Human beings are programmed to trust people and things that they’re familiar with – we teach our kids not to trust strangers, but it’s naturally part of our default position. Branding activity online using Display ads or Social Media activity is no different.
Having a more recognisable, respectable brand creates brand search on search engines. Most online searches are for products, solutions to problems or providers of searches – a Google AdWords campaign or SEO will help your site gain traffic when a user searches for what you do, but that’s only half the story at most; users searching for you is a much more valuable commodity.
The familiarity trust process works everywhere.
My son recently started going to a gymnastics club once a week – more of a youth club than serious sport and it took time to build trust. Picking him up after the first week, he said that he’d had a great time using all the equipment. When I asked how he’d got on with the other kids, he replied, “none of them spoke to me”. No-one was nasty to him, he just wasn’t part of the group yet.
After week two, the story was much the same. No-one spoke to him, no-one was horrible, they just played their own games in the existing social circle.
Week three was the same too, but after week four when asked how he got on with the other kids, he quietly said, “a kid asked me my name. I said, ‘Ben’. He shouted, ‘Ben’s on my team’ and we started playing a game”. He still didn’t know any of their names, they didn’t introduce themselves.
The breakthrough came in week five. As he came out of the club, he announced, “that’s Luke, that’s Kieron, that’s Jordan” and they all said goodbye to him as they advanced towards their parents’ cars or cycled off down the road.
It took five weeks for my son to be accepted in to the group. Five repeat occasions with the same group of people to slowly trust him and accept him in to the group and to consider him a friend.
Social Media is no different. It takes time to build credibility and trust in relationships. Weighing in with a pitch of your product or service in your second tweet with someone just isn’t going to work. Remember the Social part of social media – you’re there to be social. Give a little, try a few likes, favourites, re-shares, comments and discussions for a while before you even consider selling. You first have to invest in the relationship before you can extract.
In 7 Habits, Stephen Covey describes the emotional bank account in to which you must make regular deposits before you can consider making a withdrawal. If you try to withdraw before making enough deposits, you’ll be overdrawn – it doesn’t work.
Consider buying a book. Speaking recently to audiences about online marketing, I asked, “how many of you bought a book in the last three months?”. 20 people raised their hands. “Keep your hand up if you bought from Amazon.”. Most hands remained raised. They didn’t buy from Amazon because it was the cheapest. Amazon isn’t. They didn’t even search Google for the book, they went right to Amazon and searched for the book there.
Amazon’s brand has been built with an extensive media campaign covering TV as well as search, display and affiliate marketing for a sustained period, but significantly backed up with very clever, very regular email campaigns with content highly relevant to the recipient. The frequency of branding created brand search rather than book search and the tailored emails created greater brand trust and keeps customers coming back for more.
But what happens if the user searches Google for a pair of Nike trainers and they see an Amazon ad? This isn’t brand search (at least not for Amazon), but the user is far more likely to click Amazon’s ad, even if it isn’t in top position. The user is also more likely to buy from Amazon once on their site. Yes, the buying experience has been optimised through a scientific process of testing and measuring response. Yes, you already have an account with Amazon so you don’t need to go through the pain of entering your payment and delivery details. Those things make it easier for you to buy from Amazon. However you’re more likely to buy from Amazon because Amazon is familiar to you either because you’ve been a customer for years, placed many orders and never been let down or because you’ve seen their TV ads or their online campaigns.
A strong brand will influence all parts of the sales cycle. The stronger your brand is, the greater the influence and the tougher it will be for your competitors to compete.
Social Media isn’t about sales. It isn’t about the size of your audience (that’s correlative, not causative) it’s about the relationships you build either personally or with your brand or business. You’re there to build trust and influence which is measured by engagement, replies and retweets not specifically by the size of your audience. A bigger audience helps with that, of course, but its size is not the primary measure of success.
To be accepted, your brand or business needs time to build trust and influence before your Facebook page will be liked and your content will be shared and commented on. Start building trust and relationships by first investing in conversations, in sharing and commenting, in adding value to the conversation, not trying to withdraw without contributing.