…in that order.
Research shows that consumers in the social media space are far more trusting of what their friends tell them than what advertising messages try to force upon them. Market research tells us that more three-quarters of people trust peer recommendations, compared to fewer than one-in-six trusting mailshots.
Plotted as ‘which sources are most credible?’, it’s clear that consumers and brands are pretty close, with journalists in third and obvious marketing messages in fourth.
So how does this relate to businesses? Well, put it this way – if you move to a small, friendly village with a pub at each end of the main road, what will influence your decision to choose one pub over the other for your first drink? According to the research, the majority of people would respond in this order:
1. What your friends who have always lived in the village tell you while you’re unpacking,
2. The brand of beer that you know one of the pub sells,
3. A review that you’ve read in the local paper,
4. The sign outside one of the pubs that tells you how good the roast dinners are,
5. A promotion for one of the pubs in the village shop.
Of course, Facebook is a completely different world to Ambridge. In real life, you may not discuss the qualities of two different pubs on the first day of moving to your new home – you may only be aware of one of the pubs, since you only drove one way into the village. Or without prior knowledge of any pubs, you might choose to stop for a drink having stumbled across one of the pubs while out walking.
Chance is a far less important factor in social networks. Stumbling across a brand without help is far less likely than seeing it mentioned by a friend or being guided to it based on your preferences via SEO.
And once a consumer does land on your page or group, that’s when you have to start building trust. And that means credible content.
In many ways, the role of the online marketer is different to his or her offline colleague. Designing adverts and writing good copy is still a large part of the job, but the focus is on creating something that people can and will share.
The bad news for brands adopting social media is that it can take a long time to build trust with your consumers. The good news is that once you’ve got it, they’ll be your best advocates.