Brand transparency has become more important than ever in the age of social media, smartphones, bodycams and constant connectivity. As you have known since day one, people are more likely to buy products and services from people or companies that they know, like and trust. This is true in the world of sales, but it applies to business at the macro level too.
The most effective way to build trust with your customer base is to be transparent about your products and services and about the way in which you provide them to your customers.
Social media is the perfect vehicle for connecting with your customers and building a relationship with honesty, transparency and trust.
Below are four ways that you can use social media to build trust with your customers and audience through brand transparency.
1. Present Consistent Branding Across all Platforms
One easy way to build trust up front is to start by performing a social media audit. One of the goals here is to make sure that your branding is consistent across all platforms. You want to make sure you’re using the same profile pic or logo, the same backgrounds, the same business hours, the same colors and the same slogans.
Double-check that your name, address and phone numbers (NAP) are all consistent and up-to-date as well — not just on the major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but also on Yelp, Google My Business (GMB) and other review sites.
Perform a search across all platforms to make sure that you don’t have any old accounts that are abandoned. Delete those if you come across any. And also address any imposter accounts that might have crept in without your knowledge. These are fake accounts that people might set up using your business and product names to lure customers away from you. Yes, this is a real thing, and most social media sites will help you take down those accounts if the owners are unresponsive to your requests.
2. Give a Glimpse Into Daily Operations
One of the most powerful — and overlooked — ways of making a connection with customers and gaining their trust is to give them a look into your business. Social media offers so many opportunities to do this. Short videos are a great way to introduce some of your team members, showing how they contribute to the company and how their impact benefits the customers.
Some executives at larger companies also use social media for personal branding by setting up accounts for themselves that are distinct from the company’s main social accounts. Customers love getting to know the owners and leaders of some of their favorite brands, even if it is just by following them on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.
But this isn’t just for leaders of massive brands like Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Even owners of small, local businesses can use these same methods on social media to connect with their customer base and interact with them on some level. In a world of huge brands and constant connectivity, this can be a great way to restore that good old “Mom and Pop store” vibe that has become so rare in many communities.
3. Address Criticism Openly and Fairly
A huge mistake that so many companies are making with social media is that they are refusing to address their critics. Or worse, they lash out in a defensive way that is sure to backfire and cause them to lose a lot of business.
When customers leave negative reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp, those comments are there for the whole world to see. In fact, it seems like customers gravitate toward the negative reviews when they are first checking out a new store, restaurant or service. When they see negative reviews without any response from your company, it gives the impression that you aren’t taking your customers or your reputation seriously.
Effective reputation management includes addressing those customer concerns, so be sure to comment on those reviews with personal replies rather than cut-and-paste responses. Acknowledge the criticism and give the customer the benefit of the doubt. Try to make things right. Don’t throw your employees under the bus and blame them for the perceived problem, but don’t be too defensive either. Otherwise, it just sounds like you’re making excuses.
4. Take Initiative in Owning Up to Mistakes
When a company has a problem that can negatively affect their customers, it’s tempting to try to cover it up so that nobody finds out. This is often a mistake, and in some cases it might even be illegal, such as data breaches involving customers’ private information, defective components in automobiles and food contamination.
If something like this happens at your company, don’t just wait around hoping that nobody finds out. The last thing you want is for consumers to find out about it from some watchdog group or the media rather than from you. Attempts at covering up these problems just make it look like you’re sneaky and dishonest.
Instead, many brands are finding that openly admitting fault and taking immediate steps to alert their customers about problems actually builds trust rather than decreases it. But it’s important that your customers hear about it from you first. The best way to address these issues is to have plans in place ahead of time to minimize the damage and to address the public, rather than waiting for something to go wrong and then end up shooting from the hip and trying to do some spontaneous damage control.
Don’t let your company fall victim to negative publicity, scandals and harmful speculation. Be transparent about the ways you operate your business. Address negative situations with transparency, but don’t just limit yourself to fighting fires. Take the initiative to engage with your customers in positive ways and show them what a great company you are, with a wonderful team of talented people providing excellent services and products at a great value.