How to Build – or Screw Up - Trust with the Help of LinkedIn


By Susan Tatum

March 15, 2016

When was the last time you bought something substantial from someone you didn’t trust? And I don’t mean that faux Rolex on Canal Street. I mean something that could have a long lasting effect on your future; something like enterprise software. Or high end consulting. Or supply chain partners.

Your answer is likely to be “never”. That’s because you’re human; and, as author Peg Streep writes in Psychology Today, “trust is the foundation of all human connections”. In referencing a 2015 Gartner survey of technology buyers, Gartner Research VP Hank Barnes says “one simple idea emerged from all the data points about content, interactions, and information sources. Trust drives the buying process.” How simple marketing mistakes can erode trust

According to Hank Barnes, the Gartner study looked at three specific areas of trust erosion by asking buyers their level of agreement or disagreement with these statements:

  • We don’t trust providers who make bold claims without backing it up with customer stories.

  • What a provider says on their website is often contradicted by their sales channels.

  • What a provider says on their web site is often contradicted by independent third parties.

You can read more about the results here.

For this article, suffice it to say that any and all of those situations will increase buyers’ doubt in your company or product – often significantly. What it comes down to is this: marketers must provide proof that their claims are true (this is best done in the form of case studies, but testimonials, awards and positive comments on online forums also help). Consistency across all communications channels – sales, marketing, executives, customer service, customer consultants – must be achieved. Influencer relations needs more focus.

What does this have to do with LinkedIn?

For B2B buyers and influencers – especially in situations involving a complex buying decision – LinkedIn is a key source of information about your company and your products or services. For suppliers, it also provides an opportunity for reaching otherwise hard-to-reach people.

LinkedIn itself is a trusted medium for communication due to its inherent transparency. If you attempt to fake it on LinkedIn, at least some of the 330+ million members are going to know it, and you are likely to get called out. Members arrive there with minds more open than, say, on a vendor or potential partner’s website or their own inboxes. This puts them in a far more receptive state to receive your messaging and understand your value. It also makes it easier to screw up and make your target audiences doubt you.

What to do – and not to do – on LinkedIn

Like it or not, LinkedIn is going to happen with or without you. Members of your important target audiences will be looking at your company page, interacting with your employees and – perhaps most important – checking out the profiles of key individuals. And they’ll be doing all this before they actually talk to anyone in your company, possibly even before they visit your website.

Admittedly, the fact that most LinkedIn is activity is taken by individual members makes it more challenging for marketing and corporate communication people to control the message; and in reality it’s this lack of control that makes LinkedIn such a valuable asset for buyers and influencers. But it’s easy to ensure your company pages put forth the desired message and even possible to guide individuals to use LinkedIn in a way that’s beneficial to both them and the company.

Personal Profiles – While personal profiles are owned by the individual, they are, by far, the most important feature on LinkedIn. It’s worth doing whatever you can to ensure the profiles of key customer facing individuals and executives are professional looking and complete with at least a minor bit of company/product branding included. You can’t force this - and shouldn't try to, but most of the individuals we’ve worked with over the years have been happy to follow suggestions and recommendations, especially when you’re willing to offer writing assistance. The important thing here is that the profiles of your key people do not conflict with the image you are trying to project elsewhere.

LinkedIn Groups – All too often the visibility and trust-building opportunity offered in LinkedIn groups is wasted by marketers simply posting blog articles. Instead, show the expertise of your subject matter experts by encouraging them to provide value by posting thoughtful discussions and helpful comments.

Outreach – Get to know relevant influencers. Really read their profiles and articles; follow them; understand what they like and don’t like through their comments, likes and shares. Make yourself known. Get connected and engage. It can be easier to make an initial connection with an influencer on LinkedIn than anywhere else – except, increasingly, Twitter.

Company pages – This is the easy part since you can control this area. Make sure the header image and description match what you’re saying on your website, and appeal to the full range of target audiences – customers, prospects, employees, potential employees, influencers, investors, and any other relevant groups. You can also use the company page and showcase pages to feature proof-providing content such as case studies, testimonials, awards and 3rd party research.

Content platform – The Pulse content platform is an opportunity to gain visibility for your subject matter experts to provide thought-provoking high value ideas that support or drive your value proposition. Don’t waste it by posting boring, me-too blog articles.

More advice from Gartner

Here are a few paraphrased takeaways from Hank Barnes and the Gartner study.

  1. Make sure that your sales teams and other customer-facing company representatives understand what you are sharing on LinkedIn and other social media, and work hard to make sure they don’t purposefully contradict it. Teach them how to use the information posted on LinkedIn and even to build on it with additional, situational insights.

  2. Make working with influencers a priority, not just to try to convince them that you are great, but to understand their perspective of you. Be aware that, at times, you may need to adjust your own messaging to be more aligned with them.

  3. Use customer stories whenever and wherever possible.

Trust is an essential part of succeeding in business, and LinkedIn offers opportunities both to enhance and strengthen trust, and to screw it up. If you need help in setting up a LinkedIn program of your own, contact the experts at The Conversion Company. We’re happy to earn your trust.

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