How to Build Trust in a Post-Trust World

By Diana Luu

Marketers are facing unprecedented levels of skepticism in today’s media landscape. With the proliferation of fake news, cyberattacks threatening consumers’ data security, and increasing concern over how new technologies like AI and automation will impact their futures, it should come as no surprise that trust in business, media, government and NGOs is falling across the board in Canada, according to Edelman’s 2017 ‘Trust Barometer’ survey.

In today’s climate where Canadians are rejecting established authority in its traditional form en masse, trust is becoming the most valuable currency for marketers to influence their audiences and earn their loyalty. Which leads me to the million-dollar question, how do you build trust?

First, it’s important to understand how the nature of trust has shifted in recent years. Consumers are increasingly looking to individuals, and not only those in the C-suite, for company updates; employees are more believable than the institutions they work for; and a company’s social channels are perceived as more trustworthy than its advertising.

So how can you build meaningful connections with audiences in today’s ‘post trust’ world? Adopt the five following pillars of digital trust, designed for how modern consumers are digesting, sharing and reacting to information online.

1. Create content that adds value at the moments that matter. More than four out of five business decision makers say that thought leadership builds trust. However, timing is everything. You need to provide customers with value-add content, targeted at their key decision points. Understanding your audience’s purchase journey means you can share the content they care about when it’s top of mind.

2. Communicate with a human voice. Sixty per cent of Canadians say that they trust their peers above all other voices. People don’t want to engage with a company or institution, they want human relationships. So give them what they want – surface your executive voices and encourage them to be authentic. Additionally, share content from employee networks so your audiences can hear from individuals like them.

3. Be part of the community. A strong community engagement strategy has never been more crucial. Sixty-one per cent of global consumers view a company’s social media content as more believable than its advertisements. Use your social properties not only to engage with consumers, but emphasize your social purpose. It’s also important to understand people’s mindset on different platforms and how that impacts the type of information they’re most likely to engage with. On professional networks like LinkedIn, members are “investing time” – they’re looking for some type of value exchange and are more open to receiving news, thought leadership and relevant information from brands. For instance, 62% of members engage with content on LinkedIn because it’s educational or informative, the highest driver of engagement on the platform. In contrast on personal networks, consumers are “spending time”, and more interested in information related to their personal interests or entertainment.

4. Be present, be constant. Continuous communication helps you stay relevant and top of mind. In fact, 70% of consumers say they prefer to get to know a brand through a constant flow of content than one-off campaigns. Once you’ve earned your audience’s attention, turn interest into trust by supplementing campaigns with ‘always on’ engagement that’s tailored to their interests and adds value.

5. Think context as well as content. We’ve seen the disastrous implications of information taken out of context in the political sphere this year, so now more than ever it’s imperative to consider the platforms on which to surface content and how this impacts the quality of engagement. It’s not just what you say, it’s where you say it.

In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries chose ‘post truth’ as its international word of the year, perfectly symbolizing today’s challenging consumer landscape. As marketers and business leaders, we have a responsibility to be the honest and authentic voice that their audience demands, helping the public to regain faith in a ‘post trust’ world.

Diana Luu is head of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Canada

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