Recently, on #SMTLive, our weekly Twitter chat, we hosted a discussion on how brands can build trust with their audiences, and why trust is so important in the modern, evolving digital landscape.
Trust, and building effective brand relationships, is becoming a bigger focus amid shifting attitudes to key social issues, and a rising reliance on eCommerce for shopping. On the former, according to Edelman's 2020 Trust Barometer report, less than half of people now trust that their institutions will do what's right, with growing skepticism around financial motivations and other influential factors that can change government and regularity decisions.
On the latter, as reliance on eCommerce grows, consumers need to know that they're going to get what they pay for online, and that comes down to brand reputation, and established relationships.
These shifting trends intertwine, and will impact on your brand and marketing approach - but how will that change your strategy, and what are other digital marketers doing in this respect?
Here's what our #SMTLive community had to share on the subject.
Leading the Way
We started our chat by asking what brands our friends consider trustworthy and why.
I'm finding it hard to name any... but the Why is easy: they protect my information and ensure their decision making is supported by strong value statements. #SMTLive— Erin M. Kelly (@erinmkelly) February 23, 2021
This rang true for every brand mentioned - the “Why” was deemed any brand’s most valuable asset. Brands that have a clear mission give their consumers a clear reason to engage with them and show a direct impact their purchase makes.
Many brands on the list had more commonalities: relatability and consistency.
A1: I trust brands that show integrity and transparency. Also a human, empathetic voice.@Wendys comes to mind for how relatable the roasts can be. But also @benandjerrys for their brand's consistency on racial issues. #SMTLive— Socially Creative Solutions (@sociallycreate) February 23, 2021
A5: Consumers want to see a brand that is not only trendy and engaging, but AUTHENTICITY is key. People buy into brands they not only trust but feel a genuine connection with. Social media serves as a vehicle with an inside scoop of brands and their values. pic.twitter.com/nLfeGEdhkL— Arielle Burton (@poeticallyfree) February 23, 2021
Action can no longer be a one-time contribution to a noble cause with a vague connection to a brand - people expect a consistent and long-term commitment from brands to a cause that makes sense. Devoting themselves for social impact, rather than mere profit, helps brands build and maintain authenticity. Authenticity, in turn, helps brands build strong relationships with their audience and gain a softer cushion to fall on when something goes wrong. Authenticity makes brands more human and humans are allowed to make a mistake or two.
It can be a long process to build trust with consumers, especially for new brands. What if you don’t have the advantage of having been around for a while? We asked #SMTLive participants whether they’ve ever trusted a brand shortly after they discovered them on social media, and what contributed to the sense of trustworthiness.
Yes absolutely.— Jules PR (@JulesCSmee) February 23, 2021
For me These have tended to be ethically brands who are not afraid to be honest & transparent. Showing authentic values, clear aims, and a strong personality.
But all have also had great eye-catching imagery.
Q2. Innocent. They are one of many smoothie/ juice providers who won me over with their transparancy and plain speaking #SMTLive— Tiff Lomas ???? (@UK_Booklover) February 23, 2021
@MasterClass Their socials are so well done and effective. Love their tone of 'here's what you can learn' vs 'here's who you will see '— TheLaughingCow ???? (@LomaLorna) February 23, 2021
Technology has evolved rapidly, setting high expectations for how brands present themselves. High quality, clear, and on brand imagery and tone help brands set themselves apart from competitors, while also creating a sense of transparency.
Responsiveness and customer service were also mentioned multiple times. Interactions on social media, as well as how customer complaints and questions are handled in the online space, set a strong impression of brands for potential audiences. Research shows that people who receive customer service on Twitter, for example, prefer those brands up to x3 more than other brands.
A5: Social Media has provided consumers a more direct way to connect with brands. When done right this can create long-lasting brand/consumer relationships. #SMTLive— The Amanda Show (@amandawritings) February 23, 2021
On the other hand, there are things that can also hurt brands through social media. Spoiler alert: Customer service is the main deal breaker.
Oh yes! It was a skincare brand. DMed them on Instagram to ask a question about a product and got a cold reply to visit the website. They sold themselves as experts, but clearly that didn't come through off page.— Petrumarié (@petrumarie) February 23, 2021
a couple of cloth brands. the say if you wanna be ambassador then they ask you to purchase a minimum in product first.— Pablo Holman (@PabloHolmanC) February 23, 2021
A3: There was a specific influencer I lost some trust/respect for. Their online persona didn't match up with the person behind the curtain. There was a disconnect, and she ended up being much more sales-y than human after my interaction. #SMTLive— Micayla Rose Greco (@MicaylaGreco) February 23, 2021
In short, social media is a place to build connections. Your consumers are no longer passive receivers - they are either your friends and superfans or they are your skeptics.
Personal connection is part of authenticity, which comes through real conversations, responses, and personal approach to individual complaints and questions. Cold messages, links without any context and ghosting altogether are a way out of your audience’s heart for good.
Prioritizing authenticity is no easy task, however, and it can take a lot of time and dedication.
We have a feeling that you’ve experienced at least one or many of these. Luckily, you’re not alone. Some of our struggles include:
It's hard to deliver authentic content on a client's behalf. Trying to vocalize a deep, empathetic story that isn't yours to tell, is tricky. But it's the content that connects the best on social.— Catherine (Cara) Brackett (@CaraBrackett) February 23, 2021
A4: social media is constantly changing and evolving, which can create an expectation that we need to know immediately how to use and make new things successful, like Fleets or Reels, etc. Also the expectation to respond immediately can be a challenge. #SMTLive— Maria Dehne (@mdehne34) February 23, 2021
A4 - As a small team, it is difficult to be a good customer service manager and innovative content creator. It often feels like one is being sacrificed for the other. #SMTLive— Allison O'Leary (@ItsAllieO) February 23, 2021
So if you want to take anything away with you, let it be this:
What I took away from today: If people (consumers) ever lose trust in a brand, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the brand to regain that trust. #SMTLive— Ruth (@InnGritttt) February 23, 2021
Inasmuch as social media affords us a veil to 'hide behind', it is important for brands to understand that customers can 'see through' the hype and detect authentic, empathetic and genuine brands to trust, engage, and patronise. #SMTLive— Kafui (@Qaphui) February 23, 2021
Thank you for being part of our discussion - we learn so much from you, and we hope to see you at our next #SMTLive chat (Tuesdays 12pm EST (11am CST, 10am MST, 9am PST, 5pm GMT).