How to Build Social Media Trust through Meaningful Conversation Contributions

Conversations are happening everywhere online, and many of them take place in social media networks. Become part of those conversations in a way that makes sense to your brand and your business goals and to your audience.

Recommendations from friends and family, and even those from social networks, are referred to as earned media in the advertising world. According to Nielsen, of the consumers who were interviewed worldwide, 92 percent say that they trust earned media more than all other forms of advertising.

According to ROI Research, of the users who were interviewed, 58 percent of Twitter users and 53 percent of Facebook users who were interviewed said that they're likely to purchase a product after following a company or product in social media. Trust in a brand, and interaction with it in social networks, can translate into sales.

Follow these tips to start entering conversations in the right places and in the right ways:

  • Investigate the topics that matter to your audience. Research to find out where they spend their time and what topics they care most about. See whether you can reach them on Facebook or Twitter, and whether they're willing to read your content or respond to beautiful pictures, for example, on Pinterest or Instagram.

    A tool such as Followerwonk assesses your followers' interests and creates a word cloud, a visualized series of words compiled of the most popular user-generated words or tags. The word cloud is for you to showcase those interests on your website or other social media platform. You can also ask current customers and prospects where they spend their time online and what they're comfortable doing there.

  • Build your social media presence. After you know where your audience interacts, go there. Create a Facebook Fan Page or sign up for Twitter or start a Pinterest account. Hire a writer to compose content for your blog or even for your social networks. Listen, respond, and start engaging. Let your audience know that they matter to you from the moment they connect with you.

  • Continue asking questions. After you have established a presence in suitable networks and you're building an audience, continue asking them questions. Prove to your audience that their thoughts and opinions matter to you by asking them what they think and by listening to what they have to say.

Mabel's Labels, a small business based in Toronto, Canada, established its footing firmly in the social media space by interacting daily with its customers. The company knew that, to be successful, its representatives had to discuss topics other than Mabel's products. The business regularly asks questions of its followers, answers questions, and follows up on discussions the same as in face-to-face conversations.

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A meaningful conversation is one where the parties involved gain value from the exchange. Not every conversation is easy. Sometimes, events that are beyond your company's control affect your business and your customers. Use your social networks to maintain the dialogue about what is happening as it happens so that your customers feel acknowledged and important.

How to create an incentive for social media engagement

Asking questions isn't the only way to inspire people in your online community to start talking. Sometimes, you need to do a little more to keep your customers curious, engaged, and interested in coming back to your online presence — and to keep them talking about you publicly to their friends, fans, and followings.

Sure, people are often happy to describe their plans for New Year's Eve, the foods they're eating for breakfast, their favorite restaurants in San Diego, or the best parts of their day, but after they answer, they have no incentive to come back.

Make your audience feel like an important part of your brand, like they're part of the family or part of your team.

How to share quality content on social media

Blasting content about your company, products, or services 24-7 is the same behavior exhibited by the kid in the front row in third grade, who continually raises his hand and shouts, "Me! Me! Me!" Surely your followers like you for a reason, but they want to know that you're more than a one-trick pony. Here's the key question to ask: Do you share quality content about any topics other than yourself or your brand?

To do so, move outside your brand sphere and look for compatible brands and individuals who can help you educate, inspire, and entertain your community. Take a look at Chipotle, for example — a chain restaurant that has quite a following. At this writing, the company has more than 2 million Likes on its Facebook Fan Page.

Chipotle works with chefs who provide audiences with recipes and cooking instructions at events and align with organizations such as the Farmer Veteran Coalition to support good causes such as helping mobilize veterans to feed those in need across America. The company posts updates to Facebook with content about these other individuals and organizations.

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