Trust Is…

Handshake
Image by Aidan Jones via Flickr

Who do you trust? Why? Who trusts you? Why? Do you trust people because of who they are or what they do? Do you trust them based on what they’ve done in the past or what you expect them to do in the future?

Your answer to these questions might differ from mine or anybody else’s. Trust is a very simple concept, and yet it can be experienced in many different ways. For example, I might trust you to lie to me – which sounds tautologous, depending on your reading of the sentence. The point is that trust embodies several elements that determine its specific meaning. Your history of previous actions, your honesty, your competence.

TRUST EQUALS THE PRODUCT OF ACTION AND TIME

Whatever definition or attributes you assign to trust, when it comes to marketing – be it a non-profit, a political movement or a for-profit enterprise – two necessary variables are key to establishing trust: a valued action and time. Thus, as a practical rule of thumb we could say the following:

Trust = Valued Action x Time

The more actions that I value which you execute and deliver to me over time, the more I will trust you. Building trust, therefore, requires energy and time: and lots of it.

Of course, entropy works in the opposite direction but much faster: while it may take a long time to earn your trust, it only takes one or a few blunders or betrayals in one moment to wreck your trust in me. This is especially important in social media since the subjective experience of Online Time tends to be faster than Offline Time. So perhaps it’s technically more appropriate to say this:

Trust is variably proportional to Valued Action x Time.

Common sense. It’s obvious. Of course, attention to the obvious is the hardest kind to maintain. So what’s the point? you may ask. What’s not so obvious?

ALL ROADS LEAD BACK TO CAPITAL

All investments involve the same two elements as trust: I expect a valued action (Return) over or at the end of the investment cycle (Time).

Which brings us back once again to the core of business, Capital. For Capital depends on Accumulation and Accumulation depends on Investment. Which is to say that Capital depends on Trust.

Moreover, Capital not only depends on Trust – and is not only an act of Trust – it is Trust – at least insofar as the contexts of social relations are concerned (more on that later).

This inter-relationship between Capital and Trust is foundational to all Marketing. It means that you must invest in trust in every portal of capital flows. Revenues are manifestations of the social relations between you and your customers. Expenses are the manifestations of social relations with vendors and employees. Which means: Equity is the manifestation of social relations with everybody, not just owners.

Capital without Trust is a corruption. It’s an acid and, if not buffered in time, consumes itself until nothing good is left (or, to put it more ominously, nothing left is good).

So in the story that you tell your various customers, how are you underwriting their trust? You must know the answer to this above all else, because that’s where you’ll find your Capital.

You have little time and much to do.

Capital is Trust, Trust is Capital.

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The Social Capital Algorithm

What exactly is the economics of social media marketing? What is the cornerstone of the economic principles underlying the nebulous structure of social connectivity? These are big tough questions which deserve far more attention than this post will pay. For now, I’d offer this: Social Capital is the center and circumference of any dynamic web presence and there exists a straightforward process to organically accumulate it.

WHAT IS SOCIAL CAPITAL?

Positive Social Capital includes, but is not limited to: trust, networks, goodwill, strategic alliances, collective perceptions, personal values, beliefs, opinions, judgments, community bonds, meanings, and hopes. A simple definition of Social Capital:

Social Capital is the aggregate value of actions derived from social resources.

Note the keyword in this definition: actions. Without actions, there is no business, no life. Regardless of how to quantify Social Capital, it’s important to understand its qualities. If metrics are important, the measurable variables will reveal themselves. (That accounting lesson is not part of this post.)

So, how do we engender and accumulate Social Capital? Is there an underlying process of social media interactions? Yes.

THE SOCIAL CAPITAL ALGORITHM

When conceiving, planning and correcting your web presence, it’s easy to veer off-track. You must remain faithful to your going concern and keep steady vigil on your vision and goals while working with the relevant strategies and tactics which accomplish them.

Although there is no universal way to “do” social media, there is I believe a simple strategic algorithm that is compatible with all honorable marketing. Here it is:

  1. Invest in Trust
  2. Market hopeful Meanings
  3. Share the Wealth
  4. Repeat daily

That’s it. Nothing complicated. A no-brainer.

BUT: Just because the algorithm is simple, don’t assume that the work is easy. Silly as it seems, constantly and remarkably leading and maintaining a real-time web presence demands a lot of dedicated work.

It’s easy to wreck trust. It’s easy to kill hope. It’s easy to be selfish. It’s easy to slip any day. Creating and leading and interacting and providing value every day are difficult and the work tying it all together can be very hard.

MORE TO COME

I will be discussing Social Capital in upcoming posts because it’s an interesting topic, one central not only to marketing but also to our lives in the 21st Century. Some of what I will discuss will be a review of the subtle complexities and hidden consequences of Financial Capital and how they come to play in Social Capital. Any discussion about ROI is pointless without a solid understanding of capital’s ramifying powers.

For now, think of ways to work these steps into your habits.

Does this ring true for you? Share some of your wealth and invest a little time in the comments.

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Let’s Be Remarkable in 2009

While commenting on Chris Brogan’s 12 Things to Stop Doing in 2009, I ended up penning what in retrospect is a wish-list for things to get done in 2009. I probably will tweak my comment (penned under The Philster) into an ebook and publish it (after Chris’ permission).

Sometimes when the right mood strikes while commenting on other good people’s blog posts, good things happen. I rather like what I wrote there and I hope that you do too.

For now, go read Chris’ post, the comments left there by his readers and then enjoy what I wrote there.

If you’re reading this, I hope that 2009 is a remarkable year for you. If you want some help setting your agenda, start here.

Happy New Year, my friends

Phil