In Blogging, Authority and Trust I talk about how in order to gain access to a prospective customer’s emotional triggers you have to engender a level of “trust” with a prospective customer or client. That level of trust begins as “trust” and can grow into “authority” with time.
In “Trusting your Gut“I shared the word picture which illustrates how the whole process of building trust works. Now I’d like to illustrate the role trust plays in social media marketing by sharing a recent person experience on how a single blog post – and the comments approved on the post – worked to build – and then destroy – the elements of trust needed to make a sale.
I was searching for software which would automate a task I perform in my business. Since I’m going to be asking this piece of software to eliminate the need to hire an employee – I know it’s not going to be freeware. I entered the keywords to describe the software into Google and -not surprisingly – one of the first results returned was a WordPress blog post. In the post, the author asked his readers to share what software solutions they had used to solve the same problem I’m having. The blog post had almost 60 comments by the time I arrived and I had high hopes that I would quickly and easily discover the software I needed.
At this point, my trust account balance with this blogger is low. However, I’m willing to give this blog author the opportunity to earn my trust. After all – his post is appearing first in Google, it appears he talks about issues affecting my business.
The post itself was basically fluff – asking readers to submit the solutions they had found. I didn’t mind this – as a matter of fact, I was happy to see it. It’s great to see how others are solving this apparently common problem.
The first few comments were apparently authentic- each of which acted like a deposit into the newly opened trust account. Most of the authentic comments on the blog post fell along the lines of “I still use pen and paper to perform this task.” UGH! That’s what I’m doing now.
Notice that these are what I call the authentic responses because it was obvious that these were real readers with real businesses. Unfortunately, there were only about a dozen “authentic” responses – followed by about four dozen “inauthentic” responses.
There were several comments which looked authentic at first glance. They included a photo gravatar combined with a first name – like “John” – followed by a comment which went along the lines of “we looked long and hard for an easy to use, intuitive software program to handle these tasks and were delighted to find [insert software name here].” The comment then went on to describe the software’s benefits in glowing terms.
The problem with “John’s” comment and many others began with a simple hyperlink. See, one way a reader “gauges” the authenticity of a comment is by following the hyperlinks in the comment. In the case of these inauthentic “shill” comments, when you clicked on the link to see if you could “trust” the glowing recommendation. – surprise surprise -you would find the hyper linked went directly to the website selling the software program described in the comment.
Congratulations “John” – you garnered some weak link juice and lost the opportunity for me to even download a trial version of your software.
John and several others were obviously shill posting as a satisfied customers promoting their software solution via this blog post. This may be what some people call “social media marketing” but it’s really just spamming the comments of blog posts by posing as a satisfied customer. It’s yet another example of a blunder in online reputation management – one that can’t be easily erased.
The moral of this story is that several software developers who tried to promote their products via shill comments lost the valuable opportunity to be “authentic” and showcase their software product to a prospective customer who was actively researching a purchase.
Instead of leveraging the power of a blog post with a #1 SERP on a valuable – albeit long tail – keyword term to capture high quality sales leads by leaving an authentic blog comment – a surprising number of software developers settled for a link with very little SEO value and absolutely no potential for real customer engagement.
This experience illustrates a lot of “blogging truths”….
- Leaving thoughtful comments on other blogs which add value to the conversation are a great way to get new readers for your blog.
- Finding blog posts which use powerful keyword phrases and leaving authentic comments is a great way to promote your product or services.
- Trying to “game” social media is a waste of time and energy.
- Trust which is quickly earned is fragile – and must be earned over time to fully develop into authority.
The best social media marketing practices begin by recognizing that social media is transparent. Unfortunately it’s relatively easy to “stand out” from the crowd by simply being honest and telling the truth. In the blog post mentioned above, one software developer was “authentic” in his comment – sharing that he was the developer and asking for input about his software from readers.
The web is big – and often you’ve got a limited opportunity to engage with a prospective customer. Why would you waste it by lying and pretending to be someone you’re not?