Building trust and rapport with customers (and potential customers) is crucial when you’re creating and reinforcing your brand. It converts visitors into new clients and existing customers into loyal ones. Social networking sites are more up close and personal by nature, and constantly updating Facebook and Twitter with blatant advertising isn’t the way to build trust in your brand. Using social media, you can take advantage of the personal touch it provides to build confidence and faith in your brand and your company, ensuring that you’re taking yourself accountable for creating a great company and fantastic products.
This is the ubiquitous rule when it comes to any kind of marketing campaigns, especially with social networking sites, and it’s true when it comes this. Having good content is essential when you’re building your brand as well as when you’re building trust in it. Having meaningful content posted on your site will keep people checking back. The more they know about a company, the more they will likely grow to trust it, assuming you’re able to hit some other areas of this list.
Tell a Story
This applies to good content. Telling a story can help shift a perspective from statistics to examples. Most people don’t bat an eye at the statistics because all they see is numbers. With a story, however, people become quickly and deeply invested in the life of someone else; the statistics have names and faces and whole lives and families. If you walk into a jewelry store looking to have your grandmother’s diamond reset into a custom ring, you don’t want to necessarily hear that they do three custom pieces a week. You’d feel much better, however, if you saw pictures of the three carat, pear shaped diamond pendant the jeweler made from scratch the week before, especially if the happy owner was wearing it and grinning from ear to ear. Posting these pictures and the customer’s story on Facebook (maybe she just had her 30th wedding anniversary!) will give viewers confidence in your product and see that you care about your clients enough to care about their anniversary. Win-win.
Overtime, your customers will hopefully start to share their stories, likely (hopefully) posting a thank you note or a picture at the bottom of it. Other clients indirectly assuring new or potential customers that you’re company is worth doing business with is a huge asset for you. Make sure you take advantage of it, graciously thanking the customer for their post.
Honesty is the best policy. Or at least, being transparent with clients is the best policy. The Internet has officially changed the world, and nothing is really private anymore. News and ideas spread faster than ever before. Even the not so important ones, like the “Had such a craving for a diet Pepsi!” tweets and status updates we’ve all seen. This, like the story telling, can help people see your brand and your company as having real people behind it. Whether this happens through story telling, apologizing for mistakes, or encouraging customers to share their experiences (thanking them for praise and offering solutions and apologies for the bad), transparency creates trust.
Perhaps the most difficult struggle with transparency comes into play with the critical remarks that surface about your product or company. You will almost certainly be criticized, whether it’s justified or not. Unhappy people are more likely to go on the Internet to speak their minds than those who are content and happy. While it’s never easy to hear negative remarks about something you’ve put your soul into, it’s better to guide that conversation towards something productive instead of snowballing into something truly harmful.
It’s important to show that you care about more than just selling your product. Being part of your community is crucial to building a community for your business. People like businesses that show social responsibility and give back, whether it’s time or money. It doesn’t have to be on such a monumental scale you go bankrupt, but make sure it’s an effort proportional to your business and brand. Large chains like Kay Jewelers are able do this on a massive scale (last year providing St. Jude’s with a check for 4.8 million dollars). Every time a customer makes a purchase, they are asked if they want to donate to St. Jude’s, and at several points during the year, small gifts (like stuffed animals and mothers day cards) are sold with the profits going entirely to St. Jude’s.
On the scale of a small local business, Sizzors Hair Salon in Florida hosts events like purse auctions, where women drop off their “gently loved” handbags and they are auctioned off. Drinks are provided, participating members get a discount on their next haircut, and all the proceeds go to charity. With a little effort, you’d be surprised what events or products you can dream up to help both a charity and your marketing campaign at the same time. After all, if people check in at your event or mention it, that’s free advertising.
Make sure that on Facebook, you’re not only posting pictures, thank you’s, and success stories for these efforts, but also that you’re advertising them. It can increase your success, and it can show how much effort you’re putting into helping your community. If you make it easy and beneficial to participate, everyone will be just as excited about it as you are.
Thank your users for answering questions (even if it’s a general post). Thank users for kind comments or tweets on your page. Thank coworkers or fellow experts who assisted you in any way. Thank you to everyone who came out to your event for charity. Showing gratitude and sharing credit where due is a good way to show potential clients that you value everyone who’s helped you get to where you are and everyone who is helping you now. People like to be appreciated.
Say thank you. It’s really as simple as that.
Interact With Users
Social networking sites are designed to be social. In other words, for people to interact with each other.
People don’t get on Facebook to choose where they want to buy their insurance or to find lotion. They go on social networking sites to be entertained. They want to have fun, so give them something fun! Make sure that you’re updating frequently to keep their interest, but quality is always valued over quantity. Create videos (posting them on all of your social media sites for best access) that are entertaining for people to watch. If you have apps, share them and advertise them (but not shamelessly or repeatedly). Offer information on new products in a fun, lighthearted (nonaggressive) way. Every so often, have a contest or a sweepstakes where people have the chance to win a prize if they do something in return for you. People like to be entertained, and everyone loves getting something free. When someone responds, respond back. Turn it into a conversation instead of a post. All of these methods encourage users to interact with you.
Being able to incorporate both cleverness and humor can be hugely helpful in gaining customers interest. Being able to make someone laugh helps give your brand a more personal feel, and being on social media shouldn’t overtly be strictly about business. Getting people to laugh can build relationships and rapport, which is an enormous step in getting someone to have trust in your brand.
Let’s say you and your significant other need a new car and have decided to go with a Prius Hybrid for the gas mileage, but your significant other shows up two days later with a Mercedes (which, yes, is a beautiful car, but not so nice on the gas). Are you going to be particularly pleased? No. No you’re not.
If your company is ready to make some changes, let the world know and be excited about them. Maybe you’re going to expand and open more stores. Maybe you’re going to start carrying a new line of products. If you share the news, customers will feel more in the loop and instead of feeling like something has been sprung on them. Sharing your news yourself also lets you guide the conversation and pick the tone you want to go with instead of letting someone else choose it for you.
Teach Instead of Sell
Social media is not the place to attempt the hard sell. You’ll get yourself unfriended, unliked, unfollowed, and blocked faster than you can ask if they’d like to go ahead and make that purchase today. Repetitively spamming followers with the “exciting opportunity” to make purchases is exactly what you don’t want to do.
By taking the time to advise and teach your followers instead of trying to sell them something, you’ll gain more of their trust. You are, after all, helping them out by giving them reliable information when someone else is just trying to get money from them. Provide links to your blog that answers questions, make how-to videos, answer questions with thought and detail, and create how-to videos. Not only does this show your interest in helping your clients, building that relationship and that trust, it also demonstrates your expertise and reaffirms your expert status in your chosen field. Having customers trust your advice because you’ve proven yourself is a massive accomplishment, so take advantage of the opportunity to do so.
Learn What Customers Want
When you have your target audience right in front of you, wouldn’t you ideally want to ask them what they’re looking for in a company and a product? I would certainly hope so, at least. Everyone loves to be asked what they want, especially if they think they might get it! This goes for products as well as content, and getting direct, honest feedback from your already interested target audience is priceless information that some companies spend exorbitant amounts of money to attempt to get. Cherish it and take advantage of it.
Ask Questions (For a Variety of Reasons)
Part of this, yes, is to learn what customers want. Just as importantly, however, asking questions openly (and often successfully) encourages other users to respond. Getting customers so engaged they actually answer your questions is a sign of interest, and getting them so engaged is opening a door to building their trust.
It’s flattering to be asked your opinion, even on a large scale, and a lot of people aren’t able to resist. Asking for feedback, asking what customers want in the future, or asking what users are doing for Christmas are all equally valid questions to ask (though some may be more beneficial to your business directly, all of them help your brand). Not only does it show that you care about your customers and what they want, it gets people talking with you instead of about you, giving you the chance to create a discussion. Again, it’s all about engaging people and interacting with them, not talking at them, and having an earnest exchange is essential to building rapport. Your company starts to be seen as people, not as a business just out for profit.
Don’t Forget About Appearance
When you go to a slow, lagging site that has “Coming Soon!” written under every thumbnail, you may lose interest and trust in the company. If they can’t keep their website up to date, how would they take care of you as a customer?!
Don’t make this mistake. Keep your pages looking clean and fresh. Keep content updated often. Customize a background and/or layout if you can, depending on the social media platform. Respond to people who have posted. Make sure your site itself is up to date, so when people inevitably follow your link on your social media back to your business’s main website, it looks clean, free of grammatical and spelling errors, and exactly like what you want your brand to be. Having a consistent and well-kept appearance is a big step in customers gaining faith in your brand.