Life as a small business owner is all about trust. Trust is how we make consumers feel comfortable purchasing from us instead of big box stores and its how we get them to keep coming back. And through the world of social media, we have a slew of new ways to develop trust in our customers’ eyes to make them feel good about our business. But are you taking advantage of them?
Below are six ways SMBs can use social media to establish trust with customers.
1. Turn customers into allies
Social media works to break down the invisible wall that has existed for too long between business owners and the people they serve. Through blogs and social networks businesses are able to talk to consumers more intimately, to share information without selling, and to seek their customer’s advice on matters related to their business. Those that take advantage of this can turn customers from marks to allies. By bringing customers deeper into your business and giving them a sense of investment in your company, you earn their trust and loyalty. You show them you value their opinion and how important they are to your business. As a result, they become part of your company forever.
2. Build up online reviews
More and more studies are showing the correlation between online reviews and consumer trust. For example, last year a 15 Miles  survey found that 25 percent of consumers admitted ratings and review information made their decision for them about whether or not to make a purchase. It didn’t influence it. They didn’t just consider it. It made it. And those numbers are going up, not down.
If you’re a company who has not taken advantage of the review revolution, the simple truth is you’re going to be passed over for a competitor who has. One of the most powerful things social media has done is to help make important purchasing information more available to the consumers looking for it. As an SMB, establishing trust means soliciting reviews from customers and vendors, as well as managing and responding to the reviews that you do get. Build reviews into your sales cycle and encourage customers to get vocal about your business. And don’t worry about hiding from negative reviews; as long as you handle them correctly, they actually help your trust and credibility.
3. Establish social proof
The same studies that are showing the relationship between trust and online reviews, are showing that customers expect to be able to find certain information about your brand on the Web. If they don’t, it makes them wonder why it’s not there. And not in a good way.
Just like consumers want to see reviews about your business they also want to see that you have a Web site and a dedicated online presence. They also want to see that you have a Facebook page. Or a Twitter account. Or a blog. Heck, they want to see you commenting on the same blogs they’re commenting on. All of this acts as social proof, making you look more “legitimate” in the eyes of wary customers and building your trust levels. The expectation in today’s market is that businesses are using these platforms. And if you’re not, or if you are but they can’t find it, they drawn their own conclusions as to why. The more visible you are to customers and the more places they can find you, the more they trust your brand.
4. Follow up after purchase
Social media offers additional customer touch points, which again works to build trust in the brand. Whether it’s an after-purchase email message explaining features or set up, or a tweet to check on someone’s experience, the more you can use social media as a way to follow up and check in on customers, the more you’re going to show yourself as a company worth their dollars. And because monitoring can be automated through tools and alerts, this becomes a painless way for brands to stay in the loop with their customers.
5. Respond well to feedback
Hey, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies out there. When you enter the world of social media you’re going to find customers singing your praises and customers wanting to take you to task. By responding calmly and openly to customers who have less-than-stellar things to say about your brand, you show them that you value your opinion and that you’re a company not afraid to take and respond to criticism.
6. Bring value
Last week I shared how simply starting a company blog makes you a better business owner . The core of that post is that by solving your customers’ problems, both big and small, it makes you more aware of their needs and how your company can help. The other side of the coin is that by providing content and showing customers you understand their struggles, you build trust with them. Social media helps businesses build more loyal customers by putting the focus on education, not selling. And the result of that is we trust the brand helping us to solve our problems, not just pad their wallets.
As a small business owner, your business relies on trust more than a larger business. If your customers don’t trust that you can solve their needs and that you’ll be around in the morning, they’re going to seek out other companies. Thankfully with social media we have even more touchpoints to build trust with customers.
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