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Developing trust in business is critical for success. It’s easy to understand why this is so important. As consumers, we feel assured and confident in our purchases when we believe the brands that we choose to support have our best interests in mind. We rely on these guiding feelings when we choose to do business with someone for the first time.

As more companies are growing their online presence and professionals continue to expand into new social streams, it’s important to connect and communicate in ways that establish trust. Whatever your professional reasons for being online are, here are five ways to build trust across the digital landscape.

Be trustworthy

Those familiar with the Boy Scouts will recognize this being the first of 12 key points that Scouts are encouraged to live by in their daily lives. It reminds young Scouts to always tell the truth, keep promises, and act in such a way that garners the trust of others. Just like in our personal relationships, trust is something that is earned over time through correct actions, words, intentions and the good example we set. Conduct your online activities and interactions as if you were standing in the same room with the other person.

Develop a relationship strategy

Friendships and romantic relationships are typically developed ollowing a series of meaningful interactions. Professional and business relationships are developed the same way. While the details may differ, the process is similar. Whether communicating an interest to collaborate with someone for the first time or marketing a new product or service, make a conscious effort to build a relationship based on value and good intentions.

Related: Position Yourself as a Pro Worth Knowing on Social Media

Deliver quality information 

Whether curating quality content to be shared across social channels or creating your own, make sure you take the time to carefully review the information and share it with the people who will find it most valuable. This is also a great way to build your brand and really differentiate yourself from others. Like a top media outlet, your objective should be to distribute premium information to your online audience. Once you’ve earned their trust, they will actively seek your channel to hear what you have to say on the matters that are most important to them.

Be consistent

In life, if there is something worthwhile that you want to be known for, then you’ll have to demonstrate proficiency. The best way to do that is to be consistent in the activities, behaviors, attitudes and area which you want to be known. Whether you’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader, building your brand or simply growing your online network, set aside time each day to do the work. Connect with like-minded people, cultivate mutually beneficial relationships, share high quality information and repeat!

It doesn’t have to become a time-consuming burden and can be accomplished in as little as 15 minutes per day. If your schedule is typically jam-packed and you find yourself counting minutes to make everything fit, then try blocking time in advance or utilizing a time management application to allocate time to relationship building practices. Practicing good time management could also help avoid any chance of getting sucked down the rabbit hole through mindless social media scrolling.

Project a genuine image

Let your audience see who you really are — which doesn’t have to be as scary as it might sound. You don’t have to go online and pour your soul out. This isn’t your diary. Rather, interact with your online audience in the same way you might speak with a colleague if you were sitting together drinking a coffee. Be transparent with your intentions and operate from a place of integrity.

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

With all of that said, there are three action steps you can implement immediately to start building trust with your audience.

Action step one

Use a professional headshot for your profile image. Contact a photographer and schedule a basic one hour shoot. Depending on the package, you should receive a few different professional images that you can use on your social media channels, for marketing materials, and for promoting future interviews. If you want to build trust with your audience and be seen as a leader in your industry, then this is a strong first step.

Action step two

Leave a meaningful comment on a social media post that resonates with you. Let the person know what you liked about their post, how it impacted you, or share a golden nugget you extracted. You can even add your own insights to the discussion. Don’t just drop three “fire” emojis or a “fist bump.” Put some effort into it. Two or three thoughtfully crafted sentences are more than enough to show that you digested the information, considered the message and have a genuine interest to participate in the conversation. It also shows that you are willing to actively engage others on social media, and if you impress the right people, then they’ll want to check out your profile to learn more about you.

Action step three

Send a welcome note upon initial connection. When you meet someone in real life for the first time, chances are that you introduce yourself, extend a friendly handshake, and say something along the lines of, “It’s nice to meet you.” Well, do the same thing when you make a new connection in the digital universe. Offering a quick thank you message for connecting takes less than 10 seconds but will yield dividends in the end. The goal isn’t to sell them on your product or service. You’re not even trying to get them on a phone call. Just introduce yourself and express a few words of gratitude for connecting on social media. That’s it. People will remember that you made the extra effort by extending a personal note to introduce yourself like a professional.

Follow these tips and action steps to build trust with your audience and watch your business prosper in return.

This article is from Entrepreneur.com

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