Social Trust Indicators & Social Media Marketing: Becoming a Trustworthy Brand

“Social Trust” is a buzzword you hear a lot among marketers. Either you’ve got “social trust” or you don’t. But what is “social trust,” and more importantly how can you – as a small business marketer – influence it in a positive direction? Let’s investigate.


Google Autocomplete and Keyword Research for SEO

First, what is “social trust?” “Trust” is defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” ( Take going to a heart surgeon for example. If that guy or gal is going to rip open your chest and do surgery, you had better trust him or her, right? But what is “trust?” Is it the white coat that they wear? Is it the fact that they went to Harvard or Stanford medical school? Is it that they work for trustworthy hospital like the Mayo Clinic? Or is that your friend had heart surgery with them, and they survived? Trust – you can deconstruct it – has indicators: the white coat, the prestigious medical school, and even the reviews of the doc online. That’s where we start to see “social trust.” These are things like: online reviews (having a lot, having five stars), ranking high on Google (they must be good because they’re number one on Google!), having a good-looking website, being mentioned on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, having a lot of followers, or even engaging with your customers online …  “Social trust” in marketing refers to indicators online that substantiate a business can be trusted, such as:

    • Online reviews, both quantity and quality – especially on Google, but also on Yelp, Facebook, VRBO, HealthGrades, etc. (“Specialized” websites).
    • Good-looking websites, Facebook Pages, Instagram accounts, etc.
    • Having a lot of followers on social media (more is better); e.g., having 10,000 followers on Twitter is better than having 100
    • Having other websites talk about you positively (Google yourself or your business name and what do you find?)
    • eWOM – having fans, superfans, or influencers talk about you and recommend you to their friends / colleagues / connections online.
    • Membership in professional organizations – being “validated” by state agencies, key associations, having security validations, etc.
    • etc.

So, for example, take a search and a brand –


Second, here’s the dirty little secret on social trust: it can be influenced (by you, the marketer) in a positive direction. Now, I’m not saying go out and buy “fake reviews” on Google (though that can, and is, done). I am saying work to influence them in a positive direction. How? Well, take reviews as the easiest example. Ask your happy customers, “please do us a favor and write us a review on Google, Facebook, etc.)” It can also be influenced by making sure that your website (Facebook page, Instagram account) looks good in a photographic sense, and is active. You can work with fans and superfans through contests and challenges to encourage them to “spread your message,” thus building eWOM (electronic word of mouth). NOTHING spells trust like the recommendation (online review) of a friend / colleague / connection, and you as the marketer can influence these! The “marketing spin” is thus to recognize that a) “social trust” matters to your customers, and b) work towards growing both the quantity and quality of your “social trust indicators.”


Third, take some time, sit down, and “think like a potential customer.” What “social trust indicators” are likely to make them believe that your company / product / brand “can be trusted” or “is the best choice?” Is it reviews? Is it endorsements by fans, superfans, and/or influencers? Is it a good-looking website with high quality photos? Is it industry awards or recognition? Is it the sheer quantity of followers on Twitter (Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn) or is it the “star average” (five star reviews)? Is it being active and timely with content? Is it all of them? Some of them? Which ones matter more vs. less? Next, once you know the “trust indicators” that matter, how can you “influence” them or “grow” them? Is it as simple as asking for reviews? Is it advertising to grow your followers? Is it having contests or challenges for fans or superfans? It is paying influencers to promote your product or service? Is it joining key industry associations?  Become pro-active when it comes to trust indicators. It doesn’t end here, of course, next steps might include optimizing your Google My Business Profile.

To-do: check out YOUR relevant searches and YOUR relevant “branded” or “reputational” positions on Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – do you “look trustworthy?” Why or why not?



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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.