The Long Tail of Trust in New Media Marketing

by Eric Tsai

In today’s fragmented media world where we all have some attention deficit in our busy lives, there are simply too many sources of information thus finding a filter that we trust is extremely important.

Most people tend to prefer value, look for key opinion leaders and trust one-on-one communication sources.

Accordingly to a recent “Purchaser Influence Survey” by EXPO provided to eMarketer, over 92% of US mom internet users trust peer review more than manufacturer’s brand information.

This data should not be a surprise because if you want recommendations for a restaurant or suggestions on buying a new cell phone, you’re pretty much going to first ask your friends.

If you’re really serious about the purchase, you will do your “homework” first by reading bunch of online reviews from Yelp to Amazon before accessing your trusted sources.

Thanks to the increasingly social web, everyone can have a voice in their sphere of influence.

As a result word-of-mouth has become the ultimate marketing arsenal for marketers to tap into their loyal customers and advocates to help spread their marketing messages through what it’s called earned media.

Earned Media vs Paid Media

As opposed to paid media where publicity are gained through advertising, earned media usually are from real people, not marketers, which explains why consumers tend to trust them more.

It’s indicative from the survey conducted by Synovate for word-of-mouth ad network PostRelease, over 50% of the word-of-mouth activity was to help a friend or family member with a purchase decision, as well as sharing information they found on the web offline.

While these finding are insightful, it’s simply a confirmation that earned media is what’s working and will continue to lead the way as we crawl out of this recession.

Obviously, there are other factors that contributes to the buying decision that aligns with the “four Ps of marketing” (price, product, promotion and placement), but there is a definite shift in the perception of value that builds on trust.

So how what does trust mean to brands today?

According to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer from PR firm Edelman, transparent and honest practices and trustworthiness are extremely important while financial return have fallen below those factors.

One thing I must point out is that these data can be misleading because financial returns actually increased but have fallen behind other factors so there is merely a shift in value perception.

We’ve gone from push advertising to social influence marketing.  Online users have learned to focus on content and ignore online banners (banner blindness) simply because display focus too much on getting attention and have failed to deliver.

The concept of getting attention as a way to create brand awareness is being seen as noise which leads to resistance.

People have caught on to the fact that more marketers are increasingly behind influential bloggers, social media rock stars and even popular portals by endorsing their content diluting the credibility of peer-to-peer networks.

Long Tail of Trust

In the ear of new media, brands have quickly learned social marketing is build on the idea that people trust their friends more than they trust authorities, but on the other hand, consumers also start to question the intend and authenticity of their social networks.

As I’ve mentioned previous in “7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand”, social proof plays a key factor as a weapon of influence, the challenge for marketers is to earn trust as skepticism remains about how long trust will last.

When it comes to trust and brand loyalty there is no silver bullet, but knowing what value proposition to focus on and how to make adjustments can help marketers to acquire high level of trust over time.

If you truly want to earn the trust of your audience, don’t get sucked into the numbers game.

How many Twitter followers, Facebook fans or Linkedin connections you have on is far less important than how you interact with them.

Instead of concentrating on how many social network participants you have, try instead to gauge success on how engage they are with your brand.

The take away: When it comes to trust, it pays to earn it over time via high targeted more personalized channel that drives engagement and loyalty.

Mass media may reach a wider audience faster but the conversion rate is low and the experience becomes de-personalize.

There is still a place for mass media, but there is growing concerns over the value and ROI in the long run.

Moving forward companies should focus on shifting towards a customer centric strategy that retains long term customer loyalty as a sustainable competitive advantage.

Unless your brand connects with the customer, your chance of earning trust will be slim.

The role of marketing is only going to become even more important and integrated closely with customer interactions.

Get back to the basics in the context of customer feedback.

It should be more about starting the conversation to understand the customer’s point of view in an holistic effort to co-create value that defines your brand strategy.

Interview with an Expert: Anne Simons of Brandeo

by Eric Tsai

Today, I spoke with Anne Simons, who is the blogger behind Brandeo and the President of TBD Brand Ventures.

In this interview, Anne talks about what brands are doing today to stay competitive, her perspective of social media on branding, and advice for marketing professionals.

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5 Easy Steps to Build a Solid Social Media Profile

by Eric Tsai

Whether it’s your business or your personal brand, people always connect with people on a personal level.  It’s all about engaging in a dynamic relationship.

Brands are not logos or commercials, they are the perception and emotion of people built on trust and credibility.

A successful brand cultivates extensive user experience and encourages interaction that creates meaningful dialogues.

In order to foster strong relationships you must be trusted.  And to earn trust, you need to allow others to become aware of you.

This concept also applies to the art of social networking, particularly with the shift from face-to-face communication to more online communication.

There are literally thousands of social media websites on the internet with hundreds more popping up every week.

The strategy is to focus on the ones that suit your niche.

Setup a blog

I recommend setting up a blog if you don’t already have a website.

Even if you have a website such as your company or product website, incorporating a blog will enhance your online presence because blogs are typically search engine friendly, and they allow for rapid content indexing on the internet.

You can easily sign up for a free account on Blogger, WordPress, or TypePad and start blogging away on whatever topic you want. It’s not required that you have a blog but it provides another source to learn about you or your company on a personal level.

The latest phenomenon is the development of ‘micro-blogging” – a form of blogging that allows users to send brief updates either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user.

This feature is available in Facebook and LinkedIn as status updates and by far the most popular one now is Twitter.

Sign up social networking accounts

For professional and business related social profile, the ideal website to use is LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is a professional community that shares your credentials in a resume format.

It has an unique format for users to browse and connect with a person’s and all of his/her contacts.

You can aggregate your blog content right on your personal profile page too so whenever you post new entries, it will update automatically.

And for connecting with family and friends, Facebook would be the choice because it focuses on displaying photos and allows for more personal dialogues and interactions.

Both LinkedIn and Facebook has a “groups” function that lets you create, join and interaction in sub-communities of your choice.

You can create a group for your company so all your employees can join, or if your hobby is photography you can join a photography group.

This feature encourages networking and brings liked-minded people with simliar interest together.

Follow the 5 steps below to learn how to build your social media profile:

1. Register your account

This requires a username, email, and password.  It’s important to use the same username and email across all social media websites so people can search for you if they’re already connected with you in another websites.

For business profile, use your company name, for personal profile go with your real name.

You can use an alias if you like but keep in mind you need consistency and recognition.

Registration process should take no more than a few minutes.

2. Input the right information

Privacy is a priority in social media so typically there will be settings to manage your privacy such as opt in to receive updates, newsletters, or allow/disallow certain information about you to be exposed in the community.  If you’re not sure, test it out and play around with the settings until your satisfaction.

3. Add your immediate friends and colleagues

Once you’ve setup an account, take a few moments to search for your family, friends and colleagues and add them to your network.

People gravitate towards popular names and like to know that you’re not the only friend they have, it’s a simple perception of social proof.

4. Search for people you like and study their profile

– After adding everyone you know that exists in the social network, it’s time to search for new connections.

This is a tricky task because just like email spam, there are lots of spammers on social network sending unsolicited messages.

If you are a fan of someone or want to get to know them, the best way is to build up your profile so they can review then decide if they want to connect with you; or you can get introduced through one of their existing connection.

Either way, you need to study their profile and have valid reasons to be part of their network.

This applies to groups as well, and most social network groups require the group administrator to approve your request to join.

5.Participate, contribute and share

– After you connect with someone you can receive updates on that person via the status update feature.

This allows you to participate in their conversation, add comments, or share your updates with them.

The key is to build and maintain common ground by bringing value to the conversation.

Interacting with your friends with comments like “good job” or “I like it” is fine but not in the professional communities where preeminence and expertise are realized.

You must demonstrate your value in those professional forums to optimize your social profile.

The Unspoken Rules Of Social Media

42-17678818The following rules are self-explanatory and will take you a long way.


  • Do speak your mind and contribute
  • Do bring value to the network
  • Do share and learn from others
  • Do keep in touch


  • Don’t just focus on yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to ask
  • Don’t abuse social networking relationships
  • Don’t use social media to spam

Many businesses use social media as a part of their marketing strategy while others enjoy the experience for personal reasons.

Focus on your desire outcome and try to have fun too.  There are plenty of opportunities to build your rolodex by embracing this new tool.

Have you started your social media journey?  Connect with me to discuss more.


Social Media 101: Choosing the Right Tools

by Eric Tsai

I went over the high-level overview on social media in the article “What is Social Media and Why Should I use it,” now let’s look at some of the popular social media tools and how they work.

The approach in building a social media profile is the same for businesses and individuals.

In both cases, the desire outcome is to create new opportunities and connect with other relevant profiles to create a valuable network.

When I say opportunities, it doesn’t always have to do with making money, it can simply be finding a new people with the same interest as you or potential joint venture partnerships.

Types of Social Media

Before you dive into all the social media websites, you need to understand the different types of social media and their functions.

Once you have a basic understanding, it’ll be easier to realize its networking power.

I won’t address every social media platform but in general there are three major categories you can build your social media profile in:


Blogs and micro-blogging: This is usually web content updated regularly and can be written text, videos and graphics.

It usually provides commentary or news on a specific topic that allows people to interact with the content provider.

Example: Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, LiveJournal, TypePad, Posterous, Tumblr

Social networking: An online community focuses on connecting and exploring people who share similar interests and/or activities.

It has specific means to connect people with each other such as classmates, colleagues, interest groups, events, or find people randomly from their profile of interests.

Example: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Hi5, Meetup


Photo, video and audio sharing: Multimedia sharing is made popular but Flickr and YouTube which provide a unique platform for people to distribute multimedia content across the internet.

Users can easily comment and rate on videos watched, images viewed, or music heard.

Example: YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa,,, Skype,, Pandora, Tubemogul


Wikis: A wiki is a website that allows for easy creation and editing of linked content.

Similar to the concept of an encyclopedia, wikis have a wealth of specific information and are often used to create collaborative websites to provide intranet and knowledgebase systems.

Example: Wikipedia, PBwiki, wetpaint, Wikileaks

Social bookmarking / social news: These are tools for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages on the Internet in the form of tagging, the process by which many users add name tags in the form of keywords to shared content.

People can rate, comment, and share bookmarks easily with others with similar interest.

Think of it as a “popularity contest” for links on the internet ranking them based on how many times it has been bookmarked and its rating.

The same applies to social news, websites let users submit and vote on news stories or links to determine its ranking and popularity.

Example: Delicious, StumbleUpon, Google Reader, Digg, Reddit

Typically multimedia and collaboration tools are utilized as an enhancement to the communication tools.  People share videos, podcasts, photos and bookmarks they like to further personalize their brand to others.

The Power Of The Network

I’ve created some visuals below to better illustrate the effects of social networking.


Imagine each “level” is its own community where everyone knew each other.

In this case, level-1 community has two people willing to promote your brand.

They could be your family, friends, business partners, vendors or affiliates.

Notice that not everyone in level-2 participated in sharing your information to the next level.

At level 6, that may be someone very interested in your product, services or your personal brand.


As long as a community has people connected to people in another community, it’s just as easy for that level-6 person to reach you.

The possibility to connect is endless.  All the networking happens on the internet making the connection painlessly fast.

Are you convinced yet?

Ready to do some networking?

Keep reading designdamage — next we’ll get into the step by step setup and how to build your profiles.