The dynamics of trust is a topic carefully tracked by Edelman's TrustBarometer. The 2012 edition measures attitudes about the state of trust in business, government, NGOs, and media across 25 countries. This hot-off-the-press report identifies a number of critical shifts in trust. While government officials are deemed the least credible spokespersons, CEOs also saw a rapid decline in trust.
The chief executive's voice is no longer the trusted source for information about the company, the industry or service trends. Customers no longer look to executive leadership for vision and facts. Instead, thanks to the information now readily available through social media, peer-peer information and expert points of view have soared to the top of the trust pyramid like a kite in a windstorm!
As these data clearly demonstrate, expert opinions and peers are the drivers of trust. They are where the buyers of both consumer and B2B products and services gather the information they need to make informed decisions. And through the proliferation of user-generated content via self-publishing channels such as blogs, YouTube, microsharing, content curation and reviews, there are ample sources of information.
Current wisdom suggests trust can managed using the role of the Influencer to shape public opinion. These are experts with credentials which demonstrate credibility, are unencumbered by financial bias and, armed with data and experience, can offer feedback, advice and vision to help guide the buyers' opinions and actions. So for greatest business impact, the obvious answer is to invest heavily in developing thought leadership content and securing strong influencer programs, right? Not really... It's not that simple where trust is concerned.
The Edelman report takes a hard look at the operational and societal attributes that build trust over time. The study discovered that there are a few key elements that facilitate organizational trust. The ones that stood out to me include:
- Listens to customer needs and feedback
- Places customers ahead of profits
- Takes actions to address issues or crisis
- Is transparent
- Communicates frequently and honestly
Customer communities have been around for a long time. But the advent of new tools and technologies has greatly expanded their scale and scope. Online communities are now recognized as a key channel for building trusted relationships and engaging with customers, employee and other stakeholders. The ingredients are transparency, active listening, and taking action on expressed issues and needs.
- 49% of businesses report having a customer community. [Business.com Business Social Media Benchmarking study, 2009]
- 34% said they planned to create a customer community in 2011-12. [Leader Networks New Symbiosis of Professional Networks study, 2010]
- 24% plan to use an online community to support senior-level client relationships in 2011-12. [Leader Networks New Symbiosis of Professional Networks study, 2010]