Customer-centricity for the win: How to use social media to establish brand trust

One message you’ll hear us have set on repeat is that social media needs to be a two-way street. It’s no longer enough for brands to simply see social media as a platform to push their messages out, and it’s no longer a post-and-they-shall-come solution to growing your brand.

Connection, community and conversation all come about through dialogue - not monologue. And actually understanding your audience - who they are, what they need, how they talk - starts by climbing out of the ivory business tower and getting personal with your community.

Why brand trust matters

[One-third of all consumers today will stop buying their preferred products if they lose trust in the brand, and one-third of consumers have already stopped purchasing their longtime, favorite brands in 2019. IBM’s 2020 Purpose and Provenance Drive Bigger Profits for Consumer Goods]

The rise of social media signalled a shift that put power back into customers’ hands. Now, they have more choice over where, when and why they interact with brands. They’re not just watching ads on TV or seeing billboards on the side of the road. They’re engaging with all sorts of content on their own terms - most of it online. 

More specifically, they’re choosing brands who don’t just broadcast their messages, but who put their customers first by listening to what they’re saying, connecting with them in ways (and places) that suit them and creating content that gives more than it takes.

This is known as customer-centricity. And for this reason, the effort that brands put into building trust and resonance with their audience has never been more important.

In fact, only recently we’ve seen just how important trust and loyalty are to a brand’s survival. Covid-19 restrictions shut the doors of many businesses, plunging them into the unknown. The brands who had already done the hard yards to build loyalty and trust are the ones who have remained top-of-mind for consumers who are ready to support businesses they love.

The attributes of trust

The Edelman Trust Barometer is a framework that outlines five performance clusters with attributes that build brand trust:

With these five performance indicators in mind, let’s take a look at how that can translate to how your business is showing up - and building trust - on social media.

1. Engagement

Actively listening and paying attention to your audience sends the message that you’re engaged with their needs and what matters to them. It gives your customers a sense that you’re not just a nameless, faceless organisation, but that there are people behind the logo who care about building long-term connections with customers.

The key to getting this engagement right is consistency - in how often you show up, in your brand voice, in the content you post and in the themes you align that content to. That consistency is essential to building loyalty, trust, credibility and a professional brand presence that your audience instantly recognises.

Could you honestly say engagement and community management are a priority for you? If not, start by ensuring you have notifications set up and processes in place to manage timely responses to community comments and questions. It can help to also have some canned responses prepared for common enquiries. If you don’t have dedicated resource for social media management, outsourcing is also an option. Social media is now the preferred method of communication for consumers with brands - so don’t underestimate the importance of getting community management right.

2. Integrity

[64% of consumers choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues.  Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand Study] 

How well does your business address conflict, negativity or more challenging topics of conversation on your social platforms? Do you have processes in place for addressing difficult conversations? 

Are you transparent about what’s happening in your business, or in your industry? 

Are you open and honest about social responsibility and the measures your business is taking to contribute to a better world - for your customers, for your environment and for your industry? 

Do you create your own, original content that actually serves your audience?

These are all important questions to consider when it comes to thinking about how you communicate with your customers with integrity, and the protocols you need to put in place. No business is perfect, but if you’re proactive in communicating about the good work you do, as well as the ways you’re working to improve things, you’ll be more likely to earn the respect - and the trust - of your online audience.

3. Products & Services

Social media isn’t just a place for the hard sell. It’s also a place to educate and give value back to your customers. Promoting your products or services can happen in more discreet ways that give your audience something for nothing, while still demonstrating your skill and expertise. 

Keep in mind the Principle of Reciprocity. When someone does something nice for us, we’re more inclined to do something nice for them in return. So, the more you give to your audience, the more they’ll be inclined to trust your knowledge and expertise and continue to support your brand. Providing high-value content - think tips, videos, free resources - will showcase the great work you do, without the need to constantly ask for a sale.

4. Purpose

[Brands with a purpose set on improving our quality of life outperform the stock market by 120%. Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2017]

Increasingly, consumers are choosing products or services from brands based on how they operate in, and contribute to, the world. How is your business communicating your purpose and values through the content you create and share? It starts, of course, by getting really clear on what these are. With your values as your guide, you can create content themes or ‘pillars’ that inform your social media posts. When you’re consistent in your messaging, and stay true to your purpose, you’ll find loyal customers whose values align with your own.

5. Operations

How often do you (or the leaders in your organisation) show your face on your social media platforms? Brands who front their accounts with real people are more likely to build genuine, enduring relationships with their followers. If you want buy-in - and trust - you need to show your personal commitment to the work you do and what your business stands for. Seeing and understanding the depth of expertise and authority behind a business will only strengthen the trust that your audience has in what you have to offer. 

What do these five key indicators have in common? They all keep the customer at the centre. Building and maintaining brand trust all comes down to listening to, understanding and responding to your customers in a way that demonstrates your commitment to doing what’s right for them. 

Like the real world, trust is hard to gain but easy to lose, and it takes more than just lip service to get it right. Show up - consistently - while keeping these five guiding indicators in mind, and you’ll be in the best position to build and preserve a position of trust with your audience.

If you could do with a hand getting this right, that’s what we’re here for. In fact, we’ve even got a package called the Helping Hand, which is designed to give SME businesses the support they need to really nail their social presence. Check out more about the Helping Hand package here or get in touch for more info!