Hierarchy of Trust Portals for Small Business Social Media Marketing

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The other day after my ProBlogger guest post, How to Go Beyond Your Small Business Blog and Create a Social Media Footprint, I received quite a few emails from people who were still confused as to where to begin and what the varying levels of social media activity are.

Well, Mr. Brogan and Mr. Smith were smart enough to coin the term and write the book, “Trust Agents” and I have always viewed my small business social media marketing activities at various sites as an act of creating ‘trust portals’.

Hence the phrase and post title – Hierarchy of Trust Portals for Small Business Social Media Marketing

First, for clarification:

Trust – firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. (source: answers.com)

Portal – a specialized entry point to a specific market or industry niche, subject area, or interest. (source: wikipedia)

Your hierarchy might look a little different or a lot different depending on the sites that you concentrate on for your small business social media marketing.

When I began, my business started off with NO web presence and I first moved into level two with a minimal engagement strategy where I was just posting photos and videos online, drafting a few press releases and responding to some HARO queries.

As I began to understand social media a little better I moved up in my hierarchy. Subsequently my levels of engagement increased and the most positive outcome was that my opportunity to build trust also increased.

The general hope if you’re just getting started is – – if you interact in the first three levels appropriately, and act as genuine member of a community who is truly trying to listen and help, then potential customers might move on to level four where they invest a little more emotional capital and check out your website and small business blog. All of which could lead to increased sales and referrals.

Here’s the thing: As a final note, I feel it’s important to mention that with every new interaction online the hierarchy begins all over again until trust has been established. It takes a lot of work!!

This diagram is in very rough format and I would truly appreciate your constructive criticism, thoughts and feedback.

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Mark Hayward


8 thoughts on “Hierarchy of Trust Portals for Small Business Social Media Marketing

  1. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the great article. And I’m totally inspired by your personal professional journey. I posted your article on the social media for small business Facebook page; SocialMediaGo. I think it will be very helpful to the fans there.

    Thanks again,

    Carin Galletta

  2. Great post – glad to have you on Google reader now :)

    Great diagram – couldn’t agree more with the note about spam too. For that matter, you could broaden to monologuing. If the top of that pyramid is dialog, it’s an easy and critical element to start with at the bottom.

    Keep bringing the good word.

  3. Brilliant as always Mark, I really like the look of that diagram. I think that there should be an additional level, though (where it goes, I’m not sure. But having a smart blog can get you an invitation): Attending/participating in conferences and un-conferences.

    This is a networking opportunity of tremendous magnitude, especially when there are attendees from all over the world. Speaking about your field of endeavor in front of the local Chamber of Commerce is one thing, speaking at a xxxCamp or similar venue is quite another.

    This experience can provide you with contacts, possible sales/referrals, and give you the impetus to create content that you can turn into a product.

  4. Hi Carin – thank you for posting the link to Facebook! And don’t hesitate to connect if I can help you with anything.

    Hey Joe – Thanks, man. I am hoping that your venture with Jonathan Fields sells out and that you’ll both decide to run your trips in the Caribbean. :-)

    Hi Stephen – a sincere thank you for your kind words! I’ve been trying to put stuff out for small business owners that’s helpful (but also a little different). You are absolutely correct about conferences!! A great addition.

  5. Hi Mark,
    Great article. Thanks for sharing. Your advice really hits the nail on the head, however I would also add in one more level above the Website and blog for “Active Engagement”. This is the point where they raise their hand and subscribe to something free so they can sample what you offer (Free report, audio download, video, etc.).

    I’ve found many folks in my community move through that level before actually buying. And it’s one of the best ways to get permission to stay in touch.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    Stacy Karacostas
    Practical Marketing Expert

  6. Hi Mark,

    Social proof is another factor, ie

    # of followers you have,
    # of times you get re-tweeted,
    # of times people quote you (how cool is that when it happens!)

    My concern about trust is when it is ‘manufactured’, eg fake referrals and phoney endorsements. Hard to build trust offline, doing it online… can be a tad tricky


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