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Building Trust Online

Recently I needed a developer to help me with a small job on this website. I asked on Twitter who people recommended for a WordPress/My Emma integration and styling job. Very quickly, a local WordPress developer got in touch, we agreed on the project and he got to work. (Doesn’t our new spiffy orange email signup form look great in the right column? Please go right ahead and use it if you haven’t already! But I digress….) Over the next few days, many WordPress developers from all over the world reached out to me to offer their services. Many replied to me on Twitter, but others went a step further, found my contact info and sent a proposal.

I was fascinated by this. Most of the people who reached out weren’t my followers before and had never interacted with me before. I suppose they were searching the public timeline for people who need them. When it comes down to it, although the developer I selected was in Nashville just like I was, I found the services I needed by posting online and seeing what happened.

As we build relationships with others via social media, it’s worth thinking about how you go about building trust online. Why was I comfortable immediately working with the developer I selected? In that case, while I didn’t know him before, he was from my city. After a quick check online, I realized I knew the school where he’d received his training well. What if I’d needed his work for a client instead of myself? I could have made one phone call to get a personal reference on him. What if I hadn’t known people running his school? I would have looked harder at what he posts online and other evidence of his expertise. I would have needed more evidence of his trustworthiness.

When you use social media or publish a website, for yourself or for your job, what are you doing that inspires trust? How much do you reveal about yourself? I’ve seen many well-publicized cases where making personal information available online becomes dangerous, but I confess I usually err on the side of revealing a fair amount about myself. I’m in business, after all, and people have to be able to get in touch with me for us to work together. That’s easy to say when I work in an industry segment that’s less likely to be controversial. But you don’t have to be in politics or gaming to deal with a stalker—their terror is agnostic to that.

The Takeaway on Building Trust Online

Do you represent a brand or organization that interacts with the public, or with others in your industry? Take an objective look at how hard it is to find a person and make a connection in your organization. Many organizations err on the side of gatekeeping, locking down employee directories, including email addresses and phone numbers, for both security and competitive reasons. I understand why they do, but I also know that those organizations make it harder to establish and build trusting relationships.

Where do you fall on this continuum? Do your online decisions represent you and your organization accurately? How are you building trust online?

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