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The New Formula for Social Media Trust

Trust is one of the most important elements in social media communities, so even if you never liked math in school this is one formula you need to get to grips with.

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in their best selling book ‘Trust Agents’ focused on the importance of trust in social media. They defined a Trust Agent as someone who people look to for advice. Someone who has significant influence and reputation that people trust, hence the name Trust Agent. Put simply the book argued you needed to become a Trust Agent in your field or area of business.

Brogan and Smith argued the formula for trust was:

influence + reputation = trust

The significance of trust in social media is arguably even more important today. I would argue the new formula for social media trust is as follows:

social media trust

A stands for authority. People are more likely to trust people that have authority in their area. What this means is that you need to be an expert or an authoritative commentator. As an expert your authority will be based on the quality of the content you produce, which demonstrates your expertise. As an authoritative commentator you will need to keep up with the latest research, news, surveys, case studies and articles; and share your insights on a regular basis.

H stands for helpfulness. A social media platform is a community and people are more likely to trust people in a community that are helpful. This means spending time to help people such as commenting, providing support and answering questions. It also means sharing content from a range of sources and helping to promote others.

I stands for intimacy. Intimacy takes a number of forms but it includes engaging with people, being personable and sharing a little of what makes you tick. People trust people more if they know them, so it is important to share a little of what makes you human. The business of being human was core to much of the original Trust Agents book.

So you get your raw trust score by multiplying your authority by your helpfulness by your intimacy. Note that you do not add the three values, you multiply them and as you will recall from your math lessons if you multiply anything by zero you get zero. Thus if you have no authority or you never help people you will have a raw trust score of zero. The final part of the formula is to divide your raw trust score by SP to give you your trust level.

SP stands for self-promotion. The more you post articles that are simply about promoting yourself, or your company, the less people will trust you. If it is all about you then your trust will decline. There we have it, the new formula for trust in social media communities:

Trust = Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy / Self-Promotion

So do the math. How do you score on social media trust?

Original Article

Join The Conversation

  • Steve Rayson's picture
    Nov 1 Posted 3 years ago Steve Rayson

    Hi Faris, thanks, I am really pleased it was helpful. Steve

  • Faris Samawi's picture
    Nov 1 Posted 3 years ago Faris Samawi

    This is very insightful Steve. I was familiar the original trust formula - we used it at my former employer to talk about client relations. I loved how you adapted it to the digital space! 

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