I learned the value of honesty at a young age from my mother while at the local go-cart track.
“What are you doing?” My mother asked with her arms folded as she looked down at me.
“Mom, look how lucky I am! They forgot to take my ticket, so I can go on another ride.”
“Is that honest?”
“What do you mean Mom?”
“It doesn’t matter whether they took your ticket or not, you only paid for one ride. If you take another ride, you are stealing.”
“I guess you’re right Mom.” I mean what else could I say? This simple lesson on honesty was hard to grasp at the time, but it has stuck with me ever since. Being honest when nobody is watching is certainly not fashionable, but it is essential to learning to trust ourselves and eventually gaining the trust of others.
Do you take trust for granted? Many business people do, and it kills their chances of building relationships and finding real customers. I spend a substantial amount of time blogging and using other social media tools and I see trust taken for granted on a daily basis. The problem is that most individuals have no understanding of the power of trust. I see this in individuals that try to post comments that are obviously spam, tweets with links that are obviously self promoting, and posts written for the sole purpose of selling a product.
We need to re-think how we start and build relationships, even when those relationships are formed online. As we review the best blog posts on trust from the last month I will uncover some of the biggest mistakes business people make that prevent others from trusting them.
How to Gain Trust on Twitter
Twitter has hit the mainstream, and with this mainstream acceptance, a number of questions have emerging about the validity of information on Twitter. This post, “In Tweet We Trust”, outlines some of the issues.
Twitter users can lose the trust of a prospect in a single message. Twitter allows users to send private messages, also called direct messages or “dms.” Here is an example of a direct message I recently received on Twitter that hurt the sender’s credibility:
I have seen variations of this same message over 600 times on Twitter. That starts this individual out on the wrong foot because 1. The individual wants me to click on an unknown link before I know anything about him or her (comparable to proposing marriage on the first date). 2. He or she has a preposterous claim that is not only unbelievable, but puts me on my guard. 3. He or she is blatantly self-promoting. In less than 140 characters, this individual has already put me in a position of doubting his or her credibility.
There is a more complete blog post by Peter Cantelo “How To Lose A Customer *Guaranteed*” that describes in more detail all the ways to start a business relationship off on the wrong foot.
Become A Trustworthy Source
In the Web 1.0 model, websites tried to drive huge amounts of traffic to a site in hopes that a few suckers would bite. That model is no longer effective, especially not for professionals or niche markets. Just a few good clients can make your business thrive, but your business won’t prosper unless others trust you. In the article “Why You Must Focus On Trust More Than Anything Else” Christian Russel explains that trust is far more important in small markets than in the large markets. Mr. Russel also provides 20 rules for blogging, and this is a MUST READ for any blogger as far as I’m concerned.
To become a trustworthy source you must create or locate great content. Tech-savvy users of the Internet are always on the lookout for interesting and unique content. The world of these tech-savvy hounds is described incredibly well by Brett Trout in this post, “Ten Things You Need To Know about Digital Natives”. Most importantly, this post talks about how the most savvy Internet users can sniff out a spin from a mile away. They want good content, not a sales pitch. If you consistently offer good content, customers will keep coming back. If you try to sell them something, you will lose them forever. To make individuals trust you online, you need to make an offering- or truth be told, you need to make multiple offerings of your knowledge and expertise. Professionals need to trust that if they put some of their best information online, in the public domain, freely accessible- that they will get back more in return than they gave away.
For some quick ideas on how to lose trust immediately, listen to this Badger:
You know more than you think. Every professional has unique insights related to his or her practice area to add. You just need to write your articles or blog posts in a digestible format as explained in “Sound too Erudite and Appear Too Simple” and give it away for free. As you give this away on a regular basis, you will eventually become known as a reliable source of knowledge- and people will trust you. As people trust you, your personal brand will grow.
Don’t Be Afraid to Tell People Who You Are
Web 2.0 is all about transparency. They say, here we are- warts and all- engage us or ignore us, but they lay all their cards on the table. The opposite of this is Facebook or Twitter users that have so little information about them on their bios, that it is impossible to tell who they are. There is no link to a blog, no history, not even a geographic location. How are you ever going to trust someone like that? If you happen to trust someone with such little background information, I know a king from Nigeria I would like to introduce you to. He could really use your help.
Our society is no longer littered with passive consumers. The new technology allows us to use social media in a way that anybody can take initiative and add value to society as demonstrated in this awesome video:
Take It Personally
Building friendships online is vital to building profitable relationships. This article entitled “Business Friendships” from Paul Ingram of Columbia Business School highlights how some cultures welcome friendship in business while others are more skeptical. I learned from one of the more successful online marketers that in order for people to trust you online they need to connect with you on a personal level. With all of this virtual communication, it becomes tough to know sometimes who is real and who isn’t.
This article by Justin French Top 5 Lessons in Trust relating to Social Media and Social Networking demonstrates why trust transcends industries and social media platforms. Justin lives by a rule I admire: Trust everyone until they prove otherwise. It has served him very well as you can find out in his article.
A world of perfect trust seems like an unreachable ideal, but it is actually closer than you think. In fact, this perfect world may be as near as your neighboring small town. Charlie Green reminds us what small town values are all about in “Trust Lessons from Independence Day in Small Town USA, 2009.”
Trust is powerful on a much larger scale as well. This article entitled “Trust” details the consequences of mistrust on a global scale.
What About Mistakes, Inaccuracies and Lies?
Sometimes technology can lead us astray. Recently a construction company demolished the wrong house because they were, “Just following the GPS coordinates.” The full article “Authenticating Paperwork” reminds us that the old saying “it must be true, I read it on the Internet” should still be a punchline.
Stories like these are terrifying, but more damaging is the fear they cause and the lack of confidence that results. How many large firms and corporations are terrified to engage in social media like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn because of similar concerns? Unfortunately, if they fail to overcome these fears they may be in danger of missing out on one of the most inexpensive, yet powerful tools to have emerged during the recession as explained in “Building a Strong Brand in a Weak Economy” In this article, Rachel Daniel explains that social media is not just a great message tool, it is also a great listening tool.
Attorneys frequently ask me, “What if one of our attorneys says something embarrassing about the firm?” or “What if an employee post pictures of some inappropriate conduct?” The answer to both questions is the same: you need to trust them. You picked those employees for a reason, and although they could go out tonight and get arrested for DUI/DWI – you trust that they won’t. You trust they won’t embarrass you in public, so why assume they would embarrass the firm or the company online? Employers and partners need to extend to their employees the same level of trust online as they do in the office.
Technology has changed a lot since I was a kid out riding go-carts, but the principles that make trust such a powerful concept have remained constant. The lessons I learned on the raceway, and the concepts embodied in this month’s Carnival teach a similar lesson: honesty never goes out of style.
Adrian Dayton esq. is an attorney, author, and social media strategist currently awaiting the publication of his first book The Year of 12 Virtues.