Trust on social media and online: How do you know what you’re sharing is valid?

Trust on social media and online: How do you know what you’re sharing is valid?

Trust forms the foundation of all our strongest relationships in life—and the same principle holds true when forging long-lasting client relationships.

As the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report has shown, while a whopping 81 percent of consumers said that trust in brands is an important part of their purchase behavior, only one-third of respondents said they actually trust the brands they buy from and use.

What does this mean for an accounting professional? Simply, if you manage to earn the trust of your clients, you’ll be rewarded for it.

In our increasingly digital world, one way to help reinforce purposeful client relationships is by creating and sharing authentic, valuable content that engages your audience and helps them solve their most meaningful challenges.

At a time when everyone is competing for attention across social media and online, providing helpful content can set you apart, get you noticed and position yourself as a subject-matter expert. Content is shown to strengthen your reputation and help build long-lasting relationships with your clients.

We’re going to walk through seven ways to ensure the content your firm shares across social platforms is credible and holds true to providing real value to your clients.

1. Cite reliable sources to support your content

Claims backed up by data are significantly more likely to be taken seriously. They make your content more credible and trustworthy. However, that doesn’t mean you should haphazardly throw in as much data as you can and expect it to work; not every data point will necessarily be a good data point. Brevity is key, so if you have, for example, a few great data points, it’s better to go with one or two than too many.

While citing sources in your blog content and on social media, it’s your responsibility to investigate whether the sources are reliable. Consider quoting industry experts and referring to research that’s been conducted by a reputable source in order to support your content.

The right way to credit the original authors of research or a particular study, is to insert a link to the original source, so that curious readers can follow along and verify on their own, if they choose to.

For example, take a look at how I cite a Google-led study in my recent guide about starting a blog to see exactly how I carefully present a meaningful data point in context, while also linking to the original research where readers can continue their discovery on the subject.

This process also applies to how you choose to share content on your social media channels:  Always give proper credit and tag the original researcher (or organization) when sharing their data, conclusions, visuals or content.

Not only will properly citing your sources serve to help insulate your own brand in the event a data point is called into question, but it’ll also give you the opportunity to build relationships with the people you’re citing by reaching out after mentioning their content.

2. Conduct your own preliminary research

While you can refer to third-party research and data, conducting your own research or sharing findings from internal data to validate your claims is arguably even more powerful.

Internal data refers to the data that’s exclusive to your business—like demographic figures about the leads you’ve generated, trends in your website visitors, sales data, survey results, and other industry-specific data you can uncover.

The best part about using your own data is that it’s exclusive and original, thereby garnering more attention. It’s also guaranteed to be unique to readers because it’s fresh and allows clients to gain insights into your business. This can help establish authority and build more trust.

For example, in one of my recent articles that breaks down key blogging statistics for marketers and brands to consider as we head into a new year, I’ve used data points from surveys I’ve conducted on my own audience.

The credibility that comes along with conducting your own surveys, research, and polling not only serves to fuel your content pipeline, but also solidifies your reputation as a leading authority in your profession.

3. Leverage user-generated content (carefully) on social media

User-generated content is voluntarily created by consumers and shared on their social feeds.

Seventy-nine percent of people say user-generated content in the form of reviews, feedback, product photos, descriptions, and candid experiences highly impacts their purchasing decisions, proving that branded content is no longer as influential as it used to be.

Having grown exponentially over the last few years, user-generated content serves as a powerful social proof factor and adds credibility to your brand, giving you all the reasons to leverage it as a way to attract more clients for your firm.

However, don’t just wait around for people to post content about their experience working with you. Proactively run campaigns, contests, and surveys to collect feedback and curate a pool of user-generated content that can be showcased on your social media channels, across your website, and used as part of larger marketing campaigns.

Keep in mind that you do need to tread cautiously here because you’re using someone else’s content to promote your own brand. Make sure you get permission from your clients before sharing their content on your platforms.

4. Establish a unique brand voice that resonates with your audience

A clearly defined and unique brand voice lays the foundation for the content you create, and how you choose to communicate with your audience. It’s a differentiating factor that enforces consistency, builds trust, and develops brand recognition in the long run.

Establishing your brand voice begins with understanding who your ideal client is, because the content you create needs to resonate with them while still staying true to your own core values.

Consider answering questions such as:

  • What do you want readers to feel and take away after reading your content?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe your brand?
  • What are your company’s values?
  • What is your brand’s purpose for existing?

Take the time to formalize your brand voice, ensure it reflects a cohesive message across all your social platforms, and get your entire team up to speed on these factors before handing over the keys to your social accounts.

5. Offer insightful content your readers will value

When it comes to content marketing, nothing is more important than creating quality content that creates real value for your readers and potential clients. It also shows that you understand your audience, thereby creating a positive experience.

To share insightful content, understand your target audience, identify their pain points, and acknowledge the kind of content that will resonate with them.

Do comprehensive keyword research, leverage Google’s autocomplete feature to see the kinds of search queries people are typing in, use tools such as BuzzSumo to research high-value content ideas, identify trending topics, and monitor what your competitors are sharing.

This process will help you develop a content strategy to consistently share beneficial content that solidifies your expertise in the industry, rather than just shouting as much content as you can at an audience that isn’t benefiting from your message.

6. Avoid being overly self-promotional

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make when it comes to content is using your blog posts and social media channels with the sole purpose of promoting your own services.

Doing this not only turns potential clients off, but it also gets difficult for readers to trust you.

While you definitely want to use your blog and social channels as a vehicle to get prospects to consider your services, you need to be more nuanced and subtle in going about that ultimate goal. Take this advice into account when considering how your content will be perceived:

  • Stay away from constant branded content on your blog (diversify your content topics).
  • Actively share content from other people and companies on your social channels.
  • Don’t just write for your prospects, seek to provide value to existing clients, too.
  • Ask clients about their biggest challenges and work to solve them with your content.

For your content to be effective as a means of accelerating your business, it needs to engage your audience and educate them without always sounding like a sales pitch.

Be genuine, real, and human in your approach to sharing content.

7. Collaborate with trusted industry experts

Even if you’re relatively new to your field, collaborating with trusted industry experts in your content efforts can lend a lot of credibility to your own brand by bringing in fresh, trusted perspectives that go beyond just your own experiences.

Posting collaborative content, expert roundups, and spotlight pieces can also break the monotony of your usual format, increase reach (to the audiences of the people you’re featuring), and opens up new possible sources for driving traffic to your website.

There are plenty of more creative ways to collaborate with experts on your content, from inviting them to do guest articles to interviewing thought leaders for a podcast or YouTube channel, broadcasting a live Q&A session on your Facebook page, and more.

Build trust online

Proactively building and protecting your company’s credibility through content is a crucial step in curating your online image.

Moreover, because the trust that can be garnered from sharing genuinely helpful content helps lead to longer-term relationships with your clients, it adds value in both directions and stands to benefit your business for years to come.

That’s the thing about trust—it’s not something you can buy. It needs to be earned over time.

So, start off on the right foot by implementing these best practices and keeping authenticity at the heart of every piece of content you create and share online.