Social Media and Content Marketing: 5 Trust-related Elements Your Marketing Needs

Trust: Does Your Brand Have It? [Research]

Social media and content marketing require customer trust to help build and extend your 360° brand.

Without trust, customers won’t believe what your brand represents or what you say on your site, on third party sites or on social media. Even worse, they won’t buy from you, regardless of whether you’re a B2B, B2C, not-for-profit or solopreneur.

To this end, Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer reveals five trust element marketers must take into account when developing their social media and content marketing plans.

Knowing whose opinions your target audience values is critical information for developing your organization’s marketing and branding. It provides insights as to who should create and present your content. It gives you greater understanding of the type of person to whom your audience will relate best as your spokesperson.

1. Trust attributes

Edelman’s Trust Barometer revealed sixteen specific attributes that build trust. These elements fall into five categories. [Note: These are Edelman’s categories and the explanation is ours.] They are:


  1. Listens to customers and feedback. Prospects and customers want to know that the firms they do business with pay attention to their needs.
  2. Treats employees well. By extension, showing respect for staff extends to customers.
  3. Places customers ahead of profits. Focusing on your prospects and buyers creates satisfied customers who will continue to purchase from your firm.
  4. Communicates frequently and honestly on the state of its business. In today’s social media connected world, consumers expect a level of corporate transparency. They don’t want to deal with firms that have a “gotcha” mentality.


  1. Has ethical business practices. Especially after the bad corporate activity that led to the economic downturn of recent years, customers want to deal with businesses that act in a responsible way.
  2. Acts responsibly to address an issue or crisis. When things go wrong, prospects, customers and the public demand that corporations are accountable for their actions and those of their employees.
  3. Has transparent and open business practices. Customers expect businesses to be honest and open in the way they conduct business. This is particularly important on social media platforms where openness is ingrained into the fabric of the networks.

Products and services

  1. Offers high quality products or services. Particularly in the current economy where consumers work hard for their income, they want value from the products and services they purchase.
  2. Is an innovator of new products, services or ideas. Customers want businesses to continue to improve their offering. This is particularly true of technology offerings.


  1. Works to protect and improve the environment. Consumers tend to prefer to deal with companies that are green. They want the firms from which they buy to make environmentally positive decisions.
  2. Addresses society’s needs in its everyday business. In part, customers believe that companies have more ability to change the world than governments.
  3. Creates programs that positively impact the local community. Customers like businesses that give back to help the community.
  4. Partners with not-for-profits, government and third parties to address societal needs. Customers want businesses to be team players working with others to improve society.


  1. Has highly regarded and widely admired top leadership. People like to deal with recognized businesses. It gives them a sense of security.
  2. Ranks on a global list of top businesses. Being on a list such as the Fortune 500 gives businesses an extra level of credibility.
  3. Delivers consistent financial return to investors. Firms that yield returns are well liked by investors.

The challenge for businesses is that there’s a big difference between how important consumers feel these attributes are and how individual companies perform. Of importance is the finding that there’s over a thirty percentage point gap on elements categorized as engagement. This means that, in general, businesses should do more to listen to and interact with their prospects and customers.  Actionable Marketing Tip: Focus on getting feedback from your prospects and customers. This translates to paying attention to what they’re saying about their needs, your products and your brands on social media platforms. Then respond to these participants in a way that shows you’ve listened to them.

2. Spokesperson credibility

When it comes to credibility, customers still trust academics/experts, company’s technical experts and/or someone like them more than CEOs and government officials. Based on Edelman’s findings, more people distrust chief executives and government workers. Actionable Marketing Tip: Use academics, area experts and technical specialists to create content and present information about your firm, products and brands to help get your audience to pay attention to, interact with and believe your content. (BTW- We can help you with your content marketing.)

3. Influencer messaging

Before you decide to only use academics, experts and technical specialists to create and convey your business message across social media, owned and third party media, take a deeper look at how consumers respond to different messengers and their communications. Specifically:

  1. CEOs do best delivering news about new products, financial performance and accomplishments.
  2. Employees do best discussing the workplace and product innovations, and business practices. Interestingly, employees, not CEOs or spokespeople, do the best in handling crises.
  3. Consumer fans do the best when talking about the firm’s customer priorities, how the firm helps improve the environment and how it supports the local community.

Actionable Marketing Tip: Leverage the power of your entire business team to determine who is the best spokesperson for each type of messaging. Also, take the idea of spokesperson beyond just someone who writes your press releases. This relates to your brand and your content marketing. Think in terms of the person who responds on social media as well as who creates and delivers your messages on social media and content marketing.

4. Media trust matters

Where you place your message is as important as what you say and who says it. It provides context for your message and leverages the platform’s existing audience to distribute your message. Interestingly, traditional media, closely followed by search engines, has the highest level. This makes sense from a business perspective since their audiences are more familiar with them and they provide a third party, “neutral” perspective. By contrast, social media and owned media offer platforms where companies, customers and the public can voice their own point-of-view. Actionable Marketing Tip: When you develop your editorial calendar, consider the trustworthiness of the media platform and how it will reflect on your message.

5. Build trust through repetition

Two-thirds of prospects and customers must hear a message three to five times before they believe it. Almost one out of five needs to listen to your message over six times before they start to believe it. Actionable Marketing Tip: Take this need for repetition into account when you create your editorial calendar for your social media and content marketing. Think in terms of content reuse to maximize your content marketing effectiveness and to reiterate your brand message.

Building customer trust is hard, especially in today’s message rich social media and content marketing environment. To enhance your brand’s ability to break through and get attention, enhance your message’s trustworthiness by considering every element.

Has trust been an issue with your social media or content marketing? If so, how?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

I’ll be speaking at:

Attend the largest online content marketing conference

Get Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Tips Delivered to Your Inbox:


Here are some related articles of interest:

Photo Credit:


Tags , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Social Media and Content Marketing: 5 Trust-related Elements Your Marketing Needs