Trust (Photo credit: vagawi )
Trust is a treasure that is hard-won and very easy to lose. This goes double for relationships online. One of the foundations of trust is doing what you say you will do. A classic test of trust is the answer of “I’ll get back to you…” to almost any question.
The unusual and rather neat thing about this kind of response is that the answer you return with can actually be pretty bad news. No one wants bad news, of course, but the fact that you returned with an answer is the point of trust, not what the actual answer was (of course, if the answer is a blatant lie, that’s another matter, but that’s also a another post…). In my life online as a community manager, I found many times that I could return with an answer that was not what the community member wanted to hear, but she appreciated the fact that I was authentic and human, telling the truth. The conversation then might go on to find work-arounds, stop-gap fixes, or launch off into a tangentially related area that ends up being much more valuable to us and the rest of the community following along on the thread.
If you wish to go even further in building trust, state a deadline for the answer. You might not even HAVE an answer yet, but if you say that you will return with something by Thursday, and then show up Thursday with the answer “I still don’t have a good answer for you, but will check back with you next Tuesday again, or sooner if I get the answer before then.”
See what you’re doing? You’re actually treating the other person as you would want to be treated in a similar scenario….with respect, with a sense of urgency, as if their problem was your problem. You are creating a bond that can withstand a lot of things.
This is important in any relationship, as I mentioned, but in a community it is bedrock. A vibrant community worth being part of is full of all kinds of people, but the people that really want to be there value their relationships with others in the community, and find intrinsic value in belonging, participating and contributing.