Earned Media, Facebook, Influencer Outreach, LinkedIn, Owned Media, Shared Media

I like a lot of things in life. There are a lot of things that I truly believe in – whether they are products, services, people or ideas – so much so that I often recommend those things to my family and friends. But I can tell you this for a fact: I, like many other consumers, “Like” a whole lot more stuff on social media than I actually do in real life.

Whether it’s clicking a “Like” button on Facebook or LinkedIn, following someone on Twitter, or a +1 on Google+ – most of us are guilty of being somewhat promiscuous with our “liking”. In the United States, the average Facebook user liked 70 pages in 2013, up from just 4.5 in 2009.

Take a quick inventory of all the things you like or follow across your social networks, and I bet you could chop that number in half (at least) if you simply applied the basic filter of “Do I like this product, brand or idea enough to actually endorse it to my friends?”

Redefining “Like”

So what does your “Like” really mean? Does it indicate that you are a true fan of something? If someone looked at your complete list of likes, would it give them a good idea of what motivates you? Are your likes an accurate measurement of your willingness to do business with a company?

Sure, getting a lot of Likes on your company pages might make you feel good, but based on the common liking behavior, the Like is clearly not a business driver. The Like is, quite simply, too easy to secure to be an accurate indicator of the consumer’s opinion of your business.

At the end of the day, it’s not about how many people “Like” you but how many people trust you. Trust is key to every successful relationship, and when it comes to content marketing, trust is the foundation.

Earning the consumer’s trust is one of the most difficult undertakings that we as marketers are tasked with. But once you earn a consumer’s trust, he’s far more likely to do business with you, engage with your brand, help spread the word and recommend you to others. Trust is elusive, but it is also extremely powerful.

That is why my company, inPowered, became obsessed with the idea of trust, what establishes it, what nurtures it and how it can be maintained long-term. So we decided to enlist the help of Nielsen to create a study that would help determine what type of content consumers trust most.

Our goal was to determine which types of content were needed at different stages of the consumer’s decision-making process so that we could develop a content marketing strategy that pairs the customer with the right content at the right time to establish and nurture trust. We commissioned Nielsen to do a live, in-lab study to measure the effectiveness of the following types of content:

  • Expert Content – Credible, third-party article and reviews.
  • User-Generated Content – Reviews from users, like product reviews on Amazon.com.
  • Branded Content – Any content developed and owned by the brand.

These content types were measured for their lift throughout the following stages of the consumer buying cycle:

  • Brand familiarity
  • Brand affinity
  • Purchase intent

What Nielsen revealed throughout the course of several months of in-lab surveys was fascinating, and provides solid guidelines for anyone determining where to focus their collective content energy and budget in the quest for consumers’ trust.

It’s All About Trust

Several key findings from the Nielsen research indicate that the credibility and unbiased nature of the content was critical for consumers:

  • 85 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content – credible, third-party articles and reviews – when considering a purchase
  • 69 percent of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase
  • 67 percent of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing

Overall, the Nielsen research showed that expert content – articles from credible journalists – was the only content type to exhibit a strong lift in all three areas of the purchase cycle. And the driving force behind that lift was the level of trust the consumer had in the different sources of information.

Building Trust is Critical

What the Nielsen study reveals is that all brands – no matter what category – need to employ a mix of Trusted/Expert Content, User-Generated Content, and Branded Content to establish trust, educate consumers, and help them navigate the decision-making process. As a result, Nielsen recommends that all brands implement a blended content strategy to better serve the information needs of consumers:

  • Build trust – Begin with trusted content from credible, third-party experts in order to establish a foundation of trust with the consumer
  • Share your story – Once trust is established, utilize branded content to further connect and engage
  • Continually reinforce – Maintain your efforts by encouraging customers to generate user reviews, and by continuously utilizing more trusted content

Sure, building trust with the consumer is the most effective way to influence their decision-making process—that may seem like common sense. The fact is that far too many companies continue to be blinded by the “Like”, and often pursue less impactful social metrics at the expense of building trust.

But the two endeavors – social media success and building trust for greater business impact – should not be separate. Focusing your efforts on building trust with your audiences will not only impact your funnel and the bottom line, but it will also lead to a more engaged social community.

So do your business a favor and stop focusing on the number of likes and followers you have. Those metrics – and your revenue – will grow as you build a community of consumers who trust and value your brand.

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