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When you think about who you trust, you probably think about a friend, family member, or maybe even a coworker. We’re guessing your first response isn’t some company — and you’re not alone in that thinking, according to Meltwater:

  • 18 percent of consumers trust brands on social channels
  • 20 percent trust emails from brands
  • 32 percent trust brand websites
  • 83 percent have had a bad social media marketing experience

While those might not be surprising stats if you’re looking at them from a consumer’s point of view, they are alarming when you consider them as a marketer. So, how do you increase followers’ level of trust and lower the number of poor experiences? Start by defining what trust means to your organization.

You might think of trust as some abstract concept that you can’t really track or grasp. But, Steve Rayson, director of BuzzSumo, manages to put it into an equation to show you what components will help you build trust with social media followers:

(Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy) / Self-Promotion = Trust

While that’s a good starting point, some other important aspects of trust also include transparency, integrity, confidence, and the ability to admit when you’ve messed up. That might seem like a lot of big demands to squeeze into some lighthearted posts, but luckily there are ways to create these sentiments organically on your pages.

Incorporate these six techniques into your social media strategy, and you’ll start building trust with your followers.

1 Be helpful

Any good relationship should be a two-way street. So if you’re constantly trying to take and take from your followers — always asking them to like, share, tweet, post, or comment — it’s not going to work out. You need to learn to give a little if you want to start building trust with them.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Respond to comments.
  • Answer questions in a timely manner (more on that below).
  • Connect a chatbot to your page to answer general questions or connect them with the right team member.
  • Include important information like your hours, website, address, phone number, and general description in your social profile — or provide a clear link to it all.
  • Let them know if you have an event or deal coming up soon.

Your followers should never feel like it’s a struggle to get information out of you online, so try to stay one step ahead by keeping them in the know.

2 Be a leader

Think about the type of person you trust. Is it someone new to the game with really no known background, or is it a prominent person with years of experience who proves they know their stuff? We assume you chose the latter because that person has shown they’re a leader in their area. That’s the type of brand image you want to create.

Being known as a leader in your industry helps your brand become one that social media users can trust. Here are a few ways you can become the go-to company:

  • Share original content that shows you know what you’re talking about and solves a problem for your followers (ex. how-to articles, timely blogs, etc.).
  • Answer followers’ questions on your page, and provide other links or resources that might help.
  • Post about your achievements in a thankful, humble way. Maybe you won an industry award or were named the top business in your area. Recognition like that can also be a great selling tool.

You should also follow other thought leaders in your industry and beyond to get ideas on what’s working for them. Don’t be afraid to bring them into the fold: 78 percent of brands implemented influencer marketing campaigns in 2017, which was up from 65 percent in 2016.

social media

3 Be responsive

We live in an instant world, and social media is a great example of that. You can share live videos, or post real time updates. While those can be great features for users, they can also set expectations high for how quickly brands respond to their messages. So, it’s important to ask yourself whether or not your company is meeting or exceeding your followers’ response expectations.

Most aren’t, and that’s fueling some of the distrust online users have with brands: The average response time for a brand to reply on social media to a user is 10 hours. However, 32 percent expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42 percent expect one with an hour.

That can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have a small team — or if it’s just you — but it’s important to make your social responses a priority. Make sure you get alerts anytime you receive a message, and strive to respond within an hour. You can also set automated responses to let them know you’ll be in touch soon, which can be especially useful for messages received after hours.

4 Be open and honest

Your level of transparency (or lack thereof) can make or break your social media success — and how much your followers trust you. The European Union has even made it a law with their GDPR when it comes to what companies can do with user data. Users can tell who’s being real with them, so be an open book when it comes to sharing about your brand.

If you make a mistake, admit it. That will show you’re human and build trust. And when someone asks you a question, answer it as honestly (and personably) as possible. Avoid copy-and-paste customer service responses.

You can also share insights or quotes from the CEO to give followers a better look into what’s going on with the company. Share their personal social handles so people can get to know them better.

social media

5 Have fun

We all want to laugh and have a good time on social media. Who doesn’t enjoy a good cat video every now and again? People want to be entertained, instead of having brands try to push their promotions and sales pitches down their throats.

Finding ways to create enjoyable social content — whether that’s a funny photo related to your brand, trivia fact, lighthearted quote, or smile-worthy video — can help you build a trusting relationship with your followers. That’s something you can do, no matter your company.

As far as brands go, you’d think a dictionary publisher would be a bit boring as far as social media posts go. I mean, how fun are definitions and spelling? Merriam-Webster proves it can be fun and “with the times” with this tweet, which followed Donald Trump’s memorable one about “covfefe.”

social media

They found a timely topic they could have some fun with in a non-political way. That tweet ended up earning 95,200 retweets, 2,100 comments, and 221,536 likes. Not too shabby.

6 Be human

This might seem like an odd one to include, considering you’ve probably mastered being human already. But creating posts on social media that sound like they came from a real individual — as opposed to a brand — takes some extra effort. People join social sites to interact with other people (not companies), so make sure your posts sound personable, relatable, and real.

One approach several brands are using to achieve this person-to-person interaction is adding the initials or first name of the employee who wrote the text to the end of the post. This approach is especially beneficial for customer service responses, like in this example:

social media

You can also share photos of your team or feature them on your cover photo to put a face to the brand for your followers. And if it makes sense for your company, you can also use your or another team member’s photo as the profile pic instead of your logo.

Time to take the trust fall

Curious to see if your followers trust you more after trying those techniques? Track your social media analytics to watch for an increase in interactions, shares, likes, and positive reviews. When your followers trust you, they are more likely to engage with your posts and share your pages with their friends.

Another added bonus beyond just earning the trust of your followers (and that’s amazing in itself) is that you’ll also get your posts in front of more people. Facebook recently implemented its latest algorithm, which prioritizes posts with active interactions like shares, comments, and reactions. That means those posts will be ranked higher — and be seen by more people — than posts with just likes and views.

No matter what social site you’re sharing on, just remember your posts should sound like a person is writing them for another person to read. That may sound simple, but brands often forget social media should be, well, social, rather than a platform to sell services. Follow that rule, and you’re halfway to building trust with your followers.

What other tips do you have for building trust on social media? Tell us in the comments!

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Her decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing.

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