corporate social media, reputation management, social media strategy, social networks

Why Do People Trust Brands and Organizations in Social Networks?

3 Comments 04 April 2010

I was struck by this article that the brand itself is the second-most trusted source for information about a brand on a social networking site. Wow. Does that strike you as wild?

It does…and it doesn’t. While we know that, foremost, consumers trust online peers’ recommendations about brands and products (second only to friends and family), what strikes me about these survey results is the proven value of social media. Social network activities by an organization – when implemented well – create trust, enthusiasm, and credibility. That can translate into moving fans to action. That’s ROI.

While most brands initially hopped onto the social media bandwagon to generate sales, enough companies are communicating effectively and passionately using social media that they are creating a credibility scale for others to meet. You know who I’m talking about – the brands that are genuine, real connectors with stakeholders, and are transparent. These are the brands at the top of the credibility scale, and the ones that are still in it for a quick customer are at the bottom.

A report by Lightspeed Research about what US consumers want from brands online states that the top demand is “to improve their knowledge.” Specifically, consumers want brands to offer relevant news and analysis, new ideas and thinking, useful applications that consumers can download, and to create a space where consumers can interact directly with the company or staff. This type of content moves a company way up on the credibility scale.

Brand consumers want real value from social media, and real conversation.

This is what puts a brand or organization at the top of the credibility scale.

I imagine the credibility scale to look something like this (comments and improvements welcome!):

Nonprofit organizations: social network users are definitely looking to you for credible information about your organization and the cause. And they want to connect with your staff in an online space, in a real way. How can you reach the top of the credibility scale?

Here are a few ideas for nonprofits reaching for the top of the scale:

  • More transparency about the successes, failure/challenges, and realities of the organization. Fans are looking to you for the real deal. Give it to them.
  • Integrate more stakeholder content into the website, and the social media. Is there a way to vote or “thumb up” content? How can you use social voting to show how popular a concept or campaign is? How can you better integrate your social fans’ thoughts into your online spaces?
  • Stream into the website how social media fans are referencing your work: create a social bookmarking feed of stakeholder-tagged content about organization, create a scroll of your tweets, showcase a Q&A on the website that comes directly from fan interaction on the social sites.
  • Double-up your efforts to connect online with your fans: spend more time chatting with them, listening to them, and offering value to them.
  • Ensure that the content you offer has value to your stakeholders, as mentioned above. Don’t think “here’s an article about what we just did.” Think “here’s an article about what we did, but we want to know how to improve it to better serve you.”
  • Offer added value in the online spaces that you don’t offer elsewhere. Great examples: Seafood Watch offers added value with its iPhone app, BullyingUK displays user-created posters on Flickr, and Epic Change highlights the Twitter Kids’ tweetstream.

If there is an argument for social media improving brand credibility, which is a great ROI, then these survey results seem to verify to be the argument. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the brand credibility scale, and social network brand credibility in general.

  • This is a wake up call. I believe everyone is looking for credibility in a brand right now. Once the company is able to provide that with convincing network skills and well trained PR & work ethics, it will move up fast to the top spot. As a consumer myself, I find it frustrating when a service provider is ignorant towards customer requests. As popular as it is, making new accounts on all social media sites, but its inconsistency of handling complaints is hurting its brand. It's really pity to see once a well known brand is now deteriorating its service quality – it's a huge risk to lose customer trust and loyalty in long term. It will take years of effort to gain back the audience once more.

    Brilliant post as always, Debra.

    Social/Blogging Tracker


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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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