Earned Social Media = Earned Consumer Trust

Brands are constantly seeking the loyal consumer. Not the one who buys occasionally, but the one who follows through on purchase intent, recommends the product to others, and does it all over and over again. It’s becoming a more elusive prize.

CPG firms continue to bemoan declining brand loyalty.  Deloitte’s annual American Pantry study shows nearly nine in ten consumers are substituting private-label or store brands for the national brand they’ve regularly bought in the past.

In attempting to understand why, I go back to a Harvard Business Review study from 2012 for insights that have only become truer over the last few years. After HBR researchers examined more than 40 variables, the single biggest driver in purchase decision by far was “decision simplicity—the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options.”

Marketing Charts

But gaining trust? Easier said than done.  Consumers are becoming increasingly numb to the barrage of marketing messages thrown at them very day.

It seems the more connected the world gets, the more disconnected from ads a buyer becomes. In 2013 Nielsen updated their Trust in Advertising Study (see below). At the bottom of the list?  Paid social media and digital ads, with less than 50% trustworthiness.

On the other end, 84% of consumers trust recommendations form someone they know. Consumer opinions and editorial content ranked 3rd and 4th at 68% and 67% respectively. These are all activities that fall squarely in the realm of earned media.

But how do you get it? Start with building your own social platform. Build the things you own and control like your website, a blog, Twitter, and Pinterest. These vehicles are great for building awareness, but you must use the feedback to create content that can be turned loose with consumers.

Deeper connections can be made by engaging influencers, creating charitable partnerships, and incentivizing advocates.  All while continually creating and curating content that can educate and elicit responses from consumers. These are the activities that build trust.

And trusted brands win.

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