Building Credibility in an Incredible Social Space

The internet and new technological advancements have changed the world of nutrition communications. We are living in the information age and with that, the public is privy to a greater amount of health and nutrition information than ever before, but at what price? Considering the lack of quality control on the internet, there is no guarantee that what we read, hear, and may ultimately come to believe is accurate. The abundance of (often conflicting) health and nutrition information available in blogs, images, tweets, and every other social media channel is confusing for consumers and makes it difficult to determine who or what to believe. The IFIC Foundation’s 2012 Food & Health Survey showed that, when asked what sources of information respondents use most often to guide their food and nutrition practices, two-thirds of consumers cite media sources, including the internet and social networking sites, most often. With these consumer insights, what can health professionals do to make sure that our information is perceived as trustworthy? 

The New Age of Credibility

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines credibility as the “quality or power of inspiring belief.” Therefore,  “credibility” does not necessarily require certain credentials or educational achievements, it is simply a “power”- and nowhere is that “power” more evident than in social media. Rather than professional experience, credibility in social media is typically garnered through social status, celebrity, relationships, and/or actual content. In the world of social media, anyone can claim to be an “expert,” which threatens the credibility that health professionals hold so dear.

The social media tide is only just beginning to flow. Every day, more and more people are connecting through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and various other social media channels, adding to the sources of information (or misinformation). As the social network grows, many health professionals are already using social media to get accurate food and nutrition information to the public. Instead of fighting the expansion of social media, professionals can learn to ride the wave along with everyone else, using social media to their advantage by developing and promoting their own brand of credibility.

10 Tips for Credible Communicators in Social Media

As health professionals work to provide science-based information to consumers, the following tips can help build credible brands in the social media space:

1. Use various social media platforms for specific, targeted communication efforts. LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Facebook all speak to very different audiences. First establish who you are trying to reach, and then choose the appropriate social media platform they value and trust.

2. Make your brand relatable, interesting, and humanizing. If your brand is yourself, make sure you are injecting personality into your social media communications. You will seem more credible if there is a face behind the Twitter handle, etc.

3. Use social media mainly for awareness, community building and maintenance. To be credible, you have to be social in social media, which involves forming relationships with others.

4. Harness the passion of your supporters by providing them with the appropriate information and empowering them to be advocates for your brand outside of your immediate sphere of influence. Your supporters are the multipliers of your message and can spread the information much further than you can inside your own network.

5. Be inclusive and don’t assume social media only reaches younger audiences. Boomers are the fastest growing segment using social media.

6. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, promote education, information, and entertainment in social media and 20% of the time devote to promoting products and services.  You can build and maintain trust by adhering to this rule. Don’t always make it about your company and its values or services—focus on others.

7. Respond to comments or questions quickly- think hours, not days. A slow response can damage a brand based on credibility.

8. Be transparent. Nothing kills credibility more than appearing like you are hiding something. Be upfront with your social media network on everything.

9. Make social media a priority and be consistent with your efforts. Sending one tweet a week is better than sending 10 tweets a day for two days and then disappearing from Twitter for a month.

10. Don’t forget it’s not all about you! Engage in conversations, reply to comments, share resources, and be helpful to others to earn your credibility. Give before you think about receiving something in return.

 

With many voices competing for consumers’ attention on today’s food and nutrition issues, building and maintaining a credible brand in social media can elevate health professionals as a safe resource for accurate, science-based information.