When it comes to dealing with businesses online, it’s natural for people to be a little skeptical. They can’t see who they’re talking to, they can’t physically touch offered products, and they may not be confident that what a company says is true. Despite these concerns, the Internet has changed the way that customers shop and interact with companies. To be successful online, your brand needs to establish that it is trustworthy and will live up to its promises.
7 Ways to Build Trust Online
1. Offer quality content.
In reality, every industry should see themselves as a service industry because every business should be focused on serving customers by fulfilling a need. Posting quality content online is a way to serve customers’ needs by offering them valuable information or good entertainment. Company blogs and social media platforms are great ways to share articles, images, videos, and graphics with helpful insights and industry-related content or entertaining content your audiences will find relatable and true to the brand’s personality. Whatever content you share, make sure it is well-done and is what your target audiences want.
2. Actively participate.
Don’t be the player who sits on the sidelines; get in the game! Maintain your social media accounts so that they always have accurate information and engage audiences on social channels. If I tweet about wanting to visit two restaurants in San Diego, and one restaurant tweets me back, I am more likely to try the restaurant who responded. Connecting with people online through conversation builds trust that you care about potential customers and are excited to meet their needs. Bottom line: When potential customers talk to you online… respond ASAP!
Also, if you feel that you can’t maintain an active presence on five social media channels, don’t join five social media channels. Pick two or three you know you can participate in regularly and start there. Customers don’t just want a presence; they want a good presence.
3. Own up to mistakes… and make them right.
Actively communicating with customers and target audiences online is a little like opening Pandora’s box: A company gains a lot of good attention and publicity, but it also gives people opportunities to voice complaints about a brand. When people voice negative comments, always respond in a way that is positive and concerned about the customer.
If your brand fails to deliver quality products, services, or attention to a customer, admit what you did wrong but don’t merely apologize. Apologies are usually only appreciated when they are backed up by an action or change. A good brand will work to make things right for upset customers. Not only will taking action to correct your mistake possibly bring that customer back into the fold, but it will show other customers online that your company and its staff are willing to go out of their way to make sure each customer is satisfied and feels valued.
4. Show your softer side.
Every day, people online see thousands of images and ads attempting to push a product or service into their hands. Don’t let your brand be just a hard sales pitch; show the people and the heart behind your brand.
One way to do this is to include staff photos and bios on your company website. Not only does this help legitimize a business online, but it helps customers feel like they know who they’re dealing with when interacting with your company. Putting a face to a brand helps assure people that they’re not getting scammed online.
Another way to show the heart of the company is to invest time in the community. Participate in community events and choose a specific charity or organization for your business to support through special events and donations. Then, post about it. It’s okay to promote your charitable works online; after all, businesses can’t survive without promotion. As long as your posts are heartfelt and express a genuine connection with your community or charity, people won’t mind if a brand highlights its philanthropic efforts.
Imagine a company’s Facebook page that pairs an event picture with a caption like this one: “We had so much fun at the fundraiser last night!” When customers and potential customers see that online, it helps them know that this is a company that cares about the community and has fun serving it.
5. Be awesome enough to get referrals.
People online tend to trust companies more when they have been referred to that business by a third party. Of course your company is going to talk about how great a product is… it’s trying to make money! But if someone else talks about how great a product is, it grabs a potential customer’s attention and helps build trust that what the company says is true.
One way your company can get referrals is to encourage customers to post reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. That way, when people search those sites for your company, they will find all the great things said about that business. On the other hand, if a company doesn’t have a presence on review sites, it may cause potential customers to doubt the legitimacy of that company and try another option with lots of reviews. To make sure potential customers know about your great reviews, showcase some amazing ones on your website and provide a link to see more on reviews online.
Referrals are also useful from other trusted influencers online. If you build good relationships with these influencers and they like your brand, they can mention your company, retweet its tweets, or link people to its posts. Once your target audience sees that other trusted online presences like your brand, they will want to check it out as well.
Lastly, having a positive presence on consumer-oriented organizations online, such as the Better Business Bureau, can establish that your company is transparent with what it does and will work to rectify complaints. If people are doubtful about interacting with or purchasing from your business online, seeing a good rating with the BBB will ease their minds about dealing with your company.
6. Look professional.
As much as people like to say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” that principle doesn’t seem to apply to businesses. If a business has a website that looks outdated or elementary, people are less likely to trust that brand in an online environment. If someone at your company doesn’t have the skills to build an attractive, professional website, hire someone who can. An updated website with modern functions will help close a sale once people click-through to a brand’s site.
Another part of looking professional is to have consistent branding across online mediums. Not all your sights have to look identical, but showcasing your brand’s logo, color scheme, and core images across all your web and social media platforms will establish that your company is recognizable and consistent. Your URLs also need to be consistent; include your brand’s name in your URLs for all sites and social profiles so that people know where they are going when they click.
7. Be easy to find.
With so much to be cautious of online, people want to do their research and know how to contact your business in a way that is comfortable for them. For their research purposes, your brand wants to try to capitalize on its search engine optimization (SEO) practices to ensure your business has a good showing on Google and other search engines. The closer you are to the top, the more people will see your brand as an established, trustworthy company. Just remember that not everyone trusts promoted links, so it’s best if you can get to the top organically through smart online interaction and keywording.
Also, offer multiple modes of contact across all your sites. Some people may want to email, tweet, or comment online to communicate with your brand; others may feel more comfortable calling or making a personal visit to your physical address. Make sure all of your company’s modes of contact are readily available to potential customers online so that they can transfer their communication with you to the platform they trust most.