By: Carmen Collins, Cisco
December 14, 2017
Everywhere you look, there are cries of fake news—it’s hard to know who or what to trust.
If authenticity is key to a good social media strategy (and most thought leaders agree that it is), how can you prove that your authenticity is, well, authentic?
It’s pretty clear that 2017 was the year trust imploded. Just take a look at the Edelman Trust Barometer, which showed that trust in all sectors fell drastically. Government and media took the hardest hits, but Robert Edelman said trust in businesses is “teetering on the edge” and we’re in a “trust crisis.”
As social media marketers, we can’t just say, “Trust us, we assure you we’re being authentic.” We can’t just tell people that we’re trustworthy, we have to show them that we are.
My job as the social media lead for Cisco’s Talent Brand team is to let people know that Cisco is an awesome place to work. Edelman’s survey tells us, however, that people don’t trust brands. Our CEO can go on CNBC or talk to the Wall Street Journal and say that Cisco is a great place to work, but our audience hears that and says to themselves, “He’s supposed to say that, he’s the CEO.”
This is why our entire strategy for the Talent Brand and @WeAreCisco in social media is to help amplify what our employees say about working here. We show our culture through employee photos, employee bylines on our blog and employees taking over our Snapchat account each day.
Per the Edelman survey, we can see why that strategy brings results. Here are three stats to keep in mind as you combat the trust deficit.
Employee Voices Are Trusted by 16 Points More Than the CEO
What does that mean for you and your business? You may have an untapped source of earned media. Have your employees bought in? If not, perhaps you need to ask yourself why. If they have bought in, how can you empower them to be your built-in ambassadors?
Take it a step further. Are your customers bought in? How can you empower them to tell your stories?
Your Network (Your Peers) Are Equally as Credible as the Experts
Let’s say you are in the business of selling Audi cars (I’m not a paid endorser, but Audi, if you’re out there, set a girl up!).
If Car and Driver magazine tells me that the Audi Q5 is the epitome of the driving experience and its editors give it five stars all around—while my network says that Car and Driver is fake news and is trying to undermine the car industry—chances are, the opinion of my network will either win out or heavily influence my own opinion just as much.
Trust in Traditional Media is Falling Fastest, but Social Media Comes in Second
If you’re not finding ways to talk with your followers and fans, instead of talking at them, you may be at risk of losing their trust and attention.
Social media is, at its heart, social. That means engaging in conversations and responding to people who call you out or don’t believe you. Through engagement, you can earn more than you even thought possible.
Let’s go back to the example of how @WeAreCisco amplifies employee voices. Even when our employees shout the message, there is still a level of disbelief.
We posted a link on LinkedIn to a blog authored by an employee with a powerful story and a powerful photo to go with it. It was one of our most commented-on blogs of the past year because she poured her heart out. One of the comments on the LinkedIn post was something to the effect of, “I hope this person isn’t a model. I see so many companies doing that.”
As the brand, I was ready to jump in and comment (because that’s what we do)—but I didn’t have to. The employee popped in and said “Nope, I’m real!” Then her network popped in and said “Yes and she’s awesome.” And we earned trust in ways we never really planned for.
You can’t just make a post and leave it there. You’re not dropping a mic. It’s the conversation that happens after the post that brings trust. Our brand talks on social like we’re 70,000 employees—not a company with 70,000 employees.
So, how will you earn trust in 2018? Make that a part of your New Year’s resolutions!
Carmen Collins is the social media lead on Cisco’s Talent Brand team, and was recently named a 2017 Digital Communicator of the Year (while also winning the 2016 Social Media Professional of the Year) by PR News. Over her career, she has helped several Fortune 500 companies engage with their audience through great content and building relationships.
Follow Carmen: @CShirkeyCollins