FOCUS: Surviving Trust and Lies

Trustworthiness Global Poll from Hubspot

Trustworthiness Global Poll from Hubspot

Who do you trust?  No really…..
During my regular scouring of quality content this week I found an article by Ben Jacobson at Hubspot entitled “How to Build Trust Online: 7 Little Ways to Create a Trustworthy Website“. While the bulk of the article was about the things you could do to enhance the trustworthiness of your web site, it started me thinking about the characteristics of trustworthiness as it applies to Small-to-Medium-Business (SMB) owners and their Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community (VACC).

Trust is about being authentic in building relationships. Because we don’t come face-to-face with our VACC online, it can be very easy to forget their humanity. It is so important to remember this regularly, because building trust with the person sitting next to you at the Chamber of Commerce lunch or your next door neighbor is not that different.  It takes time, investment, provides some kind of value to both parties and consists of a lot of active listening…..among other things!

Take a look at the infographic from Hubspot at the top of this article from their recent research on trustworthiness. Half of us trust our doctors and firefighters. Why is that? No definitive answers (and half of us don’t!), but consider the role of these two professions in our lives. They can have life-or-death interventions in emergency situations, and we HAVE to trust them in those times. What are you going to do? Doubtfully send the firefighter away while your home burns down?!

Scan a bit further down and some of these results are….well, surprising. We trust professional musicians more than journalists. We trust our baristas (…wow…) more than investment bankers or stockbrokers. Marketers and salespeople are way down there, and yet we trust either of them more than the people we literally choose to represent us in government.  YIKES….

Circling back to my earlier assertion about authenticity, part of trust will be based upon the perception of truth-telling. What I mean by that is, for example, comparing my dentist and my stockbroker: what is the likelihood that this person will be transparent to me when asked a question? Is this person committed to what’s good for me as well as what may benefit them (most of us are OK with a “fair exchange of value”…)? How likely am I to get a complete and clear answer from them concerning our relationship, what they really need and/or want from me to do what’s right, and active listening on their part (and mine) when discussing those things?  Apparently, most of us will trust our dentist more (although it looks like I might have better luck with a teacher….a pretty gratifying statistic, as an educator….).

Another article I read this week from Valerie Maltoni entitled “How Good Leaders Tell if Someone is Lying” discussed some unnerving data about how comfortable we are with lying and how frequently we do so in our everyday activities. Lying is so ingrained into our culture and behavior, and influenced by our being uncomfortable with the truth (and what others think of us…) that the incidence and unconscious aspect of it was surprising to me. While the article speaks to ways of helping us learn the truth as leaders, I believe it also correlates highly to real and perceived truth-telling in the role relationships mentioned earlier. There are certainly situations in the lives of every person who holds a role listed in the infographic where exposing the unvarnished truth to another person or persons becomes a matter of self-preservation (probably the highest likelihood of NOT telling the truth…), through embarrassment, self-incrimination (no one wants to get caught doing something immoral, illegal or fattening…) to various degrees of trying to look good in front of others. What drives a lie is a constant swirling mix in each person and situation, although there is a lot of analysis written to try to figure it out and nail it down, for our own good and the good of our society.

So if a basis of trust is authenticity, what does look like to your business?

Over-sharing is not authenticity, for sure. That can make the communication all about you and will likely scare the daylights out of your VACC. Instead, communicate like you converse. While you want to showcase your professionalism (so watch your spelling and grammar!), you don’t want your posts or other writing come sound like it was written by a robot or a “marketing chatbot”. Stay away from trite phrases, overused and vague words”, and pretty much anything that isn’t part of your unique voice. It remains my firm belief that one of the most valuable tools in your business’s online toolbox is your unique voice. If you’re not sure what that is or how to express it online, get some expert help and start building up your strengths.

Another strong factor is that of social proof. The Wikipedia definition is, “Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.” What that means is that it plays a big role in trust. Online, it looks like testimonials, Likes, shares and comments, fewer stock photos and more photos of real people (preferably those in your organization or close network…), “Featured in…” logos and links, and so on. It is word-of-mouth, referral marketing, but in the context of what is doable and of value online. Studies have shown that people are more likely to consider and buy from businesses that others they know and trust. To the degree you can enlist the help of your VACC in this endeavor, you build the trust of others in you and what value you actually deliver.

One last thing you can do that will help build trust: make the relationship you’re working on about your VACC and not about you. Place their businesses, their lives and their stories at the center of your attention. As humans, we are attracted to stories…..really good stories, well told, with ourselves (or others LIKE ourselves..) at the center. Your VACC will be turned off by a constant stream of “here’s what my company is all about and the solutions we deliver and why you need to buy from us RIGHT NOW!” Instead, publish stories about empowerment where the VACC is the hero. Highlight one of your best customers in a story…..not only will they LOVE the free positive exposure for them and their business, but you may end up with an unpaid evangelist for your business.

If you’re looking at your pipeline and your existing VACC and want to deepen the level of trust with them, you’re already looking down the right path.

Need help with this? Let’s talk!

Will You Compare the Truth About Audience vs. Community?

My Audience

My Audience

My Community

My Community

How you interact with your customers and prospects can show you (and them…) how you think of them. Without resorting to standard definitions, I visualize the difference this way:

AUDIENCE: I am in front of a group of people who are facing me. I’m speaking and they’re listening (or at least I HOPE they are….). I look into their faces and watch their body language, but it is difficult to get a real assessment of whether I’m connecting with them or not. Having been in audiences before I know how easy it is to “look engaged”. I also notice how many are working their smart phones, tablets and laptops….I hope they’re taking notes, but probably not. At the end of the talk, there are a few questions that I answer, but many more of the audience arise and leave. There is a little bit of chatter between a few of them as they head out the door, but I have no idea what it could be about. Unless I’ve given them some sort of meaningful survey or method of valid feedback to learn what their experience was, I really don’t know.

COMMUNITY: I am moving amongst several groups of people that are part of a larger group of people meeting here. There are discussions going on in each of them, some about the bigger group, some about the smaller groups, some about processes and business, and some about their lives outside of the groups. People move easily between the smaller groups as they become interested in them. I get to move through each of the groups, listen and take part in the discussions. There is a much stronger sense of “belonging” and being invested in what’s going on. Fewer people have their phones out, except to check their calendars in order to set up personal meetings with other members of the community outside of this larger meeting. Some members stay in one small group the whole time, but they seem very engrossed in the conversation while not taking it over. Each member of the community can build a more authentic relationship with another (according to what they are comfortable with…), resulting in trust and, when the time comes, that crucial recommendation, referral, or sale. While the relevance of the overall community experience may be still somewhat hidden from me, I can learn a lot by listening, observing and asking appropriate questions.

Community is harder…is it worth it?
How do you communicate and reach out to your customers and visitors?

What’s the difference to your business?

Do you care enough about your business to figure out how this might work for you and your customers?

Good questions.

What are your answers?

How can the Silent Majority Unlock your Bottom Line?

Silent Majority

The Silent Majority


Do you remember “The Silent Majority”? While the phrase has been around for a very long time, it was popularized by Richard Nixon in 1969 in a speech, and also referred to by journalist Theodore White as the “mute masses.” In a different context, this phrase also represents the voices you hear (or don’t…) on social media. Research shows that almost 90% of what you hear there comes from less than 30% of the most vocal users….and they are different from the the quieter folks that make up the bulk of your online audience.

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Scary and Hard To Do

Scream Cropped

Scream Cropped (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read an article recently by Laura Cioca, Director of Media & Engagement at W2O, about something she calls ‘Fauxthenticity’.  She defines this as ‘the tendency some brands have towards assuming we’re all complete idiots.’

She goes on to describe it as a kind of creative laziness that ‘pretends that a brand’s participation in community has anything to do with people.’  She then lists a number of examples, all of which I have seen before and recently.  It’s sad really….

It seems to be a gospel truth in social business and so-called ‘thought leader’ articles that treating your customers and others in your interactions as Human Beings (that is, people with which you have and nurture relationships) is the competitive path to better business, greater earnings, products of higher quality and greater relevancy, and a degree of innovation not possible within the closed confines of the conference room.  So, if this is the Actual Truth, why is it generally ignored?
Well, to boil it right down, it’s hard to do.

Get out of your way

Ego suspension. There it is.  What does it mean?

listening

listening (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I have been doing quite a bit of research and consideration of the skills required to be a truly effective listener, collaborator, influencer (more on that later) and generally a better human being. It turns out that ego suspension is critical to this direction of growth and one of the hardest things to do. Ever.

Why gamification bothers me

Gamification is a hot term in business and education today. According to Wikipedia it is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a

non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems. I have been thinking about this in terms of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and what really keeps people interested in what they do.

I fully believe that the singularly best way to have someone’s full attention in a project or process is to hook into that person’s passion for the project, process, idea or effort. This, as everyone knows, is not only not easy, but difficult to sustain. It can be easy to start well and then, once the excitement becomes the routine, passion can back off.

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First Thoughts in a New Community

2012_09_17 Community Management IMG_0841

2012_09_17 Community Management IMG_0841 (Photo credit: joelogon)

OK, so I’m stepping away from the fire hose for a moment. I’m today wrapping up, if that even makes sense when you’re on the road, week #5 in my new gig as Senior Community Manager at SDL. Collecting and prioritizing my thoughts and experiences will likely take some time, if only because so many of them do not categorize very simply.

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