“Fake news” has been a hot topic keyword since the last US election. Media sources from all sides were sharing false news stories and information that was later exposed as “fake news.” Since then, the general public has shown a fair skepticism to trust the organizations around them. According to LinkedIn, trust in businesses, media, and government have all declined, “with trust in media at an all-time low in 17 countries.”

Long story short, a trustworthy reputation isn’t easily gained these days. Got it. Unfortunately for business owners, this has also become the number one factor of what’s important to consumers. Buyers appear to “value trust over price, strategic counsel, or even return on investment (ROI).” In fact, the 2017 LinkedIn State of Sales reported that 39% of people chose “trust in our relationship” as the most important factor while only 13% answered “price.” That’s 3x more buyers wanting trust over price!

It may be an uphill battle for businesses to overcome this trend but it’s not impossible. Understanding what factors play into buyers’ trust can give a business focus on what areas to improve. This gains them trust from their audience despite the lack of confidence in these organizations. Not surprisingly, “the internet is the first source for news and general business information,” says Edelman Research. That means that what’s listed online about your company is really in the age of distrust. Specifically, 91% of North American consumers read online reviews to learn about a business before making a purchase. Similarily, 92% of consumers would trust a peer recommendation over pure advertising.

What can businesses do for positive changes and build relationships with consumers?

  1. Invest in Company Training. Employees should be “carefully educated and equipped” to represent your company’s brand and values are key to gaining customers’ trust. “The most under leveraged asset of my clients, without fail, is their employee base,” says Ben Boyd, Chief Client Strategy Officer at Edelman.
  1. Invest in Community. Boyd’s research found that 75% of people surveyed agree with the following statement. “A company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.” Take action and use your position to do work that directly impacts the people you hope to serve.
  1. Social media builds transparency, and transparency builds trust. Be open, but be able to back up your online presence with facts. Authentic engagement with followers shows an understanding and care for customer needs. According to Forbes, engagement even creates brand loyalty for 62% of millennials. Transparency also allows customers to more freely provide feedback.
  1. Stop the Stock Photos. Stock photos may make good memes, but that should be their only purpose these days. These low-cost “rent-a-photos” are the visual representation of fake news. Why should customers trust a company that can’t even represent itself in an authentic way? It’s worth it to hire a photographer to take high-quality professional photos that truly represent your service and customers. Learn more about putting an end to stock photos here!
  1. Consistency. Making changes won’t create an overnight rise in trust from consumers. However, building relationships and working at them long-term will get you there. “Trust,” Penry Price, LinkedIn’s VP of Marketing Solutions said, “is consistency over time.”

Moving Foward

A 2017 Pew Study looked into the future of trust over the next ten years, and of the 1,233 people, 48% believed that trust will be strengthened over that time. By consciously and consistently working on their transparency, community building, and company values, businesses can overcome the hurdles that fake news built.