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When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as little more than a student prank in a dorm room, he could have hardly guessed that he was about to create one of the world’s favorite connecting tools. But not only that — in one fell swoop, Zuckerberg also developed the first of several powerful platforms used by brands to connect to their communities.
By now, social media platforms offer brands more than simply one more location for advertising messages. These platforms have become instrumental in building brand trust. They are creating genuine connections that allow brands to engage with their customers on previously impossible levels.
The importance of brand trust
In 2020, the Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report indicated that 70% of consumers believe that trust in a brand has never been more critical than today. The result was the same across different demographics. So, what is brand trust? Marketing researchers at Northwestern University define brand trust as the respect and loyalty customers have for a brand or the strength of their belief that a brand will be able to deliver on its promises.
Brand trust is based on several factors, including:
- Product and service quality
- Public perception
- Brand mission and reputation
- Customer service experience and others
In this digital age, consumers have never been subjected to more marketing messages. In this crowded marketplace, with thousands of companies vying for consumers’ attention, brand trust is critical to help a brand stand out.
Understanding the power of social media
More than 300 million Americans are using social media platforms. The vast majority of them connect with others on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok every day. By 2028, experts predict that the figure will have increased beyond 300 million.
While the time of use and preferred platforms vary between age groups and other criteria, one thing is clear: social media offers brands unprecedented opportunities to connect directly to their audiences. Compared to traditional media, there is no barrier between the messages brands communicate and those that audiences see.
Plus, by reaching out to potential customers on social media, brands connect where people are already hanging out rather than forcing audiences into a different setting.
Build brand trust through authenticity and transparency
Social media has the reach as well as the coveted audience insights that brands look for when they choose where to connect. However, to run transformational campaigns, marketers need more than reach.
They need authenticity and transparency to build trust in their brands. On social media, authenticity is built on genuine interactions with customers. Of course, brands can leverage auto-reply tools, but they are only a stopgap. Consistent messaging and open communications are key to genuine connections.
Transparency is just as essential. Never have consumers had this much access to information, and they expect brands to share the truth about products and services. Most customers will understand that even the best product will occasionally have problems if the brand is open about their resolution.
How to leverage social media for engaging content
Social media platforms were built with engagement in mind. While the original intention may have been focused on individuals, the concept works just as well for brands looking to engage with customers by using one of the following approaches:
Listening and Responding to Your Community — Social media turns target audiences into communities that interact with the brand and each other. For brands, that creates a unique opportunity to listen into conversations, actively participate and respond to their community’s needs.
Building an Authentic Brand Personality — Social media channels are among the best-performing tools for brands to establish their own voices and personalities and allow their communities to get to know them. The platforms create relatively informal settings that foster conversations that would not happen via email inquiries or direct mail marketing.
Influencer Partnerships and Collaborations — Working with influencers who are trusted in their community automatically builds trust in the brand, by extension. These partnerships can expand the brand’s audience, too. However, they need to be well chosen to be effective for both sides.
Crisis Management and Reputation Building — Social media channels allow brands to talk directly to consumers in a crisis, for example, when a product recall becomes necessary. Rather than relying on third-party media outlets, these channels help brands explain their position without a filter.
Measuring success and adjusting strategies
Not every social media platform will work for every brand. Researching audience demographics and matching those against target audiences is key for successful campaigns. Brands must also be prepared to adjust and iterate their campaigns and even their overarching strategies regularly as they learn more about audience engagement.
Some of the most effective key performance indicators include overall reach, engagements, conversions and impressions.
Example: Dove’s campaign for real beauty
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty stands out for its longevity – it will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year – and its ability to connect and engage. Having started even before most consumers started using social media, the campaign has consistently evolved to reconnect with and engage audiences.
One of its successful social media-based iterations included 2019’s #ShowUs campaign on YouTube, designed to smash beauty stereotypes. At the same time, the brand has also been critical of social media excesses, which increased authentic engagement with its target audiences.
Social media channels offer brands many opportunities to connect with and engage audiences. Authenticity and transparency are key to successful campaigns, whether brands focus on their community, work with influencers, or use social media for crisis communications.