Did you know that 84% of CEOs in Europe and 94% in the US use social media? Did you also know that 80% of senior decision makers prefer to make decisions based on a range of articles, information and sources?
People buy from people they know, like and trust. But in today’s digital world having access to so much information on-line means that we can do a lot of our initial investigation and due diligence before we meet, let alone commit, to anybody. The ability to tell your story powerfully on social media is critical but how can we create trust when we’ve never met people before?
Consider that the level of trust in any relationship, whether with your loved ones, your colleagues at work, your customers, even the owner of the local shop, is a measure of who ‘knows’ us. The more they know us, the more they might like us and that may lead to trust.
But how can we build trust? Just like saving money for the house/holiday/car of your dreams, it takes time. It happens when you do the same thing – putting money in your savings account – over and over again. Doing something of VALUE and doing it CONSISTENTLY.
That’s what builds your trust account.
What is value?
Aside from being one of the most overused, non-specific and mis-understood terms in business today, let’s explore what value is and what providing value actually means.
The word value comes from the Old French valoir and Latin valere and means ‘be worth’. Value is worth something. But when we talk about providing value, we need to be thinking about providing something that is worthwhile to someone else. It could be worth something in monetary terms. It could be useful. It could confer status. It could entertain, inspire and motivate. It could avoid something unpleasant.
We can provide value in two ways to our audience; be they our customers, employees, stakeholders or clients:
This is not about looking at the ‘presumed’ benefits or overcoming ‘our’ objections. We need to stand in our customer’s shoes and say to ourselves, “if I were listening to this, watching this, what would benefit me? Can I make money? Can I save myself some time? Perhaps I can improve my health? Reduce my stress levels?”
The source of value is at our fingertips
A great source of customer value lies right at our fingertips – in their frustrations, complaints and objections.
Take some time to record what they are saying and doing and more importantly, keep revisiting this. Are there common themes, or objections that you don’t understand? They’re worth digging into because what the customer is saying to you is “how can you help me solve this problem?” and “how can you help me solve this problem and this next problem etc…?”
What are the common objections you get in your sales pipeline? Are there common ones? Are they all different?
In thinking about how we solve these problems for them, it won’t just help us to develop products and services people will buy but also the kind of content we can produce and write to engage and build trust with them.
The second component in the trust equation is consistency.
A lot of organisations have brand guidelines to ensure that the look and feel of everything about their company is consistent and identifiable with them. But people buy from people so we cannot leave it to organisations to do this for us. It’s up to each of us individually to be worthy of trust and that begins with setting out in the right way.
Here are a few things to consider:
Does my photo actually look like me? Could someone identify me in a crowded room on the basis of the photo they’ve seen on LinkedIn, the Company website etc. Am I consistent between my digital and my real in-the-world self?
Do I use the same photo everywhere? I have a particular photo that I use on all of my business pages so I am recognizable wherever I am or, more importantly, wherever you go. Having a consistent profile picture starts to create connections between the content that appears – whether we’ve merely liked or commented or whether we’ve actually produced it – and us.
Does my profile look and sound the same no matter where people find me? Am I saying the same things? Am I telling a consistent story – the “what I do” & the benefits or value I provide? While we might not say exactly the same thing on every channel, we need to have a common thread.
Tune in to your frequency
A subset of consistency is frequency, especially when it comes to social media.
As we start communicating with our audience, they come to expect and rely on us. They choose to invest in ‘spending time’ with us and the more ‘time’ they spend, the more familiar we will feel to them.
For many it can feel daunting to commit to posting with any sort of frequency so let me offer 3 tips to help you get started:
1. Choose one day each week to post something in the same place at the same time.
And stick to it. Don’t vary this (yet) – this is about building frequency manageable. You will not achieve much by posting 5 days one week and nothing the next. You are building a relationship and by starting off slowly, you are managing both your own and others’ expectations of you.
2. Find an article or video you liked, re-post it and comment on your key takeaway. If you are not used to creating your own content, this is a great place to start. To make it work however, you must link your comment or perspective to your business or profile ‘theme’ that speaks directly to your audience. For example, if you are in the accounting profession, you might write 3-4 sentences on why your key takeaway is important for people (or businesses) in understanding or managing their finances. Don’t expect someone to take a leap and make that connection for themselves. Be in charge of it, make the connection for them and be consistent about it.
3. Respond to comments. If people comment, they’ve been engaged by your post and have made an effort to respond. A thank you is just good manners but it also creates a conversation (you said, they said, you said…) – and if you add just a few more words to the reply where you can, a feeling of familiarity and eventually trust is more likely to emerge. You never know where it might lead.
As our social media profile develops, people will come to expect us to show up in our feeds and, dare I say it, look forward to our contribution. That’s why consistency is so important because if we break a ‘trust’ i.e. don’t meet or fulfill an expectation, it will be infinitely harder to get it back again.
Over time we might think about posting more frequently and/or developing some content of our own – either ourselves or by tapping into any number of service providers who can create content for us. Whatever we do though – whatever we commit to – we need to stick to it.
We all like to buy from people we know, like…and trust so building trust helps you to get sales. What you offer is value; how frequently you provide that value is your consistency. Together they complete the trust equation and allow us to build a sense of familiarity with our customers, employees and everyone we come in to contact with. Over time, by tapping into what’s worth something to others and by being persistent, we can reach the status of being a trusted authority, partner and provider.
Social media can be a powerful vehicle for our organisations to build credibility and trust as long as we (and I mean us) provide value and be consistent in whatever we do.