There are enough articles out there on the World Wide Web evangelizing the linking of social media to mainstream business (marketing to be more specific). And unarguably the merits are plenty and varied, as are some concerns. But it is hard to overlook the single most important contribution that social media has brought to current business practices – the element of trust.
Social Media stands apart from traditional marketing in two very important ways: it is interactive and instant. There is a greater level of honesty. Social Media is not sophisticated marketing that has been filtered and re-filtered with messages geared toward selling. It is an immediate exchange of information between certain designated employees of a company and prospects or group members of the networking site. Whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media site, the ability to create groups, communities, and pages that allow a more one-on-one type of interaction is always going to have a greater degree of honesty compared to other marketing and promotional methods. Honesty and transparency are organic links to building trust.
It’s important to remember to update your social media sites frequently so your readers find your story on their news feed (rotating news updates that appear on an individual’s networking homepage) on a regular basis. The news must be relevant, and informative. Information about your products, your company, or the industry are good topics as long as the goal is to inform the reader and maintain engagement rather than to just sell or promote a product. On the same note, talk less about your new products and tell them more about a new development in the industry or a great tip or practice that might make their lives easier. Information that adds value to your readers will be viewed more and regarded higher.
Social media builds trust because the news we post isn’t geared toward hard selling. It’s a long sell process. The idea is to build a relationship; not make a sale. When social media marketing is based on CRM rather than closing a sale, relationships are automatically built and fostered; and trust grows from there. Consumer behavior studies constantly show that people would rather do business with those they trust and with whom they have built a relationship.
When you post information on your social media sites, you are essentially opening the backdoors of your business and allowing your group members to take a peek into the inner workings of your company. It’s like going backstage to meet the cast members! We’re creating shared experiences through stories, pictures, videos, company events, discussions and more. Pictures speak a thousand words. Not just the pictures on your website – those pictures are still a product of marketing – glossy and professional. Pictures and videos on social media must be updated regularly to show company events like tradeshows and conferences as well as informal events like fundraisers and company picnics. It is important to remember that social media when used for business must still maintain a professional attitude, but maybe with the rules relaxed just a little bit. By updating your site, posting news feed, updates, pictures and videos, you are creating experiences and building trust.
These experiences will credit into your company’s ‘trust fund’ and help build business relationships that may ultimately produce revenues. But until these relationships naturally transform into customer acquisitions, it is important to remember that social media builds trust by not pushing products but building relationships.
On a final note, it is important to remember that open, two-way communication sometimes may open doors to criticism. Social media allows companies to control and regulate content to some extent. However, while you can filter really negative comments, allowing readers to view constructive criticism is often a good thing. It provides two important benefits. One, it shows the reader that the business is serious about maintaining transparency and two, it allows the business to address any issue that is brought to light so that others experiencing the same problem can see that the issue has been resolved or addressed. It shows that the company cares about its community.
Social media adds a powerful human component to your marketing plan. By allowing social networking to permeate into professional networking, businesses can create for themselves CRM opportunities that could perhaps turn into lucrative dealings. The possibilities are endless.