Nothing has changed since we began trading in the market place centuries ago… We ultimately do business with people we trust and people we like. What has changed is that your market has got bigger, much bigger, these days the online world is your market place.
Forget the saying “It’s not personal it’s business”, you don’t get the business unless you’re personable. Trust in the offline world is built over time, and trust via online channels is no different, it doesn’t happen overnight and you need to invest time and resources in building online relationships. You also need to be an open book, transparency and consistency in your key messaging is hugely important in your digital strategy.
Here are a few of my top tips (in no particular order) for building trust and credibility online.
- Look great! If you have a physical premises, you probably do everything you can to keep it in tip-top condition, you want to give a great first impression when people walk through your doors. You should do exactly the same online. A website visitor will form an opinion about your company in quite literally the blink of an eye. Great web design is crucial in building trust online, 75% of people make judgements about a company’s credibility based on website design. If your website hasn’t been updated in the last two years, chances are it needs a revamp. If you own a retail space you probably refresh your visual merchandising and window displays on a weekly basis, be sure to update your website too. Keep in mind that over 70% of online customers use a mobile device to browse, so ensure your website design is mobile responsive. A website is for life, not just for Christmas, view your site as a visitor, or get your friends and family to view it, is it easy to navigate? Does it give visitors the right information about who you are and what you do? If you sell a product or service online, have you put through a test sale lately? Is it working, are your customers receiving the appropriate notifications when they make an enquiry?
- Look really great… Invest in professional photography for your online profile photos. Nothing looks worse than a LinkedIn profile picture that shows somebody out on a fishing boat or at the beach… Unless you’re a fisherman or life guard! Once you’ve got a great professional image, use the same one throughout your social channels. This is basic social housekeeping, and part of building your trustworthy brand online through consistency.
- Blog often. Blogging can increase your search traffic and giving your audience the benefit of your knowledge in your professional field will cultivate trust and credibility.
- Get social. The keyword is social. Facebook and Twitter should not be your personal soap box. Join the conversation! If people follow you, and they’re a real person, follow them back, (you can usually tell if it’s a spam account, look for the egg head on Twitter). If you don’t follow them back, it’s a bit like ignoring someone who walks into your physical premises…. You wouldn’t do it would you? These people are interested in connecting with you, they could be your next big customer! Search for mentions of your brand online and engage with the people that are talking about you.
Check out Social Mention, a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.
- If the worst happens, respond quickly. By this I mean a complaint or negative comment. Please don’t delete these, you wouldn’t ignore a customer who came into your store to return an item or complain about service… Be attentive and sincere in your desire to help the person who has complained. It’s okay to connect offline, but let it be known online that that’s what you’re doing. Other potential customers will read these exchanges, so a simple, “Hi, (insert name of customer), I’m really sorry this happened and want to make it right, please can you message me your number and I’ll get in touch straightaway.” It shows others that you’re dealing with the situation, but you’re not getting into a very public debate online.
- Be an open book. I’m going to ask you to approach this one with caution… It’s good to give a little of yourself, but this needs to be measured. Keep private things private, the last thing you want to do is air your dirty laundry in public. If you have a Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram account for your business remember every picture you post, and every statement you make is a reflection on your business. On Facebook, keep your profile for personal friends and your page for business.
- Invest in PR. Getting somebody else to tell your story is important for online and offline credibility. An advert is telling someone you’re great at what you do, good PR results in someone else saying you’re great at what you do. This exposure will build trust and credibility ten-fold, you literally can’t pay for the type of positive media exposure that comes from well executed PR.