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3 Ways Social Context Builds Trust On Your Site

By Gina Rau | Posted on August 23, 2013

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When traveling with my family, safety is a high priority as we research places where we’ll lay our head at night. Since we like to stay at rental homes where we can cook some of our own meals and feel more “at home”, we’re having faith that the homeowner is a trustworthy person who hasn’t double-booked his rental, was misleading about the cleanliness of the property or hasn’t given copies of the key to an axe-murderer. This isn’t always an easy task to accomplish simply by reading online profiles.

Most websites that enable this type of transaction include ratings and reviews but the media has done a fine job of highlighting how easy it is for companies to buy fake reviews or post their own under false identities. With millions of websites that we transact across, it’s difficult for consumers to easily identify where they can place their trust.

This is where social context can come in to save the day. Social context implies that our social environment provides the context necessary to help us make better decisions. Our social environment is no longer solely the local beauty salon or soda shoppe, it’s online and everywhere which brings an opportunity for organizations to earn trust and social endorsements with simple technology tools already available.

In our pursuit of a safe, comfortable rental home, Airbnb rises to the top as a reputable site to search. The message on the front page of their site about Trust and Safety is nice, but consumers want to know how organizations back that up.


And Airbnb delivers. Their Social Connections feature encourages site visitors to connect the site with their Facebook profile to see how they’re socially connected to others in the Airbnb community.

airbnb social connections

Beyond visibility into which friends have also used Social Connections, the real value is in identifying rental homes that friends have stayed at or know the owner. If I see that my friend has actually stayed at the home that I’m interested in, I can reach out to them to see how their stay was. Endorsements don’t get much stronger than that.

airbnb social reviews

For Airbnb, Social Connections is a huge hit because it has the opportunity to immediately build trust. People trust the opinions of others over brand messages, but the highest degree of trust is with people we actually know. When Edelman refers to the state of consumer trust as a “serious crisis of confidence”, businesses need to work double-time to develop brand advocates that can spread their messages on their behalf.

Three easy approaches to building trust on your site include:

  1. Give brand advocates the tools they need to endorse your products or services.
    This might include sophisticated social sharing tools that allow them to target messages to just the right friends.
  2. Provide transparency.
    Prohibit anonymous ratings, reviews and comments to bring a level of authenticity to user generated content on your site. Adding social login to these features goes the extra-mile to ensure there’s a real person on the other end of the review.
  3. Support connections on your site.
    Allow people to see what friends from their social networks also use or like your site and encourage profile building which helps community members to find other members like them.

So, how will you build trust on your website?

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About the author

Gina Rau

Gina Rau

Marketing Communications Manager

With almost 20 years of marketing success, Gina is a brand engagement specialist who seeks out creative solutions for every marketing challenge. Her work has delivered results for leading brands like Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, JCPenney, Tillamook Creamery and more. At Janrain, she leads the charge to make sure our company, products and services shine through our messaging and content.

View all posts by Gina Rau