The social web is about relationships and trust. Hell, at this point, the entire web is about relationships and trust. Gone are the days of trickery, and the day of the charlatans is fading fast. It’s so critical to your business on the web that you have the right mind set. How am I going to earn the customer’s business? What am I going to do to get them to come back to me over and over again? What am I going to do to get them to recommend me to their friends?
In some ways, it sounds an awful lot like traditional brick and mortar marketing. However, there’s a twist. The smart consumer on the web has so many more tools to find out about your business. Anyone can search on your company name and see what the forums are saying about your business. It’s easy, and it takes seconds. More and more people are learning how to do this. The empowered consumer will rule the web.
On the new web, people communicate actively with one another. Smart companies are embracing this notion actively. Lisa Baron at BruceClay.com has a nice post about embracing transparency. Lisa talks about open communication with your customers, and making it a true dialogue. She makes some key points about the value your business can extract from this approach.
Of course, this type of open communication is an excellent way to build trust. Customers love to provide feedback. There are many other things you can do to build trust. Here are just a few ideas:
- Proudly display your Better Business Bureau and/or TRUSTe logos (make sure you have earned them).
- Provide easy to access contact information.
- Put up open forums on your site, and allow all comments (that are relevant), including negative ones.
- Enable comments in your blogs. Allow users to put in relevant links (rel=”nofollow” is fine). Once again, allow negative comments.
- Respond to the emails and forum posts you get, both positive and negative.
- Think like “the customer is always right”. It will show in your day to day behavior. Customers will notice.
- Share valuable information and ideas on your site, or on your blog. Customers like people who help them.
- Provide the users with valuable tools, such as calculators that solve problems for them.
- Link to other valuable content freely. Don’t even think about “hoarding page rank” or “trapping your visitors”.
- Inform other users about valuable resources that can help them.
- Publish a clean and easy to navigate web site.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just a few ideas. It’s the attitude and approach that matters most. Once you have that part down you will find it easy to come up with the ideas that suit your business.
For those of you who worry about allowing the negative comments on the site – It’s better that this discussion is taking place in an area where you can participate. The naysayers will talk. Where do you want that to happen? Where you can respond, or where you can’t? Also, allowing this type of discussion to take place openly shows other consumers that you have a great deal of confidence.
So build the trust. Assume that you need to earn it. Show your confidence with your openness. These are the key tools to success in today’s (and tomorrow’s) social web.