Overcoming the Fragility of Trust in Today’s Connected World

Opinion: Consumers want to share their questions and thoughts with you

At what price can and should brands expect consumers to give up bits of their privacy?
MicroStockHub/iStock

In today’s world of social media speed, fake news and announcing deaths before they happen, how does a brand not just gain the trust of their consumers, but keep it, as well?

I attended the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., last November, where a great deal of the research centered around “Trust and Civility in a Changing World.”

With technology becoming smarter and consumers becoming much more reliant on it to manage day-to-day life, brands are now left to navigate brand trust in a connected world with accessible gadgets, online security systems, smart home systems and more. While consumers are eager and willing to try the latest Fitbit or Google Voice or connected toys for kids, they are also becoming much smarter about data collection.

At what price can and should brands expect consumers to give up bits of their privacy? How can your brand successfully build consumer trust in this new reality and convey that to the marketplace?

Brands that have worked hard to build that trust will want to pay close attention to several useful takeaways discussed at the conference itself that they should consider before, during and after venturing deep into the connected world:

  • Transparency: Many companies may be a bit apprehensive about sharing too much information with the public. Savvy consumers will seek this information out and share it on social media, sometimes not in the manner in which you can control or the style in which you would prefer. However, it is always advisable to share with your audience the kind of information your “smart toys” are collecting and what is being done with that data. Your consumers will understand that you respect their desire for privacy, and for sharing this knowledge with them, they will actually trust you more for it.
  • Safety policies in place: Have a clearly defined space—both in your online presence and on your packaging—to outline your brand safety policies. This helps to manage not only consumer expectations, but equally, what you are expecting from the consumer. This is very similar to what already exists in terms of product safety measures. It includes data sharing, data privacy and what is and is not acceptable to share publicly (e.g., on social media and online platforms).
  • Clear communication: How your policies are worded is equally as important as their placement. Your consumers are unlikely to all be lawyers and, in many cases, they are busy parents or young adults. Consider their needs and how best to communicate your company’s policies in a language that is concise, clear and human. If you are too pedantic or use industry jargon, many people will walk away and be left feeling either intimidated, frustrated or both. They may turn to your competitors instead.
  • Allow for open discussion: This may be daunting at first. Seeing your audience openly discuss your product in a public forum may make you uncomfortable and present challenges. However, if you have the right team in place, with the right mindset, listening to constructive feedback will help improve policies make your products and services safer for consumers and solidify their trust in your brand.

Consumers want to share their questions and thoughts with you. Remain open to this and the topics that are raised. This will encourage trust and build an honest relationship, which can last for years to come.

Jennifer Puckett is social engagement manager at social media agency The Social Element.

Recommended articles