How CSRA Builds Trust at Scale shares some of the most surprising and useful things I’ve learned while pioneering experiential social media since 2006. In this post, I’ll reveal how experiential social media teams build trust by breaking some rules in social media.
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Trust is a curious thing. Few people are aware of when, where and how they trust; most people experience trust as a “gut feel” thing. Trust is a huge accelerator in human relationships because, when people trust, friction goes way down. Trust is humans’ primordial oil.
People prefer to be with people they trust. In business, people buy more, at higher prices, with less friction, from people and firms they trust. Employees work harder and longer because they’re happier.
At CSRA, we start trust building by studying people in specific situations where our client is especially relevant. Studying people’s behavior in digital public enables our teams to see all the issues people face, their frustrations and victories. We see the whole picture, so we can empathize with people. Clients tell me that they get to know their customers and employees better than ever before. I call this ethnographic research.
Most firms use social media to promote themselves and their products. We don’t.
Instead, we help people do things that are important to them. For example, we help busy moms with 2-3 kids to reach their home workout goals, or parents to find a summer camp for their recently-diagnosed type2 diabetic son. Since we focus on people in situations that correlate to our clients’ uniqueness, we show our clients’ relevance and care—we don’t talk about it.
By helping people, we inspire them, and they start paying attention. The “at scale” part of this video’s title means that, for every person we help, ten more people see our relevance and desire to help—without promoting. People love help without promotion.
We follow human rules, so we have to break some business rules.
We don’t promote because we trust people to know when to buy our product or service. Not selling is incredibly liberating because selling is usually sneaky, and everybody knows it; the seller has an agenda, to “convince” a buyer, and this creates friction. Selling kills trust.
We also recommend competitors’ products when it makes sense in the context of the situation. We admit in public that our product or policies fail, that they do people wrong sometimes. We encourage conversations that show how we fail—because we really want to know, so we can do better.
So-called “best practices” in normal social media advise taking these conversations “offline.” That’s a fail in most cases—because other people are intensely interested in how we act when things go wrong. It’s a golden opportunity to increase trust.
Imagine for a minute that you’re frustrated and complaining about a firm on Twitter. They come on and apologize without defending themselves. They ask you more details about how they did you wrong. They ask you, in public, what you’d like them to do to correct the problem. They don’t give you any b.s., and you work out a remedy together.
Our teams love doing this because it lets them help people to be happy.
And everyone else sees this, over and over. And employees and customers are inspired. They trust us and love doing business with us. They love telling people about us.
When customers and employees trust our clients, doing business is a pleasure in itself. Employees love going to work. Customers love coming to the website or the store. They no longer fear doing business with us because they know that if something goes wrong, we’ll make it better. And they see us helping people just like them, over and over. Being cared for actually releases endorphins in the brain.
So that’s how experiential follows human rules and breaks some business rules. I love helping clients to discover the magic of trust. How to stop thinking like a business, start being more human. It’s so liberating!
And, guess what? Being human makes more money. The Trust Business Chain Reaction outlines some of the ways.