Facebook might be under fire for questionable data management practices, but that doesn’t mean businesses should shy away from social media as a means of connecting with customers.
In fact, high-profile breaches of consumer trust have lead to a call for authenticity, and businesses who fail to connect on social media and through other digital methods will miss the opportunity to demonstrate authenticity and earn consumer loyalty.
Why is consumer trust at an all-time low? Well, the ongoing deluge of scandals involving misuse of consumers’ personal data has had a devastating effect. For example, Facebook’s rocky year ended with a harsh New York Times expose, revealing that the company sold out even more user data than previously thought to a whole bunch of companies — including Netflix and Spotify, who supposedly can now read your private messages.
Facebook isn’t alone in defending its data security policies — during the first half of 2018, 3.2 billion consumer files were compromised worldwide. Yet even as consumer fears around privacy invasion grow, (last year, for example, Pew Research found roughly half of Americans don’t trust the government or social media sites to protect their data) we continue to rely on social media platforms for information about what products and services to buy.
Oh, the Irony!
So, here we are. Consumers don’t trust the government or social media, but they rely on review sites and social media giants like Facebook for information to guide their purchasing decisions. Case in point: Facebook continues to add more active users, and many think the #deletefacebook movement is self-defeating — the # itself connotes the idea of social media channels aggregating data for our perusal.
It’s up to businesses to figure out how to be seen as trustworthy using an inherently untrustworthy marketing medium. In this contradictory environment, how do businesses fare well? Provide exceptional service. Hold yourself accountable. Be authentic.
What Consumers Really Want
Reputation.com’s 2018 Retail Reputation Report uncovered powerful, actionable insights into what retail customers really want — staff competence and friendliness, short wait times and product value all play significant roles in swaying customer sentiment. All of these things are reflected in online reviews and social commentary, and contribute to a business’s overall Reputation Score — the sum of all your efforts to optimize your online presence.
Our report lists the winners, with Lego at the top, along with Trader Joe’s and (you guessed it) Nordstrom. And we found that a high Reputation Score correlates with a 3.9% boost in sales.
But brands should be careful not to overlook another important factor that goes a long way in earning consumer trust — authenticity. Eighty-six percent of people say authenticity matters when deciding what brands they like and support. To win the hearts and business of your target customers, you have to convince them you are trustworthy and authentic.
Being authentic means being accountable and upholding your brand promise. It requires transparency and a dash of vulnerability. When a brand is authentic, consumers know it, appreciate it and prioritize their spending accordingly.
Think about it. What are people looking for when they have a bad experience at a store, or when a service they access online is temporarily unavailable. Usually an apology combined with a concerted effort to right the wrong — in other words, being authentic — will quell a consumer’s anger and resentment. And, it can keep bad reviews or negative posts from spiraling out of control.
Forrester’s 2018 Customer Experience Index found that the way an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on brand loyalty than any other factor. Elite brands provided an average of 22 emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience.
When it comes down to it, we’re all human. We respond to being treated well. We reject what’s fake or dishonest, and we are drawn to authenticity. It seems so easy, yet for many brands, it’s difficult to accomplish.
Here are some simple ways to build the authenticity your audience is looking for
- Listen and respond to your customers publicly online. Responding to a critique or complaint online is more critical than ever — 54% of consumers expect a response in less than 60 minutes. And Gartner found that not answering customers on social channels can lead to a 15% increase in the churn rate for existing customers. Make sure you have processes and the right technology in place to monitor all your social media and review sites continuously, and set up alerts to notify you when reviews come in, so you can respond right away.
- Address complaints and take action to correct issues. The content in reviews and social commentary contains clues to a better customer experience — but you’ll never know they’re there if you don’t leverage technology to collect and analyze the text. That’s what AI-based solutions can do. They pull in content from all over the web, apply machine learning and uncover all kinds of useful information, like where your locations can improve. Having this information on-hand can help you optimize the customer experience (and also boost profits).
- Share authentic user-generated online content, from reviews, social media and surveys. Lean on your advocates to tell your story. In the customer’s mind, they are way more credible and trustworthy than you are.
- Own up to mistakes: If there’s one thing we’ve learned from recent reputation management failures — think United Airlines and Starbucks — it’s this: Honesty and humility earn points with consumers. Be authentic in your ability to admit you screwed up, and do better next time.
Feature Image Credit: Getty images
I’m the Founder and Chairman of Reputation.com. I started my business because digital privacy, Big Data and online reputation are issues that impact everyone from individuals to massive corporations. People should be the center of the Internet machine – not cogs in its wheel. More empowerment online, not less, not what we have now. Follow me @michaelfertik.