Conversions, Engagement, and Sales All Begin and End With Trust

At SES Hong Kong, I gave a presentation about trends on search and social media. We took a look at the buying cycle and how search and social fit in. An underlying theme centered on how and why people purchase and engage with brands online. What emerged was a big conversation about trust.

Let’s start by re-examining how we buy things today. Global Web Index reported 85 percent of folks used search to research a potential product and 49 percent used search to find recommendations for a product. This is pretty much true for all purchases, whether they be consumer or business. We want a new car, we go to a search engine and look for information. We want to buy a new computer at work, we go online and do some research. We hope to find some folks that will give honest opinions about such. In this whole process, what get’s forgotten by so many marketers is the need to establish trust.

For example, I recently was chatting to our own head of marketing about a new set of certification products we were launching and how we could give first movers a great discounted deal if bundled in with our annual Online Marketing Summit. One of the descriptors for such was “a deal of a lifetime.” Although it probably was such a deal, the question was, do you really trust someone who tells you such a thing or do you throw them in the category of used car salesman? Take it one step further, when folks are searching for your product on Google, and they see either your organic result with descriptor or ad with ad copy, what do you think will be the most important factor to their click propensity outside of match of result? Yep, you got it…trust. Is this a brand I know and trust? Does this URL look, well, trustworthy? Is the copy factual or promotional? And on it goes. Oh, and don’t forget, they go to a search engine or prominent destination like Expedia or Amazon because they trust the results.

I think the point is made. So, let’s look at how social media plays into the mix. In social media, separate the conversation into onsite efforts (ratings, reviews, blogs) and offsite (Twitter, Facebook). It starts to get interesting here.

Let’s look at research from Nielsen on what social sites folks trust: 9 percent trust Facebook recommendations, 3 percent LinkedIn, and 0.3 percent Twitter. Pretty low across the board. Because of the volume and anonymity of Twitter, trust is very low. Yes, even you guys who have 10 gazillion followers, the world does not trust you. Now, let’s turn to the onsite social tactics like your blog, where 80 percent are more likely to purchase if they comment on it. More research from Nielsen says that 41 percent trust online product reviews, second only to friends and family and way above social media sites at 11 percent and news sources at 10 percent.

What does this tell us? If someone finds your product on a search engine where they are doing there research (not Facebook) and then finds some good recommendations about the product on your site, your chance to get a purchase increases tremendously.

Source: The Nielsen Company

Remember, folks go to search engines for research and they go to social sites for communicating. So, when looking to prioritize efforts, use each for its intended use and you’ll find a much greater ROI (define), have an easier time setting priorities, and in the end drive greater trust, which leads to more sales.

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