8 Tips For Building Brand Authenticity and Trust

January 22, 2014

It’s easy to forget that the point of social media isn’t just to broadcast. After all, social media is not only free but highly visible. What better way to advertise your latest product, service, and brand?

Everyday the social media sphere is bombarded with messages from you, your competitors, and a thousand other companies, businesses, and brands. So how do you stand out and build the brand advocates you need?

Use Social Media as a Channel for Communicating Authenticity and Trust

With business becoming more and more about creating meaningful and shareable experiences, authenticity and trust can be the keys to making a brand successful. And where you can create those experiences is on social media.

Consider this:

71% of complaints on Twitter are NOT responded to.

77% of online shoppers use reviews to make purchase decisions.

78% of people trust peer recommendations. Only 14% of consumers trust ads.

36% of people trust brands more when they are active on social media.

85% of customers expect businesses to be active in social media.

Why Transparency Matters

It’s not just enough to be promoting yourself anymore. Consumers expect more from brands these days. The successful businesses, big or small, are the ones that deliver and continuously adapt. That includes having an authentic voice and being transparent in their communication.

Take the example of the 2013 McDonald’s Canada campaign. After two lawsuits and an unflattering documentary bringing the corporation’s food into question, McDonald’s Canada salvaged the brand’s reputation by turning to the web. Armed with a program called ‘Our Food, Your Questions,’ McDonalds allowed the public to directly ask their representatives questions online about their food. The results? According to McDonald’s Canada’s senior vice president, brand trust jumped by 60%.

Trusted brand stampConsider also the 2009 controversy concerning Whole Food’s CEO John Mackey. A published op-ed regarding healthcare reform incited controversy among Whole Foods customers. Rather than cover up the incident, Whole Foods invited customers to post their opinions and criticisms on their social sites. The take away: people may not have agreed, but Whole Foods was willing to listen.

There’s the Domino’s Pizza’s Turn Around campaign, where the company admitted that the majority of their customers were right and vowed to revise their pizza recipe. Or JC Penny’s rebranding fiasco that resulted in three rebranding efforts in three years. And don’t forget Zappos, who has built their social media and branding efforts around treating their fans as equals, from catchy social updates to using their sites to make their fans the stars.

Everyone has a different idea of what authenticity means. But most business owners agree to some extent that when it comes down to it, understanding your customers is key to building more meaningful relationships with them. And in this day and age, that means engaging where your customers are: social media.

How to Build Brand Trust and Authenticity on Social Media

Whether it’s responding to complaints, taking that extra step, or trying something new entirely, there are several ways to increase your brand’s trust and authenticity when it comes to social media.

Often it’s the small things that count most.

  1. Communicate what you’re doing for customers: Never assume your clients or customers know exactly what you’re doing. New services? Announce them in the newsletter. New product? Send out an email blast. Communication is key!
  2. Say thank you: You’d be surprised at how much of a lost art saying thank you is. The key to social media is building relationships, and nothing makes people feel good like a good old fashioned “thank you”.
  3. Pass on information: Part of what made the McDonald’s campaign successful was the communication of information not readily available. Are your customers asking for similar information? Consider communicating it more readily.
  4. Ask for feedback: You won’t know if your site is hard to use unless you ask your customers directly. Put up a survey on your site or even create a poll. Give your customers a way to interact with you.
  5. Engage negative comments: Bad reviews are bound to happen to everyone. What distinguishes a company that cares is that they respond to both constructive and negative criticism in a way that shows they value your opinion. (If possible, connect before your customers review!)
  6. Own up to mistakes as soon as possible: Quick and responsive customer service is key, particularly when there is a mistake on your end. Taking ownership of a mistake allows you to rebuild. Ignoring errors can cost you big.
  7. Be active in the social media community: Is your target audience active on social media? Be part of that community. Respond to pings, Tweets, or status updates. Promote your brand but don’t be that company that does nothing but.
  8. Beware what trends you use: That trending hashtag may not be what you think it is. Using tragic events to boost your brand may seem like a common sense no-no, but sometimes it slips companys’ minds. Be mindful of how you promote yourself.

Where Do You Stand?

There are numerous ways for brands to be out there and to be engaging. But without authenticity and a basis of trust your message may read more like promotion than anything else. How have you established yourself as an authentic business with your clients? What does your community think about your brand? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, then it might be time to rework that marketing campaign.

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