Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trust; the Currency of the Social Media

The overwhelming importance of transparency within the social media is oft cited. Organisations which covertly attempt to manipulate online brand perceptions will invariably be exposed as fraudulent; particularly as the creation of user generated content has never been easier. As emerging social media platforms increasingly facilitate the expression of self, the repercussions of perceived attempts to manipulate public opinion will invariably prove detrimental. Attempts to covertly influence the online community should be avoided at all costs.

A time in which honesty and transparency are organisational imperatives, trust has quickly become the major currency of the social media. It is earned by honestly and openly engaging with the online community, and is forfeit by actions deemed covert or manipulative. The level of trust establish by an organisation will invariably distinguish their social media presence from those of other, less transparent organisations, and customers will feel significantly more inclined to engage with an organisation they deem to be trustworthy. It should be noted that the aggregation of trust is ongoing, and whilst incredibly difficult to earn, can be lost in moments. One inappropriate action can result in the eradication of any trust accumulated up to that point. Once lost, trust can be even more difficult to rebuild from the tatters of your online reputation than had previously been the case.

The Internet is still regarded by some with trepidation. Ever increasing societal engagement with the Internet is matched by the daily emergence of new and increasingly destructive threats. Within such an environment, the importance of trust becomes perfectly evident. It is hardly surprising that in an environment of anonymity, customers rely upon established trust to gauge the likelihood of a successful transaction. Whilst trust can be established both online and offline, it is important to recognise that the effects of online brand attacks are likely to represent a significantly greater threat to the the organisational brand equity than those carried out offline; principally because they can spread quickly. Even organisations that do not have a social media presence must continue to monitor the Internet to counter any threats as and when they occur.

In sum, your organisation must ensure that trust is established with the customer. The anonymity afforded by the Internet has given rise to the need to gauge the likelihood of a successful outcome before an action is carried out. Within the social media, this currency is trust. Act transparently, engage in the conversation, and help your customer in the way they demand.

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  1. Hey TLR, enjoyed this post tremendously. I can't believe how many organisations still act like they're "in charge" and consumers don't matter. Trust certainly is the currency going forward and that, linked with transparency and positive experiences, will definitely win over consumers in the long run.

  2. Hey, Daryl. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would truly hope that as the social media in general becomes more widely accepted in an organizational sense, companies will begin to truly recognize that it is the customer who is in charge now. Establishing trust with your customers is an organisational imperative, without which online business becomes completely unviable.

  3. Daryl -

    This is a well timed post. Have you seen Intel's social media guidelines?


    Here is an excerpt:

    Be transparent. Your honesty—or dishonesty—will be quickly noticed in the social media environment. If you are blogging about your work at Intel, use your real name, identify that you work for Intel, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.


    Backs up your argument about trust doesn't it?

    Jordan Willms

  4. Thank you for highlighting that extract from Intel, Jordan. It's good to see that some organizations are adopting adequate social media strategies in order to establish trust. It seems common sense; why should organizations adopt strategies online that would be frowned upon offline? The anonymity afforded by the Internet is no excuse for the organisation to engage covertly in the online conversation. Any offline attempts to covertly manipulate the customer's perceptions of the brand would undoubtedly be met with customer hostility. As you correctly highlight, Jordan, at the end of the day, transparency is critical in the social media, and trust is the currency thereof. Jeopardize either, and your entire online presence is threatened. Thanks for sharing, Jordan.