Keep it real: the key to building trust on social media

By Shirley Cai – Social Content & Community Manager, The Works

Social media bridges the gap between physical distance and human connection. With the domestication of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it’s never been easier for us to stay connected to each other. To open up an app is to open up a wealth of opportunities to engage in conversations. Yet, are these conversations real?

Social media can breed a false sense of intimacy. We sometimes think we’re developing real relationships, when we’re really just creating connections. When this happens, an illusion of intimacy keeps us hanging on to each other by a thread.

Over time, social media has evolved into a personal branding tool, primarily used to show friends that we’re living really great lives and having heaps of fun! Which means that, what you see is not always what you get.

We’re able to edit and perfect our online profiles to create a representation of our ideal selves. We spend hours trying to distil our personalities into a witty combination of 140 characters on Twitter; trying to pick the right filter to ensure moments fall perfectly into place in the curated gallery of our lives on Instagram. We embellish the truth to impress others and make friends. But what happens when we become so preoccupied with depicting the perfect persona online?

We can get so carried away with our little white lies, that we lose touch with who we’re communicating with. Our “friends” suddenly become our “audience” – who we post things to in return for validation. But the less authentic our posts are, the less authentic our relationships online become. We end up trading meaningful real-life relationships for the instant gratification derived from ‘likes’ and ‘comments’. Ultimately, we become tethered to our devices, but disconnected from reality.

Looking at this from a brand perspective highlights why it’s never been more important to invest in building trust on social media. Companies who recognise the importance of managing their personal brand and building a strong online presence tend to have more engaged online communities.

However, be careful not to fall into the trap of embellishment or deceit, in a bid to win over more fans and followers. This doesn’t always translate into loyal customers. The result could be that the connections you form never leave the online realm – because people are only interested in who you appear to be online. Additionally, your audience are less inclined to trust you when you’re inconsistent with what you offer, or who you are.

This is why it’s crucial to invest in developing lasting relationships with customers. Lasting relationships follow you into the real world, leading to purchases and loyal customers. Mere connections do not.

The key to lasting relationships is trust. To build trust online, you need to be transparent about all aspects of your business. Don’t underestimate consumers’ understanding of marketing and business – and don’t be afraid of being honest about your marketing intentions on social media. In fact, the more organisational transparency you have, the more your audience will respect you. Get to know your audience and let them get to know the real you because in the end, the truth always comes out.