The top 10 trust-melters on your social media

By Neil Patrick

The importance of trust in your personal brand and social media is something which often gets overlooked in an age where clever techniques are assumed to trump everything else.

If people like you, they’ll talk to you. If they trust you, they’ll do business with you. - Zig Ziglar

I have plenty of tips on this blog for better social media management to help build your personal brand. The thing I have never talked about until now is trust and how we can enhance or reduce it in terms of our social media activities.

We all know trust is difficult to win and easy to lose.

The question is how should we present ourselves and behave on social media to enhance this aspect of our online reputation and not diminish it?

Based on what I see day in day out on social media, here’s a list of some of the basic things I think we should all pay attention to.

1. High intensity recirculation

Digital media is designed to make sharing easy. One click and you can share almost anything you like. But this characteristic of social media risks creating digital overload for your network. I see plenty of people who churn out shared content at a frantic rate. They do it because it’s easy, and in the misguided belief that that the more you do, the more you’ll benefit.

I don’t agree. It’s the equivalent of social media spamming. It’s not big and it’s not clever. And it does your personal brand no good at all. Everything we share should be for a reason and it should have a value to its recipients – even if that value is just entertainment or amusement. 

Think before you click!

2. Buy me now! 

I quickly lose interest in professional profiles which try too hard to sell. Your personal profile on Linkedin especially isn’t the place to be shouting at people ‘buy this’. It’s the place to tell people who you are, what you have accomplished and why you might be of value to them. They’ll decide later, possibly much later if they want to buy you or from you.

And remember, that time isn’t when they first encounter you on social media. People, love to buy but hate to be sold to. Isn't that why no-one in their right mind will follow someone on Twitter whose profile says something like – ‘I got thousands of followers free – let me show you how you can too’?  (did you ever notice how none of these people actually have more than a few dozen followers?)

3. Engage on old world media too 

Social media is great for finding new people and starting to build a relationship with them. But it’s absolutely no substitute for meeting face to face, a Skype chat, talking on the phone or even emailing each other. Every single one of my most valuable social media relationships may have started with Twitter or LinkedIn, but the real value is created away from social media, not within it.

Social media is the start point for building valuable relationships not the destination.

4. Your profile picture says more about you than you ever can 

This is such a basic point that it seems almost too obvious to mention, but it is hardwired into humans to make split second evaluations of each other based on what the other person looks like. So invest in a professional headshot, with a professional photographer. 

Not only will you look better, the difference between a mobile phone snap against a blank wall and a professional headshot sends a powerful subconscious message…I should be taken seriously, because I care about being professional in every detail of my work.

And use this same picture for all your social media platforms. This is an exercise in brand presentation and consistency, not personal vanity. 

5. Be human 

Showing a little of your unique personality on your profile and social media interactions is a good thing. You are not a machine, so why try and present yourself as one? 

People form relationships with other humans, so show your personality a little. It’s not a substitute for being professional first and foremost, but it’s our individual quirks that people respond to and remember, much more than the dry matter of our professional accomplishments. If something about you is unusual amongst your peers, then use this. I happen to love heavy metal, so I drop small references to it here and there which shows I am just a little bit different.

6. Be likeable 

I am constantly amazed at how some social media interactions are so hostile. Perhaps these interactions should be called ‘anti-social media’. Just because someone has an opinion that is different to yours, it isn’t a reason to attack them. Respect others’ opinions, be courteous, even if they are not courteous to you. 

On Twitter for example, I think sometimes people forget that our tweets are public. If someone follows me and their tweets don’t show respect and courtesy to others, I am unlikely to follow them back. 

7. Pay it forward 

Helping others before we help ourselves is perhaps the best way I know of showing who we are and building goodwill towards ourselves. Help others, ask for nothing back. This might be something as simple as clicking the like or share buttons on their content regularly (provided of course you do actually like it).

It gets you noticed, it shows that you care about others and most importantly, it shows that you understand the power and value of collaboration.

8. Choose your friends carefully 

Rightly or wrongly, we are judged by the company we keep. I’m not saying avoid the people who for whatever reason are not superstars. On the contrary, helping those perhaps less experienced than yourself is a very positive and laudable thing. But we should also work hard to build relationships with the high profile people in our professional space. And more than ever before, social media allows us to reach out to people that in the analogue world would be hard to reach.

Having connections with these people isn't just valuable because of potential opportunities. Even if you never actually progress your relationship with them further than a Twitter connection and the odd retweet, their connection with you carries weight and influence within the social media platforms which see that you are connected and respond accordingly. 

9. Create your own unique value 

Sharing the work of others is great, assuming you are selective and discerning. But the most powerful way to build your standing is through the creation of your own unique material. It could be as simple as adding insightful comments to the work of others.

It doesn’t have to be a full blown blog either – images are always popular and if writing isn’t your thing, it’s easy to build your profile and content with interesting pictures. Smart phones make this easier than ever.

10. Be consistent 

We are all multidimensional as people. But in the world of professional networking through social media, it gets confusing if your content and activities are really diverse. In the purely social space, we can indulge our whims and fancies. 

With professional social media we need to stay focused. If you have multiple interests and activities, then at least with Twitter, you can have separate Twitter accounts for them. Sadly the same isn't possible with LinkedIn.

So decide what you are about within your professional social media space and stay on topic. Everyone will appreciate it.

I am sure this isn’t the last word on the subject, it’s more a simple checklist of what seem to me to be sensible best practices. So if you’d like to add points to the list, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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