A large component of the brand social media conversation revolves around this notion of trust.  Up until now, I hadn’t thought too much about it.  And being that I’m not a brand manager or anything like that, I never really saw it as a topic for this forum.

But a recent survey report I read from Brandfog called 2012 CEO Social Media & Leadership Survey prompted me to reconsider.  Before I get to some of the data that poked me in the ribs, I think it’s interesting that a survey would look at social media as relates to leadership.  The analysis within the survey seems to suggest that CEOs can enhance their leadership skill by personal participation in social media.  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that.

As for this question of trust.  The conclusion of this survey by Brandfog was that executive engagement in social media raises brand profile and instills confidence in a company’s leadership. “It builds greater trust, brand loyalty and purchase intent”.  I’m not so sure.

It’s not that I’m calling into question the reality of the response data.  But the survey population is a bit interesting.  The population consisted of company employees commenting about their own organization’s leadership and about the leadership of other companies.  What about the customers of these companies? 

I’m curious about the causal relationship.  So that’s the question that I’m posing here.  Is it enough just for an executive to participate in social media? Is the mere participation enough to alter perceptions about a company’s trustworthiness?  Also, what is the weighting of social media participation in the trust perception equation?  Is it that, all other things being equal, social media participation tips the scale?  If your product stinks, your experience is poorly designed and your customer service has a poor reputation, does the fact that your CEO tweets about the company’s mission and values even matter?  In fact, that’s about as disingenuous as it gets.  Isn’t it?

Or, is it that we, as consumers, are so easily influenced that the simple fact that a company’s CEO tweets makes that much of an impression on us that we are willing to give that company our trust?

My conclusion?  Trust is a core value.  A customer’s trust is earned through every action taken and decision made by a company and its leadership, on a daily basis.  Tweet that.

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