Trust is one of the great cornerstones of life. The most successful relationships, whether personal or business, are built on trust. Trust is a key factor in the consumption of news and information, too. Over the years, many readers, listeners, and ultimately viewers placed trust in their preferred media channel for the most current and accurate news and information. Subsequently, each channel began to exploit the trust gained from consumers by accepting advertisements which allowed businesses to leverage the media’s credibility and intimacy through association. The challenge was then, as is now, to determine how to align the marketing and advertising of the business with the media most apt to have the greatest trust among the target customers. Unfortunately, those trusted channels of media and communication are constantly changing.
Much like early newspaper readers became radio listeners, and radio listeners ultimately became television viewers, social media platforms give individuals a different way in which to consume news and information, and this influences how trust is granted. Trust is still the currency, but it is no longer given freely to traditional media (newspaper, magazines, radio, or television) and marketers do not benefit from this association as they once did. Social media has taken the concept of trust in one-on-one personal relationships and created a somewhat commodified version of trust with online peer relationships that are enabled through the distinct differences of each platform. Trust has shifted from the medium itself to an ever-evolving value placed on an online peer relationship with roots established through relational identity (Pan, Lu, Wang, & Chau, 2017). More specifically, if an online peer seems to like and do things similar to the individual granting such trust, a value is created regardless of whether there is any meaningful engagement outside of the online relationship. Social media, then, has established an entirely different trust model—a model built on peer influence and not channel trust. This new model requires entrepreneurs to think differently about advertising and marketing.
Entrepreneurs may realize the benefits of social media tools to both spread word about their business and to engage with customers in a meaningful way. However, it is not enough to understand the broader value of social media use; it is more important to know how to use each platform to engender trust (Cesaroni & Consoli, 2015). Each social media platform, for example, has a specific way of facilitating engaging its users and each user has his or her pattern and practice of using the different platforms (Kerpen, 2015). No one platform can reach all customers or prospects effectively. Each has its purpose. While Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest get the lion’s share of attention, social media and engagement are much broader than these few networks. In fact, the number opportunities for social engagement is vast and growing every day.
Analyst and cultural anthropologist Brian Solis has been tracking social networks and their use in an ongoing study since 2008. The latest version of The Conversation Prism (below – click to see a bigger version) is Solis and Jesse Thomas’ visualization of these networks. Solis shows large buckets of engagement identified as Listening, Learning, and Adapting, and then further subdivides into smaller buckets related their functional business support: Brand, Community, Service, Development, Marketing, Sales, Communications and HR (Solis & Thomas, 2017). Solis’ work argues that social media is not necessarily platform driven, but instead, engagement is driven based on the unique needs, values, and expectations (NVEs) of individual customers.
Arguably it is the NVEs that drives the platform choice; therefore, a niche platform that aligns better to an entrepreneur’s business offering may prove more productive for the entrepreneur than the more conventional networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This is especially true when considering the growing number of platforms. It can be difficult for an entrepreneur to determine where to place his or her time and energy for social media use. In fact, determining the best fit between the user patterns and the most appropriate platform for the business’ current and potential customers can make or break an online marketing campaign. This is not to say the more traditional networks should not be used at all. Instead, they might be utilized in a more limited manner depending upon the target customer NVEs.
Regardless of the hype, social media is not a replacement for face-to-face customer engagement. A social networking platform, like letters and the telephone, is a tool in the entrepreneurial toolbox. It is imperative to select the tool or tools that will help best achieve the business goals and then stick with the plan. Do not, for example, launch a Twitter account, Facebook Page, or even a blog and then let it go dormant. In today’s active social environment, a stagnant online presence can be more detrimental to the business than no presence at all (Geho & Dangelo, 2012). Keep in mind that the wrong tool or using the right tool in a wrong way can also be detrimental to the business, and no one social media tool is likely to reach all current customers or prospective customers. In the end, marketing online is largely like marketing offline: Go where the customers are, engage in a relevant dialog, and gain their trust. Valued relationships are what build businesses.
Cesaroni, F., & Consoli, D. (2015, December). Are Small Businesses Really Able to Take Advantage of Social Media? (P. Peres, & A. Mesquita, Eds.) The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(4), 257-268.
Geho, P., & Dangelo, J. (2012). The Evolution of Social Media as a Marketing Tool for Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial Executive, 17, 61-68.
Kerpen, D. (2015). Likeable Social Media (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Matney, L. (2017, June 22). YouTube has 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users watching a ton of mobile video. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from techcrunch.com: https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/22/youtube-has-1-5-billion-logged-in-monthly-users-watching-a-ton-of-mobile-video/amp/
Pan, Z., Lu, Y., Wang, B., & Chau, P. Y. (2017). Who Do You Think You Are? Common and Differential Effects of Social Self-Identity on Social Media Usage. Journal of Management Information Systems, 34(1), 71-101. doi:10.1080/07421222.2017.1296747
Solis, B., & Thomas, J. (2017). The Prism Chronicles. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from conversationprism.com: https://conversationprism.com/the-prism-chronicles/
Featured Image Source: Getty Images, Pixelfit
David Harkins is a serial entrepreneur with significant experience in branding, strategy, licensing and marketing.
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