TRUST IS THE CURRENCY OF A MICRO BRAND
Trust is a difficult thing to define. Not only will the definition depend on who’s providing the definition, but also the context in which that trust exists. The good news is that virtually everyone on the planet has experience with trust, and that means ‘trust’ as a concept is trustworthy. In other words, everyone has experience using trust and trust is used online very similar to the way it’s used in the real world.
Before delving deeper into that subject, we should take a step back and look where trust originates. As infants, we (hopefully) learned to trust our parents. As we got older, that trust grew and we learned to expand it to encompass relatives, neighbors, friends, and authority figures. We even learn to trust each other in abstract ways, such as trusting everyone on the road to behave in a reasonably responsible and/or predictable fashion. We learn to trust that people will follow the laws of the land, and learn not to trust certain people and/or offers.
We as social creatures have developed trust to work together on a greater scale and psychology tells us that people automatically subconsciously trust everyone they meet and see to some point. The question for you is how to create an environment that a potential customer will trust and feel safe visiting.
TRUST IS TRANSITIVE
When exploring trust, you need to understand where trust comes from. Online trust is not magically created, it is actually a combination of borrowed trust and trust inherent in the expectations of others. Borrowed trust is a form of trust that one gives to someone else and is in turn shared in some way.
An introduction between friends is a form of borrowed trust. While this is a basic example, trust is borrowed many different ways on the Internet. Let’s look at a few examples of how borrowed trust works in terms of online marketing.
SEARCH ENGINES AND TRUST
If traffic is coming from a search engine, then that search engine acts as a friend making an introduction. Search engines provide users a way to search for what they want, adding value to the lives of consumers everywhere. Search engines also provide value to the sites that they send traffic, but here is where mutual trust and added value meet; search engines only maintain their value to customers when the results they provide are relevant.
This mutual value exchange allows for search engines to continually improve their ranking algorithms and consumers to trust search engines more and more. As a result, traffic coming from relevant keywords from large search engines inherit some trust from simply ranking well. This is why both paid and organic traffic from search engines is so desirable. The visitors coming to your website from search engines will trust your site more than those who find you through other methods. In essence, your site has been predetermined by the search engine to be trustworthy and users count on the links they click being helpful.
SIGNALS OF TRUSTWORTHINESS
Once traffic is on your site you also have some other ways of boosting the trust of visitors. Besides well-written content and an appealing layout, visitors take into consideration other visual cues to determine trustworthiness. Have you ever seen a sign at a local business displaying that they are part of the Better Business Bureau? Why would a business want to display this? In short, it is a form of saying “We are trustworthy.”
Signs like this can be found all over the Internet. Things such as security badges, locks, seals from VeriSign and other agencies signal to the user that the site is secure. These are known as trust marks and can help increase the level of trust a user has in a site helping them to make a purchase. Trust marks are known to make users much more likely to complete a transaction.
Just like trust marks, there are visual cues that extend from the physical world on into the online world. Like in the physical world, the Better Business Bureau is just one of many businesses and services that has an online logo you can add to your website. Think about the real world brands that you trust and see if you can align yourself with them online to boost visitor trust.
BRANDS AND TRUST
When you think of trustworthiness, the first things that probably come to mind will often be household names or brands. Many of these will be large corporations, news sources, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. If you have an opportunity to work with any of these major trust sources or even your local news television station, you can often use their logo to boost the trust visitors to your website experience. This is why many websites feature the “As Seen On” section. This is just yet another tactic to increase consumer trust.
CORE CONTENT IS THE BASIS OF YOUR MICRO BRAND
Above and beyond any visual signals is the content a website has. Core content is arguably one of the easiest ways to earn the trust of visitors and fellow webmasters. This is why core content is vital to the success of any new venture and arguably one of the reasons why so many endeavors fail.
Core content offers value that others cannot or are unwilling to replicate, and that will in turn build trust that can be borrowed and built upon.
In the marketing world there is a notion of what is called the “Unique Selling Proposition.” Essentially this can be summed up as “what you offer that your competitors can’t compete with.”
Core content is like your website’s or micro brand’s unique selling proposition. Webmasters and visitors know you’ve done the work and created a great resource and would rather point their visitors to your site than reproduce that hard work.
In our running Green Mart example, it is worth revisiting the idea of offering core content based around exclusive interviews with executives. It might take some time to convince “the powers that be” to allow their executives to sit down for a series of brief interviews, but this type of content is something few other affiliates will be able to compete with. This kind of core content lends its own innate value to any site, but the fact that other sites will need to link to it and/or reference it in their news section will further establish trust.
Visitors are also impressed with core content, but they probably aren’t thinking “Wow awesome content!” unless they’re webmasters too. They are probably thinking “I’m glad I found that, that was useful.”
What might impress a user more than the actual core content itself is the fact that the site(s) that they know and trust link to your core content. This is the transitive property of trust which can be used to build readership as well as build your brand’s trust.