Strategy

Building trust for your brand in today’s social age

Trevor Young /

The public’s high-velocity adoption of all things social on the web should be ringing alarm bells in the upper echelons of all businesses, but particularly larger organisations with entrenched beliefs around ‘controlling the message’ and a track record of intrusive, self-centred marketing.

The question is not whether you should be on Twitter or Facebook; it’s way deeper and more far-reaching than that.

This is not an article about new business models or a company’s ability to operate in an agile manner, that’s not my specialty (although there seems to be a correlation between progressive agile companies and their judicious use of new media technologies to become closer to, and more relevant with, their customers).

The area I focus on revolves around reputation and brand, and the role your organisation plays in the community in which it operates; it’s about the way you market your business and communicate with your constituents, not just today but into the future. But ultimately, it’s about relevancy and respect, about becoming a ‘connected brand’ in a real-time social marketplace that’s intensely competitive, hyper-networked, super-busy and information overloaded.

Lack of trust hurts brands

Traditional PR wisdom dictates you eke out information on your terms, when it suits you; information that’s all about you and your products and services, using words laden with jargon and polished to such an extent they’re rendered all but indecipherable. This does not build trust; and we know that lack of trust hurts brands.

Traditional marketing wisdom revolves around intruding on people, hitting them with a barrage of one-way sales messages – buy this product, sign up for this service, become a member today, vote for me! Or, as the actor William Shatner remarked in his keynote presentation at Content Marketing World in the US: “You don’t have to always hit them [consumers] in the face! Because this doesn’t buy trust.”

I’m all for promoting one’s products and services – hey, I’m in marketing communications after all – but it’s the frequency and context that concerns me. Yes, to a degree it made sense in the industrial age, but it doesn’t today. Today, we need to earn the right to pitch. Today, companies need to be respectful of their customers, to contribute to their lives in ways that are relevant and meaningful. Today, it’s more important than ever to deliver value over and above your products and services.

Earn the attention of people

Social content marketing authority and author Gary Vaynerchuk has named his new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook to reflect this very philosophy. It’s a metaphor for marketing in today’s social age: Give, give, give (value), ask. In other words, give value again and again and again before asking for the sale. Vaynerchuk is all about the hustle and by no means is he backwards when it comes to pitching and selling, but he’s realised the jig is up and delivering value through content is the basis of all good marketing today.

We live in the ‘connection economy’ where people’s attention is one of their most precious, albeit diminishing, assets.

Is your organisation earning the attention of people by being interesting, relevant, useful, helpful … thought provoking?

Rather than spraying ‘calls to action’ into the ether via every media ‘orifice’ – messaging that, by the way, people are probably ignoring – would your brand be better served if your company created compelling, high-quality multimedia content that educates, informs, empowers or entertains people?

Rather than be a faceless corporation, why not leverage the power of social technologies to connect with your constituents, to let them inside the walls of your enterprise and meet your employees? Why not put your people front and centre, and empower them to share knowledge and information that will add value to the lives of your customers?

And where do you, as a business leader, fit into all of this? Are you visible, accessible, open and connected? Are you publicly generous with your knowledge and ideas? Are you collaborative and socially connected?

The social age is now well and truly upon us. The question is: is there a place in it for you and the company you lead?

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Trevor Young

Trevor Young is a communications strategist and adviser specialising in ‘content-driven social PR’.

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