Many marketing and business leaders spend months developing an integrated online platform, brand architectures, message platforms, social media strategies and plans, logos, and more. They then launch their business or new product with huge dreams to seriously rock the online world.
However, after a few months, they realize that their platform is delivering little, if any results. Their audience is not engaging, clicking, or buying. Instead of an active platform, it looks more like a deserted island.
So what is the problem?
It could very well be they have a problem establishing trust.
Does their audience trust them? If no, why not?
Do you lack the trust factor?
There could be many different reasons why your communities are reluctant to engage with you, but one of the most common reasons is that they simply don't trust you. You have all the pretty colors, bells and whistles for your online presence, but you lack credibility. You lack the trust factor.
In real life and offline relationships, trust is built via word of mouth, client and partner referrals. One person talks to another person who knows about you, and you earn a reputation for being who you are, and the quality and service you deliver. And while you may have a solid reputation and trust factor offline, online is often another thing entirely.
If this is the case for you, don't you fret - this could be for many reasons. It could be that you're practically starting over with online relationships. If most of your offline contacts, partners, colleagues and friends are not yet online, then yes you are starting over to some degree, however it is also possible to leverage your relationships offline to bring credibility to the digital realm.
Building trust doesn't happen overnight, but there are some simple things you can do, even if you're just starting out to increase credibility and the trust factor.
10 Tips to Establish Credibility and Trust
1. Establish authority
First and foremost, you must establish authority.
You have to know your stuff - faking it online won't get you far. Social media is far different than handing someone a business card - in the social realm it's easy to validate who you are, where you've worked, what references you have and who your contacts are, within only a few clicks.
Your content on all social platforms should scream results - it needs to be obvious that you know your stuff. For this, we need more than one bullet point and a short paragraph which tells readers you're an expert at whatever it is you do.
Give credit to your sources, and never take other people's work as your own. Back up your claims with social proof, such as blog content, references, client testimonials, client logos, guest blog posts and more.
2. Social proof
Yes, even though you may have spent a lot of time on that beautiful Twitter background, your custom Facebook Page and your blogsite, you still need to prove to me who and what you are.
This isn't as hard as what it sounds - start by ensuring you take the time to update your content at least once a month. Good examples of social proof includes testimonials, customer references, partner references, kudos from other thought leaders, examples of work completed, links to work completed, guest blogs you've contributed to, links to blogs where you and your content has been cited, white papers, ebooks, and the list goes on.
Social proof should be instantly available within one or fewer clicks on your site. Visitors shouldn't have to dig, double and triple click to find it - make it pop out from the front page.
However, be careful here. You must have the work experience and proven results to back it up. 10,000 purchased Twitter followers is not real social proof - I'd rather see 500 that were earned by providing relevant and valuable content.
3. Walk the walk
Everything about your online persona, website, blog and social profiles must not only 'talk the talk', but your actions must 'walk the walk' of whatever you say you do.
If you claim to be the best social media and advertising agency this side of Texas, and that you know how to deliver results, then your own website and online persona shouldn't look like a fifth grader developed it. Fix the fonts, fix the colors, fix the content.
Take the time to do what you say you are so good at doing. It's like a dietician that's 150 lbs overweight, but telling you that they don't worry about being healthy themselves because they focus only on you.
Any good agency, agent, sales rep, blogger, copywriter, consultant or business services provider should be doing themselves what they say they can do for you. “Eat your own dogfood” is what we use to say in the big iron corporate days of the dot bomb era in high tech.
Get rid of the jargon and talk in real language that establishes you as a walking testimonial of what you can do for clients. If you don't take time to fix your own identity, thenwhy should anyone else believe you can do it for them?
You are your own best social proof, and you' be amazed at the number of clients you'll get if you start doing this. My agency has earned many small and corporate clients where their first words were “can you please help us do what you've done for yourself.”
4. Be consistent in both life and business
The days of separating online and offline personas are gone - you can't be one person offline and a better, different person online.
You are one business, one team, one person, regardless if you're online or off. If you're a one man or one woman business consultant this is even more important - who you are on Friday night at the bar is the same person you are on Monday morning.
Your offline behavior will reflect your online success. Be who you are, as you're only one person. However, my point is don't fake it. There's only one you, so be that person.
Hopefully that person is honest, sincere, real, open, and communicates well with others.
5. Hang with the right peeps
If you hang out with nine brokes, chances are you're going to be the 10th.
Associate with people you learn from, people who build you, empower you and inspire you to be a better person. Avoid the people who kick you down, criticize you and/or envy your success.
Be sure you hang with the people who are going places, and establish real relationships and work together. Take time to know and research the people you hang out with, don't just trust everyone on first tweet.
Just as you need to establish trust within your community, expect the same of those you bring into your inner circle.
6. You had me at first tweet
I hear this a lot from many businesses who've eventually become our clients - what you tweet matters.
Don't be negative Nelly all day, give your Twitter and Facebook readers good nuggets of information which can help them, inspire them and enable them to get to know you better.
We have numerous clients who we've met from one single tweet that inspired or educated them. Don't minimize the power of inspiring people to engage with you and your brand, and start the first stages of trusting you, even in 280 character increments.
7. Take time for relationships
I see many businesses and consultants get so caught up in the science of social media that they sometimes forget the most important aspect - the art.
I'm not talking about art as in brand and colors. Instead, I'm referring to the art of relationship-building and conversation.
The tools of social media can be learned by almost anybody - it's the art of engagement that will differentiate you from the masses. If you're finding it hard to build real relationships online, then chances are you're not taking the time to get to know someone. Look to truly connect with others. Ask them questions. Comment on their blog posts. Reach out to folks you feel comfortable with and build a relationship.
There are new pockets of peeps, partners, crowdsourced blog communities and potential real-life friends popping up every day. Get to know some of the folks in these communities.
8. Build a platform that invites conversation
If your platform reads like a billboard - or worse, corporate collateral from the 1980's - then chances are you're not going to inspire much conversation.
Ensure that everything - from your content to blog share buttons, commenting systems, opt-in forms - make sure all of them are inviting and prompt connection.
If you're not getting the engagement you need, then ask a trusted third party to do an assessment for you. Ask them specific questions about how your content makes them feel, and where and how they would engage with you on our social platforms.
Unless you invite folks to engage with you and your brand, chances are they won't. There's definitely not a lack of other businesses successful at doing such that are going to steal their mindshare from you.
9. It's not about you
As much as you want to think that your Twitter profile, tweet stream, Facebook business Page and blog are all about you, they aren't. Yes, you can use these platforms to establish authority, build community and trust, but they are not active billboards for YOU.
Your online personas should scream 'helpfulness', providing content that inspires and conversation that engages. Talk to your communities using the methods in which they like to communicate, not in web speak. Ask them what they want if you don't know, take the time to know your audience, partners, clients and more.
The better you understand your target audience, the better you'll be able to help them. And the more you help them, the more they'll trust you via your actions.
10. Author content
Chances are you're in business because you know something - hopefully you know something that's going to help a business or individual, otherwise you probably won't be in business long. Make certain that you establish your expertize through your own content.
I'm a big believer in sharing and curating awesome content I find across the web, however I'm also a believer in creating my own content. It's through your own material that people get to know YOU - it's where you can establish trust, thought leadership, expertise and relationships.
Businesses and individuals which are not creating content are missing out on incredible opportunities to connect with people in a way that brings them much closer to you and your brand.
11. Be honest
I added this one as a bonus, mostly because it should be common sense.
If you have an issue with a product, service, software, network, Twitter feed, Facebook post, blog post or other, just be honest and acknowledge the issue. Hiding from it isn't going to do anything that will bring benefit to you or your business.
And don't underestimate the power of your community and relationships - they're much more resilient when the relationship is built on trust and credibility.
Bottom line, if you lose my trust, you lose me
I could write a book on this topic - and I probably should - however, a blog post has to end somewhere.
There's simply no price tag we can place on trust - it's invaluable, and essential to brand health. Take the time to not only be a person people want to trust, but to ensure your online persona helps you establish such.
This post was first published on Pam Moore's blog.