Notes in the Margin

On the intersection of web apps, digital content and social media

Building Trust Without Being There in Person

Mashable’s post today, The Science of Building Trust With Social Media, discusses how to build trust in social media; it’s a useful, albeit incomplete, primer on good online behavior. The challenge they address is that, without body language and other non-verbal cues, it’s often difficult to convey the full meaning and intention of our messages.

The point of the article distills down to two principles:

  • Responsiveness: in the absence of being able to convey the qualitative aspects of your message, it’s important to respond promptly. A long lag before responding conveys indifference.
  • The response medium hierarchy: Video is more effective than audio, and audio is more effective than plain text. I guess this is obvious, because the richer media enable more of the non-explicit communication, like stance and tone.

There are good examples of each of these principles well-executed, from Southwest Airlines’ response to Kevin Smith, to Governor Schwartzenegger’s video message of thanks to Twitterers.

In the spirit of the previous post, about “cheapening” the value of words, I’d also like to add one more principle. It will completely betray my age, I suppose, but I still think spelling and grammar matters. Why? Because poor construction of a message glaringly indicates your unconcern for the message, and therewith the recipient. If you respect your audience, they are worth the effort to re-read your message before sending.

Having said that, I’m certain to inadvertently spice my messages for the rest of the day with typos and other errors 🙂 .


Written by tstaley

February 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm

One Response

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  1. I’ve always believed that every action we take sends a value and trust message to our audience. I worked for an investment database publisher prior to widespread online data distribution. We published data on floppy disks via snail mail. We strongly believed that if we couldn’t apply the disk and mailing labels with precision why would any subscriber trust our data? We saw an opportunity to build or reinforce trust in every step of our production and relationship management processes.

    Harry Klein

    December 14, 2010 at 9:15 am

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