Brand trust is critical. Customers are more fickle than ever before: 46 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to switch companies than they were 10 years ago. Still, it is possible to keep customers loyal. In fact, it can really improve profit margins. One study found a five per cent increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95 per cent increase in profits.
Low prices obviously drive a lot of consumer choice, but trust counts, too. PR firm Cohn & Wolfe conducted a study that found the top quality customers wanted in big brands was honesty. Another study found 63 per cent of consumers would buy something from a brand they felt was authentic.
What does this have to do with social media? As it happens, social media interaction is one of the best, easiest ways to build brand trust. These ten tips will help your company build brand trust, all through your social media accounts.
Address customer comments, needs and criticisms
We all know that social media is great for customer service. You can get alerts that tell you when someone has mentioned your brand. You check what they say, and you respond, which your followers then see. If it's a good comment, great. If it's a bad comment, that's your chance to make things right with that one customer and show all your other current and potential customers how you'd handle any similar problems they may have.
For example, Amazon helps customers wherever they raise their complaints.
Show your personality
While it's all well and good to be a serious thought leader, you might want to consider showing a little personality in your social media engagement as well. After all, even the driest industries have their fun sides. There are jokes for accountants, construction topics that inflame the passions of builders and activities that make rubbish collectors enjoy their work. Remember what drew you to your industry, and let that show in your social media interactions. That way, your social media activity reflects that yours is more than a boring old company. Your brand is fun, too.
A great example of this is Lidl UK using an avocado to predict football matches.
Get your CEO tweeting
This is a bit uncomfortable for many companies and executives, but customers want to know what your CEO has to say about the brand, industry news and more. It might seem strange, but having a social media-savvy exec can impact both trust and sales. eMarketer found recently that 82 per cent of consumers trust a company’s brand more when the CEO is on social media, and 77 per cent are more likely to buy things from those companies, too.
Remember, however, that your CEO might need a little guidance, especially if he or she is not used to social media. A little basic training on how and why you use social media can make your CEO more comfortable using the platforms, and it can help prevent any unfortunate rookie mistakes.
See how the Pret A Manger CEO used a blog post and Twitter to plan a new venture.
Brag about your good works a bit
If your brand has a social responsibility policy (and frankly, it should), social media is a great place to talk about it. Talk about how you are cutting back on waste and recycling more. Show photos of the team-building charity work your employees do. Demonstrate how you act on your ethics and morals. When you can show that you talk the talk and walk the walk, customers will be more likely to trust you when you say your products or services are top notch. After all, you already showed that you back up your claims – in this case, of social responsibility – with action.
Take a look at how Oracle shows its charitable activities.
Develop a personal tone
Social media is social. That means it is human. If all your interactions feel like adverts written by robots, your customers will be turned off. The challenge, of course, is walking the line between being consistent and professional, where all of your social media team use the same style and understand how and what they should post, and being responsive and personal, where flexibility and empathy can be so useful. While you are training up your CEO, run training days for your social media staff, too. Get everyone on board to design the official voice of the company, and they will be more likely to follow the tone you want to set.
See how Free People uses photos to communicate the company's easy-going wanderlust.
As much as customers like companies that are unexpectedly funny or entertaining, they do not require it of every company they follow. They do not necessarily want a silly tax lawyer, and they do not want a po-faced bakery. Obviously, there are serious issues in baking and there are funny parts of tax law, but unless you feel confident your brand’s social media team can bridge those gaps particularly well, it is best to stick with a more natural feel.
See: Fox's cheeky (and often rude) Deadpool DVD promotion.
Be transparent, and don't be afraid to address company controversy
Unfortunately, you may find your brand at the heart of a controversy, whether it’s your fault or not. But just like when this happens to individuals, how your brand handles the bad times speaks volumes about its character and fortitude. If you remain transparent and honest, you can ride out just about any storm. Apologise sincerely, and outline plans for improvement. Write blogs about what went wrong and which lessons you've learned. Show upset customers that you are making a wholehearted attempt to change and grow, and soon you should be able to move past the controversy.
Or, you could stay quiet and let customers come to their own conclusions about your motivations. Though they most likely will assume the worst, since anything less than full transparency means you have something to hide.
Like when Canon joined in a frank discussion of its customer service shortcomings.
Don't be afraid to reference competitors
Essentially, confidence in yourself breeds the confidence of others in you. If you really want to show off your confidence, then talk about – or to – your competitors. Everyone knows you have competitors, so it is bizarre to act like you are the only company who does what you do. But you can be the kind of company that is so confident about its products or services that you aren't afraid to talk about others doing the same things. Stay positive, though, or else you'll look bitter instead of confident.
Take a look at the time Burger King tried to team up with McDonald's on the McWhopper.
Brands today have it hard, especially on social media. You have to be personal, but professional. Responsive, but consistent. Fun, but reliable. You have to build trust, but acknowledge how and when you mess it all up. Luckily, the ephemeral, rapidly changing and increasingly crowded environment means you have the time and space to be a bit of all of these.
Just remember: you don't have to integrate all of these tips into each post. Craft a strategy that incorporates all of these ideas, however, and you should be able to build the trust, and the community, that will impact your bottom line in all the best ways.