Edelman’s Trust Barometer: You Can’t Ignore Social Media Anymore

Ifdy Perez is a social media strategist with a specialty in community building.

Take out a pen and paper. You’re about to gain four important nuggets of knowledge to help your business grow in 2013 without having to read or interpret Edelman’s latest report. But if you’re in a rush, skip down to the last section for the four-point wrap up.

Nugget #1: There’s a Global Trust Issue

This past week, Edelman released their annual Trust Barometer report, where the main finding is that the world, as a whole, is facing a “crisis in leadership” due to trust issues a majority of consumers have with CEOs and politicians. (That’s not too surprising, is it?) We live in a global culture of distrust of authority—and skepticism isn’t a friend to business.

When asked what would help build trust in a company, consumers indicated a range of 16 attributes; of those 16, the top four were related to “engagement.”

Those surveyed agreed that they’d trust a company that, 1) listens to their feedback, 2) treats their employees well, 3) conducts business truthfully, and 4) puts consumers interests ahead of their profits.

One word sums this up: they trust a company that is all around good.

Nugget #2: Transparency Isn’t Enough

Another interesting finding is that lack of transparency isn’t a top reason for trusting a business or government less. In fact, three other attributes are ahead of transparency: corruption or fraud, “wrong incentives” driving the actions, and incompetence or poor performance.

This means it isn’t enough to lay it all out for your consumers, or appear to be transparent. Your actions, and the reasons behind those actions are what consumers look for in a company.

Nugget #3: People Trust the Internet, Peers the Most

Edelman’s findings also show the growing millennial consumer population (that is, consumers ages 16-34) uses social media and search engines to gather their news. Globally, 41% consumers surveyed trust in social media, and 58% globally trust in online search engines as their news source.

(Here’s a link to another study showing the growth of the millennial consumer population, currently beating out the Baby Boomers in population.)

We also learned that this demographic has a higher trust in a friend (61%) or academic (69%) endorsement than in your CEO.

CEOs and government officials are the least trusted people (43% and 36% respectively). And only 18% trust that a CEO would tell the truth no matter how unpopular it would be—which is pretty low.

But the future isn’t bleak for small businesses, which have an advantage; 86% of consumers trust small businesses. It does mean, however, that building a Facebook and Twitter community for your business is practically inevitable.

Nugget #4: Online Community Building Is Now Mandatory

What does this all indicate? That now, more than ever, businesses need to have an online community in order to build trust with their consumers. Especially since more consumers are using social networks for more than socializing with friends.

By cultivating relationships with consumers online, you’re portraying the attributes of a trustworthy brand. Answering their questions, providing sociable posts, keeping an upbeat tone, etc. are all tactics to portraying honesty, trustworthiness, positive corporate culture, and a quality product or service.

And a good by-product from spending time online is the creation of evangelists—trusted peers who will publically endorse your brand. If influencers trust you, and say they trust you, others will be more inclined to trust you as well.

That is how you build trust with your customers in 2013.

Wrap-Up

If the above was a little too heavy to take in all at once, here’s a quick breakdown:

  • What drives you (your mission, interests, etc.) is very important in how consumers trust you.
  • Transparency isn’t the biggest factor in trust. Trust is about your business being honest in its dealings, doing good in the community it serves, and doing it well (efficiently and economically).
  • As more consumers look to online resources and social networks for trust-building and decision-making, your business can no longer ignore the need to create a community online.
  • There are 4 specific attributes consumers have deemed to being trustworthy, and you can portray those attributes by engaging with your consumers in an active online community.

What other findings from Edelman’s research did you find to be important for the SBO today?

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