When you ask leaders about the most important skill they need to succeed in their role, the answers almost always include build trust. It’s built over time and earned by actions, not words. It’s the common denominator that:
- Attracts people who want to do business with you.
- Increases the speed of business transactions.
- Keeps employees engaged and committed.
- Forms the foundation of every successful organization.
But how can you know if you’re building trust? And what can you do to build it faster?
In the digital age, social media has become one of the most important channels for leaders and CEOs to build trust with their network.
Social media has moved beyond sharing tidbits about our personal lives with people we know. It’s developed into a reputable channel to share updates about the company, demonstrate transparency, and connect with customers, investors, employees, and other shareholders.
But if it’s not done correctly — intentionally and consistently — social media can also damage a leader’s reputation and cause a loss of trust. In this blog post, we’ll explore how leaders can use social media to build trust over time — and how they can damage that trust if they’re not careful.
Understanding how trust changes over time is key to making good use of social media in business.
Trust is not a one-time thing. It’s not about making a single decision to trust, or being told to trust by authority figures. Instead, trust is a genuine connection built over time. And it can be lost over time, too — for instance, through bad experiences and lack of communication or transparency from leadership.
LinkedIn gives you the ability to speed your progress towards trust with your customers, partners, investors, and employees.
In his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, Stephen M. R. Covey says trust is the combination of competence and character.
“Trust is equal parts character and competence. . . . [Y]ou can look at any leadership failure, and it’s always a failure of one or the other.”
Social media, and more specifically LinkedIn, provides an ideal place to demonstrate both. And here’s why:
LinkedIn is a great place to demonstrate competence and character.
Your Profile: Your profile gives you a place to aggregate all the information that shows why people should trust you — your credentials, experience, track record, awards, and education. In addition, you can build trust with your followers by sharing personal stories or experiences in posts. People can see who you are connected to, and if you are connected to people they already trust, that alone builds trust.
Your Posts: When creating a post on LinkedIn, always aim to be competent and reliable. This means that you should do your research before posting and make sure what you’re sharing is accurate. You should also be consistent in your messaging, so your network knows what to expect from you. If you’re constantly going back on your word or changing your mind, it will be difficult for people to trust you.
Your Character: In addition to being competent, it’s also important to be authentic and transparent on social media, so you demonstrate character. People can see through a facade, so show them who you are. Share your successes, but also share your failures. Be open about the challenges you’re facing and ask for help when you need it.
Here are three specific ways to build trust on LinkedIn:
There are a few factors to keep top of mind when building trust on LinkedIn: share content that your audiences value, engage in two-way communication with your audience, and use language that fits who you are as a leader. Let’s look at some examples of how to do this:
1. Showcase achievements, especially those that demonstrate your dedication to your values.
LinkedIn is the ideal place to demonstrate competence and share your accomplishments. Your goal is not to brag, but to create transparency so people can see that you have a track record of success. When they can see that you have achieved something once, such as led your company through an IPO or an exit, it is much easier to trust that you can do it again.
In particular, you want to share achievements that show integrity and a commitment to your values. For example, if your organization has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, you can demonstrate this by highlighting the steps you have taken or are taking toward diversifying your workforce.
You could also share stories about how your company’s efforts have positively impacted people’s lives — such as how you helped customers solve a challenging business problem or supported employees who are entering the workforce for the first time.
2. Let people see you giving back.
It is easier to trust someone when you can see that they are committed to giving back. Whether you are giving back to your industry by sharing your knowledge or giving back to your community by volunteering, when people can see that you care about leaving the world a better place, it is easier to trust you.
You can make your support for a cause visible. You might post a photo about sleeping out for the homeless or advocate for a nonprofit you believe in.
You can also give back by encouraging rising leaders and being supportive of your team.
3. Share insights into yourself as a person.
Revealing personal and meaningful information about yourself — that is appropriate and relates to leadership — is a great way to build trust.
Start by sharing your “why.” When you share what motivates you, people feel like they understand you, and that builds trust.
In his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek talks about how trust is a cornerstone of leadership. He says,
“You can’t convince someone you have value, just as you can’t convince someone to trust you. You have to earn trust by communicating and demonstrating that you share the same values and beliefs. You have to talk about your WHY and prove it with WHAT you do.”
You also want to talk about your mission and vision. What are you trying to accomplish? When people feel like they understand what you are trying to do and why it matters to you, they’re more likely to engage in your mission and feel connected to it.
When you are transparent about what you want, it makes you more human and approachable. You don’t have to be perfect or hide your flaws — tell people what to expect and what you need. When you create transparency and show vulnerability in your posts, that builds trust.
It’s possible (and fairly straightforward!) to build or rebuild trust using LinkedIn – if you’re consistent.
Be consistent. If you want people to trust what you say, make sure it’s consistent with your actions. Your audience will learn that if they see a post from you on LinkedIn, they can trust that it’s valuable and worth their time.
The bottom line is that building trust is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes work both posting and engaging. But if you commit to this process and put in the time, I promise that it will pay off for everyone involved — your network, your business, and yourself!
Are you using LinkedIn strategically and intentionally to create an environment where people feel like they can trust you? To talk about how to create a presence on LinkedIn that helps you build trust, schedule a call!