Online it is who you know that matters most

Lady Gaga has almost 16m fans on Facebook. My guess is she doesn’t know many of them. Over on Twitter, Britney Spears is “top of the pops” with almost 6m followers. Likewise, I suspect few of them are on her birthday card list. Meanwhile, the typical social networking user has around 150 people who are their friends or followers. And the chances are these “average” users actually know most of the people who they connect with online.

New research shows that we tend to trust people on Facebook and Twitter and other social websites when we already know them. In other words, the online social world is an extension of the real world, not a replacement for it. If we know the people who write blog posts, for instance, we tend to trust those posts more than when similar articles are written by people we have no real connection with.

What this means for an online business is simple. In order to get your material online trusted by people who read it you need firstly to get to know them. Whilst you can do this online, of course, a more solid connection can be established offline. It implies that the most trusted material online comes from people who spend a great deal of time in the real world connecting with real people. For online businesses that means your success is going to be improved if you “get out” and meet people.

The millions of fans of Lady Gaga probably trust all that she writes on Facebook because they “know ” her and are “connected” with her in the real world. It does not, of course, go two ways…! But the example demonstrates that simply being present in the real world enhances your online connectivity and trustworthiness.

Far too many online businesses appear to think that all you need to do is be present here on the web and make lots of marketing noise. But this new study demonstrates that your value goes up when you are already known to people, before they read your online content. And that means you simply have to get out and about and meet people, real, in the flesh.

Your online material is going to be more trusted and thereby bring you more value if you get yourself known by people first. They will trust your material more if they know you.

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