Building trust in your small business via social media

By Ben Shepardson

Competition is tough when you’re operating a small business. Part of trying to break into any industry means building a trustworthy reputation, but small businesses often lack the resources to run the kind of marketing campaigns that bigger, more well-funded companies have. Thankfully, small business owners can rely on social media to build trust in ways that aren’t just efficient but also effective. Here’s what you need to know about the process.

Forget about traditional advertising methods

This is going to sound counter-intuitive but listen closely: social media is not the place to run traditional ads for your products or services if you’re trying to build trust. Nothing will lead to your audience dismissing you quicker than giving them the impression that you’re simply looking for sales. Save the marketing copy for your e-commerce site where it belongs.

Abandoning deeply-ingrained marketing instincts will take some adjustment. With every video, image, or post you make on your social media accounts — and every interaction you have with your audience — you’re going to feel like it’s a waste of time that you’re not directly selling. However, you’re demonstrating to your audience that you’re not just all about sales and that you care genuinely about the relationship you have with your audience.

Provide value to your audience instead

You’re likely wondering what kind of content you’re going to post if you’re not using social media to run traditional ads. The answer is straightforward, even if its execution isn’t necessarily simple: your job is to provide value to your audience, and it’s something you can accomplish in a myriad of ways.

The difference between providing value and direct selling might seem subtle, but it’s an important distinction to make. One of the best examples of providing value is to let your products and services speak for themselves. Running a free giveaway is an excellent method for accomplishing this, as is providing exclusive discount codes or promotional rates for merchandise.

[amazon_link asins=’0730345777′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeeding0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’cf572fb8-73c1-11e8-a277-a99a55c1ed15′]Engage honestly and transparently

Social media has been revolutionary because it makes it possible to interact with the formerly inaccessible. Actors, musicians, and other celebrities interact personally directly with fans on social media, and large corporations often do the same. These same opportunities exist for smaller businesses as well, and these can be excellent for building trust — provided these interactions are honest and transparent.

Honesty and transparency, in this case, mean that you’ll need to be frank and straightforward with your corporate identity. Social media audiences tend to react badly to posts they feel are disingenuous, so leave out the corporate doublespeak and communicate on a casual but professional level. Also, if your company ever makes a mistake on social media, don’t try to spin it or downplay it — face it head-on, make your apologies, and strive to do better.

Embrace humor and entertainment

Another integral component of building trust through social media is to entertain your audience as well as providing value. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by leveraging lighthearted content in the form of humorous or thought-provoking posts, images, and videos that align with your brand.

Sharing entertaining content in this manner instills your social media account with personality. It shows that your business has real people with real feelings running things behind the scenes, even if your entire company is just you working out of your home office.

[amazon_link asins=’1770401423′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeeding0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e412a703-73c1-11e8-b465-791ec898296f’]Interact with your audience

Social media is a two-way street. Using the social media account for your business to do nothing but post content will certainly help develop trust in your brand, but it’s inevitable that your audience will begin responding to you posting this content. Once this occurs, you have yet another opportunity to reinforce the nascent bond you’re developing. On some platforms, like Twitter, it’s the norm; 95% of interactions on the site occur on a 1:1 ratio according to research.

Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or anywhere else, you’ll need to demonstrate that you value your audience by responding to as many questions and comments as possible and in a timely manner. For larger companies this can pose some logistical problems, but small businesses have an advantage here; thanks to your more modest sphere of influence, you’ll likely find it easy to provide a personal touch and respond to every comment.

Showcase your social responsibility initiatives

People want to shop with companies that have a positive impact on the world. In fact, a 2017 study found that 78% of Americans felt that companies need to have a public stance on social justice issues. Social media is a tool for businesses to promote their corporate culture, and that includes the types of ethics and morality that a company espouses or supports. The best way to showcase the types of causes you want your business to be passionate about is to broadcast your social responsibility initiatives on social media.

Whether your business devotes a portion of its proceeds to funding soup kitchens, sponsors adoption drives at the local animal shelter, or organizes beach clean-ups, you can promote these events over social media. Doing so demonstrates that you care about your community and can be a springboard to encourage others in the community to contribute or share their own social responsibility projects.

Putting it all together

In the end, using social media for your small business is a highly effective tool for building a trustworthy reputation. However, it’s not necessarily easy; you won’t be able to run an effective social media campaign as an afterthought. Pour as much care and attention into your social media presence as you can. Be open, honest, entertaining, and responsive, showcase the value of your products and services without resorting to outright sales tactics. Keep that up, and it won’t be long before your audience takes notice. Before long, you’ll have built quite the positive reputation for yourself, one that you can be proud of!


Benjamin Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Blog Content, a Key West-based content agency specializing in delivering personalized experiences. He has an extensive digital career dating back to before social media and WordPress.

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