People no longer trust social media.
Our trust was first dented by clickbait, but things have got much, much worse now. Fake news, cyberbullying, identity theft and huge scandals about the use of personal data have all taken a baseball bat to social media’s reputation.
According to a special Trust Barometer Special Report by Edelman, released in June 2018, only 41 per cent of people around the world say they trust social media. That’s lower in the US (30 per cent) and the UK (24 per cent).
If you use social media to promote your business, distribute the fruits of your content marketing or to engage with your customers, Edelman has more bad news – because it’s not just the social media platforms that have come in for criticism, it’s the brands that use them, too.
- 54% of people are unhappy with marketers tracking their online activity and retargeting
- 48% say it’s a brand’s own fault if their marketing appears alongside hate speech or violent or sexually inappropriate content
- 47% believe that points of view that appear near a brand’s marketing are an indication of a brand’s values
- 71% want brands to put pressure on social media platforms to behave more responsibly with their data
- 40% of people have deleted at least one social media account in the past year.
The message is clear: if you’re using social media platforms as part of your brand’s digital marketing, you need to be both careful and diligent in the way you use it in order to retain the trust of your audience.
Content marketing on social media
But the news was not all bad for brands, especially those investing in content marketing.
Acknowledging the trust deficit, Edelman also asked the more than 9000 participants in this global survey what brands could do to create content they will trust. Here’s the specific question:
When you are judging whether or not to trust information or other content you see on social media, how important is each of the following attributes in making your decision?
Respondents were asked to indicate their answers using a nine-point scale, where one meant it was “not at all important” and nine meant it is “critically important”.
What follows are the top five responses, and how businesses using social media as part of their content marketing efforts can ensure they stay on the right side of their audience’s demands.
Use quality writing and visuals
The top-rated attribute consumers are looking for in content is quality. Sixty-five per cent of respondents rated this as important. Most of us would intuitively expect this to be the case, but when the squeeze of budget pressures is felt, it’s often quality that suffers.
Here are some of the questions you can expect your audience – your potential customers – might be asking themselves while deciding whether your content is trustworthy.
- Is the information relevant, useful, and well-explained?
- Is the text filled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors?
- Has due care and attention been paid to how the content is laid out?
- Does it use quality, original imagery and artwork?
- Is the video produced to a high standard or does it look like a homemade job?
Does your content live up to inspection?
FURTHER READING: The quality content right under your nose
State the author’s credentials and expertise
Sixty-three per cent of respondents to Edelman’s survey said they expected to see information about the person (or organisation) who had published the content. In checking this, consumers are doing their due diligence. In the world of journalism, this is called “checking your sources”.
Here, your potential customer is asking themselves:
- What qualifies this person (or brand) to give this information?
- How good is this information likely to be?
- Do I trust this source?
These are big questions you must make sure your content answers, every single time you publish.
By the way, Edelman’s research is also very helpful when it comes to deciding who your trusted source of information should be. The following types of voices were labelled very or extremely credible sources, by the following percentages of respondents:
- Technical expert – 60%
- Academic expert – 59%
- A person like yourself – 59%
- Financial analyst – 48%
- Successful entrepreneur – 47%
- CEO – 40%
- Celebrity – 28%.
FURTHER READING: Use experts to create great blogs
Ensure the content is well-designed and looks formal
This is all about presentation. Does your content look and sound like it has come from a high-quality, reputable source? Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said that if they’re to trust a brand’s content, they expect it to look well-designed.
In a real-world, “bricks and mortar” sense, we’d be talking about nice signage above the door, a beautiful window display, a neatly arranged shop and a smartly dressed person behind the counter who is ready with a cheery hello. When it comes to online content, we’re talking about:
- Is the content well laid out, clear and concise?
- Is it pleasing to the eye?
- Is it intuitively arranged and easy to interact with?
- Am I being spoken to in a suitable tone of voice?
A beautiful window display can see you nip into a shop and spend money when you’d never planned to. You want your content to do the same. It should catch the eye and communicate a positive message about your brand.
FURTHER LISTENING: Brand Newsroom 144: How good design can really sell your content
This is about honesty. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said it was important to be able to easily determine who paid for the content they’re consuming. Often, that’s easy – the content is on your website! But that’s not always the case.
Don’t deceive your audience of customers and potential customers. If you’ve paid for your content to be found somewhere, or if you’re being paid to promote someone else’s content (or product or service), make your sponsorship or advertising arrangement clear.
In newspapers, clearly marking advertising deals has long been the accepted and expected ethical standard. Of course, there are lots of instances in the media where sponsorship deals aren’t clearly outlined, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. It can also easily lead to a great deal of negative publicity (which these days is very likely to be consumer-led on social media).
FURTHER READING: How to build trust with your consumers
Display your logo beside your content
This is also about transparency. Edelman found that 55 per cent of respondents thought it was important for the logo of the organisation that produced the content to be displayed next to the post.
This is particularly important where content might be shared widely. Say a video you’ve produced goes “viral”. The audience wants to know the source of that information, so they can decide whether it is credible and trustworthy. At the same time, you probably want to associate yourself closely with your viral success – so, include your logo.
A few useful content marketing social media tidbits
Here are a few more tips from Edelman’s report that brands using social media as part of their content marketing program should keep in mind.
- 59% of people are more likely to trust a brand if they have opted-in to receive communications from them
- 53% of people consider carefully who shared content with them before deciding whether it is trustworthy
- 59% of people say whether they’ve seen the same information on several different social media platforms is important when deciding if its credible.
People might no longer trust social media, but that’s no reason they shouldn’t trust you. This advice will take you a long way towards growing your credibility with your audience if you’re using content marketing and social media.
If you want to know more about creating a content marketing program focused on high-quality, credible content, then get in touch with Lush – The Content Agency. We’re Western Australia’s full-service content marketing agency.