How to lay the foundations for digital trust

According to a Pew Research study, more than eight in ten U.S. adults (86 per cent) get their news from their smartphones. Digital platforms are now the world’s primary source of information. This shift has only happened in the past decade. Now, anyone can become their own publisher – spreading baseless misinformation just as easily as fact-based news.  

The result: trust in digital platforms is at an all-time low. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Between disinformation on Facebook allegedly riling the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, to the Joe Rogan podcast causing friction around vaccinations amongst other issues, faith in what we read online has been well and truly eroded. With more and more platforms having a black misinformation mark against their name, it seems that there are fewer digital sources we can trust.  

There are plenty of businesses that have contributed to the age of digital distrust. Greenwashing is rife, CEOs are all ‘nice guys’ on LinkedIn and HR departments aren’t above incentivising a positive GlassDoor review. This, in combination with the generalised lack of trust in digital communications, has resulted in everything being questioned and second-guessed.  

So, how can brands cut through when trust is at an all-time low?  

Vet your spokespeople  

They could be subject matter experts within your business or external influencers promoting your brand on social media. Your spokespeople’s reputation has a direct influence on your corporate one. Influencers particularly need to be put under the microscope and chosen for genuine reasons and not just based on the number of followers they have. Trust can be destroyed in seconds so ensure there are no reputational weaknesses in those representing your brand.  

Tell real stories, wipe off the corporate polish  

Building trust isn’t done by being boring. It’s not achieved by diluting your communications to such a degree that your brand is completely devoid of personality. That’s because that’s not real. It reeks of disingenuity. If you were speaking to a person at a bar and all that came out of their mouths was utterly positive, polished, pre-rehearsed lines, you wouldn’t trust that person.

You’d think something was off. Well, this isn’t any different for a brand’s digital communications. Don’t be afraid to be real, conversational, honest, human, and vulnerable. It will play, like it would in a bar, very well with your audience.  

Don’t be afraid of publicising mistakes  

This has to be done with caution but when done well it can be an instant trust builder. Before 2020, Zoom was a little-known platform. As we are all well aware, it ballooned in popularity due to the almost overnight adoption of remote work. Parallel to its growth, the platform also experienced a massive test of its privacy and security. And almost enviably, the result was a number of high profile, media scrutinised, “hijacking” of video calls by malicious users.

Instead of shying away, CEO Eric Yuan Yuan released a memo apologising to users and also appeared on various news outlets to speak about issues. Going one step further, he also admitted the company moved too quickly and assured users that the issues were being addressed. The result, Zoom retained market share and continues to be one of the go-to video call platforms. This is in part due to the trust that Yuan built early on by being transparent with shortcomings. 

Be present and really listen  

Engaging in social media is pretty much an essential communication channel for businesses. There is no avoiding it, so you better start embracing it. At this point, not having a presence on certain platforms is the reason for stakeholders to lose trust. How would you feel if you were searching for a big consumer brand like coke-a-cola on LinkedIn and couldn’t find a profile? Red flag right. As a baseline, make sure you have all the key platforms covered.

It’s then time to go one step further: listen and engage with your audience. Community management on social media is something businesses need to invest in. Users who leave comments – especially disgruntled customers – want nothing more than to be heard. Often, simply replying with a comment that expresses understanding is enough to nip the issue in the bud. Having dedicated resources for community management will ensure that a consistent tone of voice and messaging, will take your social media communication to the next level.   

Adopting these tips will help you navigate this new age of doubt. It’s an uphill struggle but building trust with your audience today will pay dividends in the future.  Ensure digital trust should be at the heart of your activity. 

Next steps to increase digital trust

At AMBITIOUS, we are experienced in helping corporates communicate with confidence on digital platforms. We can help you build a strategy that cuts through the noise and that make your audience feel heard, build trust with key stakeholders and ultimately drive engagement. Send an email to hello@ambitiouspr.co.uk to book a strategy call today.

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