How to gain trust on social media, as shown by not-quite-math

Gaining people’s trust on social media isn’t easy. A follow doesn’t mean trust; a like doesn’t mean trust. You have to earn it beyond those first signs of interest from your community.

Here’s one stab at figuring out what that hell that means:

Steve Rayson's Trust Formula
Steve Rayson’s Trust Formula

Steve Rayson wrote about this formula over at Social Media Today, where he improved upon “Trust Agents” authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s original formula of influence + reputation = trust. My professor Justin Kings also suggested that Rayson add some combination of reliability and consistency to his new formula.

Although I can think of a few more wonderful words that are important to gaining trust, in the spirit of social media’s brevity, I wouldn’t add any more precious characters to this trusty formula. What I’d offer is a still short and math-inspired addition to further break down what each of those words from the main formula encompasses. Here’s my stab at that:

  • Authority = Knowledge x Ingenuity
  • Helpfulness = (Attentiveness + Responsiveness) x Consistency
  • Intimacy = Transparency x (Humor + Empathy + Charisma)
  • Self Promotion = Benefit to You – Benefit to Your Community **

With all that said, I don’t think anyone needs to fret about memorizing any formulas. These ideas disguised as math  are important concepts to keep in mind, but there’s no need to measure every tweet with addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.

When in doubt, I rely on my gut — but not my social media manager gut. I distance myself from the situation and put myself in the shoes of a person who has no ties to the brand that I manage. How would the average person take whatever it is I’m considering saying as the brand? What would make the average person walk away from this situation with a warm fuzzy, or at least satisfied, feeling? What would make me, as an average person, smile?

I think all these formulas get at that. But ultimately, the human part of social media can’t be totally decoded with math.

** If the Self Promotion balance is zero, you’re in the clear, and there’s no need to divide by it in Rayson’s formula. So you’re basically awesomely trustworthy. Dividing by zero would give us an undefined answer, which would defeat the whole purpose of the formula. And now I’m having math team flashbacks.

I’m sure everyone has an opinion on what makes people trustworthy on social media. What did I leave out?

Whom do you trust? Can you pinpoint the reasons you trust that person or brand?


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