Search Engine Land recently ran an short article posing the question: Is Trust in Social Media Dying? It’s a quick statistical look at the dip in trust across social networks.. and the problem seems to be “marketing.”
I’d like to take their analysis a little further.
Yes marketing messages have infiltrated every nook and cranny of social media networks (whether that’s apps that friends recommend you get, groups they want you to join, or games they’d like you to play). Yes – the proliferation of acquaintances rather than real, trusted friends is part of the problem. Everyone seems to think they’re a micro-business (or some kind of eBay/e-commerce part-timer).
From my vantage point, the extended issue involves a re-introduction of traditional marketing methods on an organic medium. What do I mean by that? Here’s the simple version: People are attempting to force old methods – like multi-level marketing techniques, aggressive networking and referrals, and spammy recommendations that lead to affiliate links – onto the new social channels, and it’s not working.
Couple this phenomenon with the fact that noise levels are at all time highs, and you’ve got distrust. Social media was supposed to cut down noise after all. Your trusted group was supposed to help you filter out the noise. Yet people have been shooting themselves in the feet because they treated “friending” as a gold rush scenario. Collecting followers does not lead to valuable information exchanges.
So what do you do to gain back that trust and make your social networks work for you?
1. Delete spammy acquaintances from your personal social media networks (use a tool like Twitter Karma, for example).
2. Participate with authenticity – send out the messages and information that you’d like to see coming back your way. This is another karma play of sorts. You get what you give – it’s that simple.
3. If you’re using Social Media Marketing (SMM) for business, start acting like an artist (ask Seth Godin about this – or read his Linchpin Book). And I don’t mean acting as in faking. I mean acting as in action. Create something remarkable, give gifts, push through to make it better, and connect people in meaningful ways.
4. Tell the truth. Stop saying your feet hurt so you can score a free pair of shoes (like the Timberland guy did on Twitter). Those days are over. That was yesterday’s creative PR move. Write honest reviews of products. And, treat your product reviews as a niche business. Huh? Yes – pick a tight little corner of the world and dedicate your reviewing resources to that (foi gras, 1-inch heels, gerbil racing, nudist party planning, the worst selling products on Amazon, beard growth tips, whatever). Who knows, some day some company might want to advertise on your site and tap your network.
5. Connect offline. Go to tweet-ups, meet your friends in person (heck, use something like Gowalla or FourSquare to make it happen), and talk about the ideas you’ve been sharing online. There is no substitute for social contact (faces are amazing things), and the serendipity of discussion often reveals precious insights because it’s not premeditated (like a Tweet or FB post). Get out there an blurt in the real world.
These tips should help you filter out a lot of noise and get you back to the genuine, productive, value-rich conversations that social media is so good at cultivating.
If you do it right you don’t have to sweat this declining trust trend.