Trust, crowds and brand building with social media

People—all of us—will only buy when we feel sufficiently comfortable. We need a level of confidence in the value we think we’ll get. 

Brands are a way to associate levels of value that we think products or companies hold for us. This ‘brand perception’ may come from our direct experience or have been communicated through sources we find credible. 

We don’t need the same level of trust for all of our buying decisions. Some purchases are “low involvement.”  They are just transactions we need to get a job done.

Things matter more to some than others, and there are levels of trust.  

The professional drywall and plastering tradesperson cares a great deal about the type of joint compound used on the job. It affects the quality and profit of their work. The professional painter cares a great deal about paint quality but will buy the joint compound available in the paint supply dealer to patch the walls. There is less at stake for painters than for drywallers in wall patching. 

Business buyers typically have more at stake than consumers when they buy something. Hiring a consultative service or a vendor is critical because their work has a big impact on that business buyer’s job result. Their job and livelihood are on the line. 

Consumers have a relatively higher involvement (and need greater trust) when buying accessories and personality-defining products like cars, clothes, chocolate and coffee products. The associated brands are reflections of them. 

How can brands initially develop adequate levels of trust before the purchase? Traditionally it’s been done through substantial advertising investments. That can still work but it's expensive and often wasteful.

Remember the old studies of consumer perceptions of professionals, when advertisers were held in such low regard that only car salespeople were considered to be less trustworthy? 

Trust in advertising has changed. 

According to a Neilson study, Consumer Trust In Advertising shows that 68% of consumers trust what’s on a company website, a 7 point increase from five years ago. Consumers trust marketing text messages the least, but still 37%, up 19 points in five years. 

We trust people most.

At the top of the trust chart are recommendations from people we know at 84% (I know I don’t see all the movies my mother-in-law loves), above all the paid, owned, earned marketing media. Above slick pictures, rationale, logic and persuasive information. 

Marketers must be concerned with affecting the highest and best environments for building trust in brands and growing business. If that means getting recommendations, what should we do? 

Social media provides unique interactive opportunities to build brand trust and recommendations. 

Social surfaces the wisdom of crowds. Consumers don’t have to know about the science behind why crowds are smarter than the best expert among them. It’s intuitive. We trust when we percieve some tipping point of others who are trusting. (contrarians excepted)

Social media is the crowd's conversation. People experience what the crowd believes when they see expert blog articles, comments on blog posts, product ratings and reviews, hashtags on Twitter, forum discussions, Facebook posting and sharing, YouTube video views and more. 

Social media signals social proof. 

Social proof is a phenomena that is naturally as old as society itself and is essentially credibility conveyed when adequate participation and shared opinion is perceived. This isn’t scientific evidence. It’s social evidence. Most of the time it’s that to which we humans pay attention. 

Social media marketing generates social proof by applying art, science and sensitivity to audience relevance and authenticity—insight about human social behavior. 

Brands are finding ways to build trust with social media.

This type of social media marketing is being defined as a system for building trust, building brands and growing business success through leadership, transparency, fun (engagement) and other interactions and content.  

And of course trust can be reinforced (or lost) throughout the product lifecycle experience: initial purchase, product use, customer service and a repeat purchase. Consistency is key.

Social media uses new technologies to tap timeless human nature in ways that makes it possible to build brand trust by engaging first-time consumers, and reinforcing and extending the experience of long-time advocates.    

 

Photo from wallpaperhere