Welcome to writing/communications Wednesday. Today’s post is on the theme of Safety in social media networks as we are looking at this topic this week in my “Communications 506 – Using/Managing Communications networks” course.

“Safety is the motivation to derive support from one’s social environment” (Kadushin, 2012, p. 72).

social-media-customer-serviceSocial media users like to feel safe in their online environments and this involves a level of trust in those who are in their networks. Many businesses are using social media for marketing and I think building trust with audiences is an important key to success.

Erik Qualman writes that 93% of marketers use social media for business (source).

50% of Twitter users are more likely to purchase from brands they follow (source) and 34% if marketers say that they have generated leads using Twitter, yet 56% of customer tweets to companies are being ignored (source).

The question is: how can businesses use social media for the greatest consumer impact?

Semina Hossain shared an article about Social Media vs. Social Networking, which outlines how businesses can use social media for marketing and for networking or building trust with their customers/clients. For example, social media marketing involves: distributing communications to a wide audience and it’s difficult to measure true reach and impact. Social networking involves engaging in two-way communication directly with customers/clients and gaining further insight into the business’ social media impact.

Kadushin (2012) asks

“What is the optimal balance between safety and effectiveness for different structures and for different situations” (p. 69).

I think the key to social media for businesses is to find the optimal balance between social media (effectiveness) and social networking (safety/trust).

Social Media – Effectivity

Jason Buzzell and I briefly talked (tweeted) about the issue with businesses hiring so-called “social media experts” who essentially only know how to use all social media platforms. I think what businesses should be looking for are experienced social networkers. For example, Wet Seal, a young women’s clothing retailer hired a 16-year old with a large personal following to manage their SnapChat account for a few days (source). This resulted in an increase in 9,000 followers for Wet Seal because the Meghan’s followers trusted her and so through her they effectively started following Wet Seal. This may not be an appropriate way for every business to build a following, but it is one example of how a business can make a connection with an important influencer on a social media network and use this powerful “node” to connect the business to an interested consumer base.

Social Networking – Building Trust

In addition to making connections, businesses should make an effort to provide a certain level of customer service through social media. This also creates trust because consumers place a lot of weight on friend referrals when purchasing goods or services and a positive social media experience may increase the likelihood of customers recommending the brand to their networks. This proves true for me because I’ve contacted businesses through Facebook messages and received a response in about 24 hours, which I really appreciated. They provided me with the information I needed so I could get their products, left me with a positive impression.

Social Networking & My Personal Brand

I’ve been blogging and tweeting for a number of years and I found that my personal brand and network was strengthened the most by making connections with people. By commenting on their blogs, chatting with them on Twitter, or tweeting their posts, I saw my Twitter followers move from 30 to 800 and my blog readers increased by a similar percentage.

The act of “selling” often makes social media users cringe, especially if it’s not done correctly. But if a brand, whether personal or a business, gains the trust of their followers through genuine interaction (e.g. chatting, retweeting, customer service replies), then the social network will grow and strengthen.

Now that I’m taking COMM506, I’m trying out the social media avenue of providing useful links for information about social media and branding rather than engaging in mostly Twitter conversations. A lot of influencers on Twitter share links and I’m interested to see how this impacts my network throughout the next few months. I’ve noticed that by doing this, I’ve become more informed of what’s happening in social media for businesses and it also makes me more confident in gaining that knowledge.

Useful links for social networking for businesses

I came across several recent articles that provide methods for building consumer trust and tips for social networking for businesses:

8 thoughts on “Social Networking for Businesses – Building Consumer Trust”

  1. Nice post. Whether it’s social media or content in general and usability/analytics, many businesses are willing to spend on certain trades or talent, but then ignore others.

    You’re hitting a bit on what I am leaning toward in my research which is to focus on basically gaining the trust of people by helping them find your stuff/content/products easy and helping them do things, and how that influences the brand. Lots has been done offline with that it seems.

    1. I’ve been seeing so many headlines on the importance of analytics and big data. Focusing your research in this area is sure to be a hard-hitter! (Like my baseball reference there for ya?) The thing about our cohort is that everyone’s research interests are right on the ball and I want to read/learn from you all — our capping projects are going to be stellar!

      1. Nice pun. Impressed. Looking forward to May, yes. Can you measure trust? Is followers a measure of trust?

        1. That’s a good question! Perhaps trust could be measured through consumer surveys or by tracking referrals. For example, some businesses offer new customers an incentive (e.g. 5-15% discount) if they were recommended by a friend. Tracking social media @mentions could also be an option.

  2. Great post, Nicole. Some of the statistics are really interesting – especially about people more likely to buy from the brands they follow. I feel out of the loop sometimes because I don’t “Like” or “Follow” many places that I buy from – simply because I don’t like the spam on my newsfeeds. I wonder if that has any impact on people deciding to follow a particular company – and how companies decide how much to communicate with their consumers.

    1. I didn’t used to follow companies or artists I liked on Facebook until I moved back to Edmonton. I follow them because I want their updates in my news feed. I like getting notices when certain places get something new on their menu I want to try or an event. I can’t say how companies decide how often to post. The restaurants I follow for example will post 3-5 times per week on Facebook, usually letting people know about happy hour deals or any other special. They don’t seem to advertise excessively but use Facebook as a way to create more of a social connection with their customers.

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