Have brands achieved brand trust through their social media communities? Is the race over?

It seems that we only blinked, but most of us in marketing can now say social media as a platform has been around for a considerable time. Over the last decade if not longer, brands have actively participated in the race to gain social media brand trust with their communities and ultimately their customers. The ever-changing demands to “get it right” have not only propelled the creation of new specialist areas within marketing departments, they’ve created a ‘pioneer ship’ for business in general.

This begs the question whether brands have achieved brand trust through their social media communities. Is the race over? Are brands there yet?

There is no quick and easy answer and the jury is still out. Brands are now more familiar with how to use social media, although not all have acquired the fine distinction of leveraging it. We’ve gone from digital ad campaigns to blogging, to content creation, and visual communications like vlogging — all in the realm of social media. But have we achieved brand trust?

In many boardrooms the underlying concern with any campaign or communication initiative is how to leverage the social media platform. I question whether this is the right question. Isn’t the basis of social media, in its pure context, a platform to develop relationships? Aren’t all relationships built on the aspect of trust? It seems that the term “leverage” implies quite the opposite. Are we looking for leverage or are we building brand trust?

Brand trust through social media is not easy to attain.

In the 90s, marketing departments were touting that consumers were savvier than the 60s, and 70s, and 80s. Now, consumers are not only savvier, but also more demanding of brand personality traits that were at best an image-association in the past.

The delight and wonderment of instant gratification and knowledge has now turned into entitlement. Consumers expect knowledge and information instantly. There are millions of domain sites ready to fulfill that expectation. The Internet has made it so.

What the Internet has also enabled, more so through the social media platform, is niche marketing. Just as consumers have virtually millions of sites at their physical fingertips, marketers and businesses have masses of niche marketing channels to choose from.

As with any great opportunity comes some risk. Developing brand trust through digital niche initiatives takes skill. In order for brands to develop social media trust, marketers must acknowledge that there are real and present pitfalls and realities in developing brand trust:

Be True

If you can’t be honest and true, even at times at the expense of your brand (and how risky is that?), you can’t build social media trust for your brand. Social media trust is only built by the perception of its community. In order to achieve greatness in the eyes of the community you must be perceived as impartial — providing value and knowledge without any ulterior motive and without expectation of return.

Brand Karma (You’re so vain)

Some people just walk into a room and people naturally gravitate toward them. Some people try to be vivacious and exciting and fail. The same thing applies for brands. Some brands have it, some brands don’t. That’s what I call brand karma, something a brand naturally has and exploits. The reality is that no one wants to be with a wannabe. They want to be in with the “it” crowd, the ones that define what the “it” is all about.

Mediocrity Sucks

Average means you’re the best of the worst and the worst of the best. Who wants to be associated with that? In today’s fast-paced environment people want the best, the greatest, the most fabulous information on what to do, what not to do, and how to get it. Offer that and your brand will be well on its way to building the brand trust it deserves and wants so badly.

Make a Stand

What is your brand about? What isn’t it about? Place a stake in the sandbox that is on the virtual beach and preach it — day in and day out. You don’t need to be Sally Field (does any one remember Sally Field’s infamous acceptance speech?). It really doesn’t matter if not everyone likes your brand. It matters that the community you seek loves your brand. That’s an important distinction.

You want it when?

Throw out the 3-year plan, or even the 5-year plan for that matter. There is no time agenda for achieving the brand trust factor. It’s ironic that in such a fast-paced environment achieving social media trust for brands is a painstakingly slow process. Building brand trust has always been about consistent messaging. The situational aspects may change, but the context and the ‘how to build’ it and alas, lose it, are very similar.

So, marketers and social media gurus, are some brands already ‘there’? Has anyone achieved brand trust through their social media What do you think?