Trust is a key to Web marketing

Lately, I’ve become interested in the sub­ject of trust as it relates to Internet mar­keting. Two annual studies that I’ve read recently, the 2008 Edelman Trust Barometer and Harris Interactive Reputation Quotient (RQ) survey, piqued my interest.

The Harris survey caught my eye from an Advertising Age story titled “In Google We Trust.” The story talked about Google achiev­ing the number one ranking as the most trust­ed company in America. My favorite quote from the story is, “The key finding of this year’s RQ found that a strong statistical cor­relation exists between a company’s overall reputation and the likelihood that consum­ers will purchase, recommend or invest in a company or its products and services.”

At the end of the day, isn’t this what suc­cessful marketing is all about? This tie is not based on advertising budget; it is based solely on trust.

So how do you build that confidence? Great insight can be found in the 2008 Edelman Trust Barometer. Historically, the results of this study have shown that Americans trust business leaders, medical professionals… even (gulp) government officials.

This year was different. The number one answer to “Who do you trust?” was “people like me.” Profound, isn’t it? At the same time, this is the lesson of social networking and corporate blogging that every organization must embrace. Trust doesn’t come from branding, advertising or top-down C-level blogging, but from the words and actions of “people like me.”

Who are these people? I challenge you to look to your employees — most companies are full of smart people from all walks of life. People who are proud of their company, like their jobs and care about customer satisfac­tion. People who understand the product and its strengths, and feel like they are doing fulfilling work. Free them. Empower them to participate in your blogging or other social strategies. Forget the CEO blog or the “Chief Blogging Officer.” If you give someone a business card, give them a blog.

My favorite Richard Edelman quote sums this all up nicely:

“Employees are the new credible source of information. We have data that shows an employee blog is five times more cred­ible than a CEO blog – and I say this as a CEO blogger.”

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