious. So does donating funds to charitable organizations that support important social issues. Even the simple act of sponsoring a food or clothing drive for your local community can help showcase the social awareness of your brand, all of which builds trust like no other.
The Magic Mix
When it comes down to it, building trust for your brand through social media is one of the most reliable tools for doing so. To be honest, though, there’s no “magic mix” of content to provide that will guarantee good results. The best advice is to simply ensure that you’re following the guidelines set above: be honest, be transparent, and entertain your audience by both providing content with value and engaging with them when appropriate. Show your social media followers you’re trustworthy and you’ll earn their trust — and their business.
Author: Benjamin Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Ghost Writing, a Key West-based content agency specializing in delivering personalized experiences. With an extensive digital career dating back to before social media and WordPress, Ben personally works with clients to craft a content strategy that will scale and grow their business. Follow him on Twitter at @nostop_content