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    Brand trust: What it is and why it matters

    Consumers—especially Gen Z—are pickier than ever. Prices are higher and the economy is in flux, meaning they need to make sure every box is checked before making a purchase. Is the product high quality? What do other people say about their experience with the brand? Is there something better out there?

    Brand loyalty, once commonplace, is rare at best. The race to winning over consumers is intensified by challenger brands disrupting every industry. With so many alternatives to choose from, emerging on top requires gaining deep brand trust—from creating the best quality products to being transparent about business practices to aligning with the values of your audience.

    The traditional channels that organizations relied on years ago to build brand trust aren’t guaranteed to work now. According to a Q1 2024 Sprout Pulse Survey, 78% of consumers (and 88% of Gen Z) agree a brand’s social media presence has a larger impact on whether or not they trust a brand compared to a year ago.

    People use social as an avenue to discover new products, shop their favorite influencer’s picks and purchase directly from the apps themselves. Which means building hard-earned brand trust on social is make or break, and requires thoughtful reputation management.

    Read how you can build and measure brand trust (especially on social media) and learn from other brands leading the way.

    What is brand trust?

    Brand trust is how much consumers perceive they can rely on your brand to fulfill its promises. Those promises include:

    • Your brand values and mission
    • The quality of your products or services
    • Supply chain transparency (e.g., certifications, eco-friendly, etc.)
    • The honesty of your advertising claims (e.g., health claims, product longevity, research efficacy)
    • Your treatment of employees and manufacturers
    • Customer service and care practices

    This trust is established through consistently carrying out your promises across channels and touchpoints. For example, by responding to customer questions promptly on social media, audiences  will trust that your brand is committed to providing excellent service and support. In fact, according to Q1 2024 Sprout Pulse Survey data, how quickly brands respond on social has the second greatest impact on whether or not consumers trust a brand.

    But brand trust refers to more than your current customers’ sentiment toward your brand. It’s also relevant within your industry and among consumers in general. While building brand trust should correlate with increases in sales and retention, it can also positively impact share value and extend your brand awareness.

    Why building brand trust is important

    Brand trust is more than a “feel good” goal. It’s a concrete way to drive profitability and expansion. While no brand can win positive public favor all the time, those that maintain long-term trust with consumers are more likely to beat out the competition and rise to the top of their industry.

    Enhanced loyalty and retention

    When you establish brand trust, consumers are more likely to remain loyal over the long haul and continue to purchase your products and renew their contracts. By cultivating a brand experience built on trust, you boost your customer retention rates, reduce churn and drive sustainable business growth.

    Customer advocacy and evangelism

    Trustworthy brands boast higher levels of customer advocacy, which leads to powerful word-of-mouth recommendations and a formidable brand reputation. Brand trust can differentiate your brand from competitors, attract new customers, and create valuable opportunities for future partnerships, collaborations and case studies.

    Increased customer lifetime value

    When consumers trust brands, they are more likely to continue to engage with the brand over time, make repeat purchases, and upgrade to higher value products or services. The most trusted brands can roll out premium pricing while continuing to attract new, long-term customers. Trust ensures business health and revenue generation for years to come.

    How to build brand trust

    While understanding what brand trust is might be relatively straightforward, building it is much more complex. Especially on social media where consumers openly demand more from brands. Building brand trust must be a well-choreographed effort that encompasses everything from your operations to your social content strategy.

    Prioritize consistent messages

    For consumers to trust your brand, your messages and actions need to be in lockstep. For example, if you claim to be an eco-friendly company, that should come across clearly in your social content, website, email marketing and traditional advertising efforts. Take Grove Collaborative, the sustainable cleaning products brand who carries their key messaging across touchpoints, including their social channels and website.

    Brand trust: What it is and why it matters

    The banner on the Grove Collaborative website, which reads "your choices change the world." The banner includes a button that links to sustainable essentials.

    While your tone doesn’t need to be the same on each channel, the underlying message and values should. A coherent brand identity reinforces trustworthiness and brand recall. Consumers say the content brands post on social has the greatest impact on how likely they are to trust them, according to our Q1 2024 Sprout Pulse Survey. Another Nielsen study confirmed that brand recall, or how much consumers can remember about your brand, is just as critical to growing consumer perception on social media as it is on more traditional channels.

    Use AI thoughtfully and ethically

    When it comes to AI, social media users are still largely split on how they feel about brands using it. According to a Q1 2024 Sprout Pulse Survey, almost 74% agree or strongly agree that they’re comfortable with brands using AI to deliver faster customer service on social. But another 26% say they would be distrustful of brands that post AI-generated content.

    If you experiment with AI in your content creation or customer care workflows, be transparent with your audience to preserve trust. Let them know when they’re talking to a bot or viewing an image or video crafted by AI. Be sure to emphasize that humans are still the crux of your brand and running the show.

    A chatbot message from Sprout Social on X (formerly Twitter). In the message, the chatbot introduces itself.

    Put social media at the center of your care strategy

    It might seem simple, but leaving a positive impression on your customers and community members is one of the easiest ways to build brand trust. Especially on social media, which is quickly becoming the epicenter of care in today’s customer journey.

    According to The 2023 Sprout Social Index™, 51% of consumers think the most memorable thing a brand can do is respond to customers on social. Another 76% notice and appreciate when companies prioritize customer support and value how quickly a company can respond to their needs.

    Data visualization from The Sprout Social Index™ 2023 that states 51% of surveyed consumers say the most memorable brands on social respond to customers.

    Actively engaging with your audience, acknowledging positive and negative feedback, and addressing concerns in a timely manner will foster a sense of transparency and connection. Putting social customer care and service at the center of your customer experience strategy will set your brand apart from the competition, supporting retention and evangelism.

    Work with the right influencers

    Almost half (47%) of marketers consider influencer marketing key to enhancing brand authenticity and trust, according to a Q3 2023 Sprout Pulse Survey. Another 87% say influencer marketing has a significant impact on increasing brand reputation.

    By partnering with influencers who are seen as trustworthy, your brand appears more trustworthy by association. Of course, making sure the influencers align with your brand is critical. Though they don’t have to be expected (we’re looking at you, Michael Cera and CeraVe), influencers should be compatible with your brand values and target audience. Ensure the influencers you work with comply with the same consumer best practices and laws that you do.

    Shine a spotlight on the people behind your brand

    Humanize your brand and build trust by pulling back the curtain on the team who makes your brand everything it is. Many consumers wish they saw more brands being transparent about business practices on social, according to the Index. The best spokespeople for your brand and its operations are your frontline employees.

    A Q4 2023 Sprout Pulse Survey found that 48% of consumers want to see brands feature more of their employees in their social content. Like the Mayo Clinic, who often features their volunteers, physicians and other personnel in social posts.

    A LinkedIn post from the Mayo Clinic which features an organ transplant coordinator.

    This could also apply to executives and other thought leaders who amplify their brand’s credibility on social (and in other ways, like conferences) by sharing their expertise on relevant topics. By consistently providing a valuable point of view, thought leaders can inspire confidence in your employer brand. They also bring transparency to their business’ decision-making processes—demonstrating openness and sincerity.

    How to measure brand trust

    The impact of brand trust (or mistrust) is palpable. But the exact metrics needed to measure and prove out the effectiveness of your efforts can seem elusive. Here are a few key KPIs to consider when benchmarking your current rate of brand trust and charting future goals.

    Sentiment

    Sentiment analysis describes the process of retrieving information about a consumer’s perception of a product, service or brand. While social listening and sentiment analysis can be done natively in each network, using tools to monitor online conversations and sentiment enables brands to easily keep a pulse on brand trust trends and shifts.

    A preview of Sprout’s Listening dashboard highlighting Sentiment Summary and Sentiment Trends.

    Engagement metrics

    Tracking likes, shares and comments provides insight into how well a brand resonates with its community on social media. Higher levels of positive engagement typically indicate a stronger level of trust and brand affinity.

    Lower engagement metrics don’t necessarily indicate brand mistrust, but they do reveal room to improve. Brands with an engaged community that prioritize audience interaction are seen as reliable sources of information and part of the cultural zeitgeist.

    Ratings and reviews

    Customer reviews and ratings on social platforms and review sites (e.g., G2, Google My Business, Yelp, Trip Advisor) help marketers track brand trust over time. These reviews arm brands with voice of the customer feedback they need to refine product development and user experience.

    Preview of Sprout’s review management dashboard showing sources, ratings and tags.

    Customer loyalty

    Measuring retention, referrals and customer lifetime value are essential pulse checks to understand the health of your business. If your customers aren’t staying loyal to you, it means they don’t trust you with providing them with enough value to justify staying put.

    Net promoter score

    Collecting data directly from customers through surveys, polls and feedback forms can offer valuable insights into customer perception of your brand. Marketers should ask specific questions related to trust, credibility and accountability to gauge customer sentiment accurately. Gain specific insight into your net promoter score—or how likely a customer is likely to recommend your product or service—by asking how likely customers are to refer others to your business on a scale of zero to 10.

    User-generated content

    The volume of user-generated content and the feedback provided by your brand advocates can tell you a lot about your brand’s health. Identifying and tracking brand advocates can help you gain insight into the level of brand trust and loyalty among customers.

    4 companies that built—or won back—brand trust through social media

    Building brand trust is a long game. One that helps companies survive the start-up phase, transcend point-in-time crises and shake up their industry standing. Here are four examples of brands who have established trust with their audience (and beyond), and takeaways from their strategies you can use to follow in their footsteps.

    Abercrombie

    Once an exclusive 1990s and early noughties mall brand, the retailer became less influential (and somewhat forgotten) in the 2010s due to a series of scandals and growing irrelevance. But, thanks to some expert rebranding and building back brand trust, Abercrombie is now a favorite of Millennials and Gen Z.

    An Instagram carousel from Abercrombie about their newest dresses featuring models of various races and sizes.

    How they did it: The brand invested more attention into the quality of their products and the values of their audience. The imagery they use in their content is no longer the hypersexualized shirtless models of yore. Instead, their models represent a diverse range of skin color and sizes, and often have trusted followings of their own.

    Follow Abercrombie’s lead by doubling down on your product quality and examining where your brand values fall short of audience expectations.

    Dunkin’

    The coffee retailer who once sat firmly in the shadow of its top competition is now emerging as the most beloved coffee chain, due in large part to the trust they accrue on social media. The social content on Dunkin’ channels echoes the best parts of social media culture, displays audience resonance and embodies a customer-centric approach.

    A Dunkin' TikTok video with a caption that reads: tag a short king to remind them it's their season. The video features a small sized latte, which Dunkin' named short king after the internet phrase.

    How they did it: Dunkin’ listens to their customers. They even officially changed their name to reflect customer preferences for their lines of beverages.

    Use Dunkin’ as an example of how to use social as a two-way line of communication with your audience. Listen to them and create content (and an entire brand identity) that compels them to engage.

    Dieux

    You’ve probably seen Charlotte Palermino, founder of Dieux and licensed esthetician, come across your For You Page wearing eye patches or talking into a tiny mic about skincare.

    An Instagram Reel from Charlotte Palermino, founder of Dieux. In the video she gets ready for a photoshoot and wears Dieux eyepatches.

    The skincare entrepreneur turned her company Dieux into a force to be reckoned with in the beauty industry by leading with her credibility on social. By becoming the trustworthy face of Dieux, Palermino catapulted the brand to mainstream success.

    An IG Reel from Charlotte Palermino, founder of Dieux. In the video, she speaks into a tiny mic and tells viewers skincare tips she wishes she knew in her 20s.

    How they did it: The sheer number of competitors in the skincare and beauty industry today means it’s challenging to break through. Dieux managed to build brand trust by prioritizing thought leadership and proving that their products work.

    Take a cue from Dieux by showcasing your clinical results, and letting the stars behind your brand take center stage.

    Telfar

    While “accessible luxury” might seem like an oxymoron, in the form of a Telfar bag, it makes complete sense. Though the luxury brand is almost two decades old, Telfar has become a social media darling. And the brand’s commitment to accessibility has helped it retain relevance on the channel.

    An Instagram Reel from Telfar, which rounds up user-generated content of consumers wearing their Telfar bags.

    Telfar frequently reshares user-generated content crafted by people wearing their bags and clothing, paying homage to the diverse range of customers who have helped them establish long-term brand trust. The brand fosters community and encourages brand evangelism, leading to greater discoverability and loyalty.

    How they did it: Telfar is true to their values—from their pricing strategy to their product quality to their social media presence. They created a well-made bag for everyone, and that’s exactly how they position their product.

    Consumers want to know it’s your brand they can trust

    As competition grows and social media feeds become more insulated, brand trust, loyalty and awareness are more essential than ever. Yet, brand trust is simultaneously harder to come by than ever.

    Building brand trust requires orchestration across your internal teams and external customer experience—from product development to operations to marketing and sales. You can achieve this by being consistent, elevating the role of customer care, tapping into social listening and humanizing your brand (whether with AI, influencers or the people on your team).

    Want to learn more from brands themselves about what it takes to build trust? Watch this on-demand webinar featuring Patagonia’s Community & Impact Manager.

    The post Brand trust: What it is and why it matters appeared first on Sprout Social.

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