OK, the picture of Teddy Roosevelt has nothing to do with this post, but he's the most obvious symbol of trust busting I know of. Anyway, have you seen this year's Edelman Trust Barometer report? It's fascinating. The folks at Hubspot had a nice post on it, and my recent Inc. column used its findings as the focus - Overemphasis on Brand Building Leads to Mistrust.
In short, trust in "people like me" is way down, while trust in recognized experts is way up - and it seems like the fall in trust of people like me coincides with the rise in social media.
To be sure this is just my observation, not any scientific fact. But it's easy to see that we communicate more and more each day via social channels. And it's also easy to see that a lot of the stuff being created is about building your brand... I mean a whole lot of stuff.
I don't mean to say that social media is the cause for the decline in trust for "people like me". What I do think is that social media tools in our hands today is equivalent to a Porsche 911 in the hands of a sixteen year old. The car looks great. The car is powerful. The car can take you anywhere you want to go...but the car can get you in big trouble quickly if you don't understand its power before getting behind the wheel.
The other thing about the car is that it is seductive, which means it doesn't take much for it to entice you to drive it before really know what you're getting into. The same thing goes with the social stuff. We want to use it because of all that we hear and see about it. The difference between leaping into a Porsche without know how to drive it, and using social stuff without knowing where it will take us - is physical pain. Oh we definitely will feel pain with a bad misstep, we just won't have cuts, abrasions, contusions or limps.
We also have to fight the urge to overdo the self promotion and branding. I mean it's ridiculously easy to push our stuff out there, which makes it ridiculously dangerous to step over the line with the LAMMP - Look At Me Marketing & Promotion.
I know I've stepped over the line and had the LAMMP shining directly in people's faces. I didn't mean to, but it happens. I bet most of us have done it. And that's why I believe trust is down in "people like me". It's important for us to try and share our spotlight in ways that help us build better relationships, not alienate the people we're trying to connect with. So please let's do each other a favor and keep the following things in check:
The RT-Thank You
It's always cool to thank people who think enough about what you tweet to share it with their "followers". But what get's old quick is thanking them by way of a retweet that has the link back to whatever it is you want people to see. Hey, I've been guilty of this in the past - and I may be guilty of it in the future - but I'd like to think that you won't see me do that much at all going forward. I'd rather just keep the focus on the "thank you" for a kind gesture, than the extra opportunity to spread my link.
The Overuse of the Auto-Tweet
I know. I've seen the stat that says you need to tweet multiple times to get your message/links across. But if I look at your twitter stream and most of what I see is the same things over and over again I'm pretty much done. It just doesn't look good, or interesting. And I have to think this doesn't build any interest or trust. The LAMMP is blinding me at this point, which makes me have to turn my eyes away.
The Facebook Fan Page Recommendation
When someone adds me as a friend in Facebook, then shortly thereafter recommends I become their fan on Facebook, I reach for my shades. They've never really talked with me, but they recommend I become their fan. Interest down.... not even the possibility of trust. Please let's get to know each other first before trying to sign each other up as fans - Friends before Fans, ok? I'll try to keep my end of the deal up if you will.
These are just a few of the Trustbusters I try to stay away from committing. It's not always easy, but I feel it's important for me to limit as much as possible. And try to keep an eye on your Net Promoter Score... not that one, your social media NPS:
If you promote yourself alongside of promoting your customers, partners and industry community - in a really meaningful, genuine manner - you won't have to self-promote as much. Others will help you out with it, because they'll trust you a little more.