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Online marketing is all about building your brand’s visibility, but that visibility won’t mean much if your consumers don’t trust you. Trust makes people comfortable giving you money, or handing over their personal information, and opens the door to other meaningful exchanges. Trust is essential for converting visitors into paying customers, or even for building your reputation, but it can’t be earned with a straightforward approach.
Why Trust Is So Hard To Earn
The big problem with trust in online marketing is that the best way to earn it is through experience. Think about the brands you trust the most in your own life—whether they’re your favorite restaurants or the make of your car—why do you trust them? It’s probably because you’ve engaged with them enough times to understand what they’re about. If you had never heard of this brand before, how could you possibly trust it?
This is the dilemma marketers of all size brands and businesses face. How can you build trust with someone who’s never even “met” your brand?
Methods To Earn Trust
The best way to build trust with new visitors and potential customers is through what’s known as “social proof.” These are demonstrations, made by third parties, that your brand is trustworthy, and serve as a means of outward validation. There are many angles you can take here:
Testimonials- Are like reviews, but with a few key differences. The main goal is the same: share a story from an actual customer to convince a prospective new customer to trust you. Testimonials, however, tend to be far longer, and they focus on the brand as a whole, rather than just one product or service. Generally, testimonials also tell a story, such as Zappos’ testimonials. If you’re just starting out, it may be hard to obtain some testimonials, but if you have a reliable customer base, all you have to do is ask.
Online reviews- One of the most straightforward ways to leverage social proof is through online reviews. People frequently consult online reviews before making a purchase, so offering some from your own customers—even if not all of them are perfect—is a good way to show that your brand is worth doing business with. Moreover, enabling customer reviews on your own site can have a positive effect on your company’s organic search rankings in search engines. But not all brands do this. For example, go to say Applebees.com and try and leave a review. Can’t be done.
Not to pick on Applebee’s by any means but the point is big brands can take a cue from small brands when it comes to providing a platform for reviews. For example Align Chiropractic, a very successful Alaska-based brand which offers a dedicated page for online reviews, along with pictures of actual customers. Depending on your type of business, a dedicated review page may not be in your best interest; instead, you may simply feature a cluster of reviews below a product, or feature them as snippets in a landing page.
Trust badges- Trust badges are small icons you can include on your site if you’ve met some kind of criteria for trust with an organization. They’re small ways of communicating your experience and credentials with your customers, which is highly important if you don’t have any working rapport. You may have some trust badges related to your specific industry, such as some designating that you have some certification, but otherwise, there are some general options to pursue. According to Monetize Pros, some of the most valuable ones to features are for Norton, McAfee, Truste, and the Better Business Bureau.
Social media integrations- Here, the idea is to let your social media account—and your followers—do the talking for you as well as create a more engaging experience for social proof. It’s relatively easy to integrate one or more of your social media feeds into the design of your website; you can include a “best of” reel or just your most recent posts. Either way, it’s a way to spotlight your following and demonstrate that you post actively on social media and respond to your followers. It helps to contact your followers directly, too, through the information you have stored about them on your CRM system. In using a system like Insightly, you can not only integrate what you are doing on social media, but you can also personalize it and directly contact them to share the content via email updates.
User-submitted content- Finally, you could rely on user-submitted content to do your brand’s work for it—and the sky’s the limit here. You could run a contest asking users to create images or videos related to your products, encourage your users to submit video reviews on your business, or just have fun with your followers using a specific hashtag or at a certain event. Almost anything can work if you follow the basic premise: get a ton of social users to submit content on your behalf, featuring your brand.
For example, Starbucks once asked users to doodle on its signature white cups and got 4,000 responses in just a few weeks. Similarly, to promote Pepsi Max, Pepsi asked users to submit why they preferred the beverage to Coke—and it resulted in more than 7,000 responses and 50,000 unique visits. You might not see figures this high, but your visibility will skyrocket, even with just a handful of people engaging with you, and you’ll instantly gain credibility.
Companies like Dell have opened up communities where they accept user content, providing a way to reinforce their brand messages and create an online location to come together to talk about technology, business issues, and new applications. Even the addition of one of these strategies into your current approach could be enough to increase your conversion rate. The inclusion of online reviews on a product page, or a host of trust badges in a landing page, could be all it takes to earn a higher percentage of successful conversions. The only way to tell for sure is to try it out. Integrate one of these strategies at a time to see how it affects your customers, and if it works—keep it.
What form(s) of social proof do you use to gain consumer trust?
This article originally appeared on Forbes.