Building Trust on Social Media

Steve Rayson's Trust Formula

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How can individuals and organizations grow better relationships with their target markets?  In daily face-to-face social interactions, trust is a foundational element in building bonds between individuals.  The same is true of digital relationships.


The Trust Formula

In his Social Media Today article, “The New Formula for Social Media Trust“, Steve Rayson proposes trust is calculated by multiplying formulaic components- Authority, Helpfulness, and Intimacy- and then dividing by self-promotion.  This concept maintains that social media communications should primarily focus on the establishment of a brand’s thought leadership, helpfulness, and friendliness with just a sprinkling of self-promotional content.  Rayson believes implementing this formula leads to winning the trust of individuals within a social media following.


The Art of the Formula

Switching perspectives from being the brand attempting to gain trust from its audience members, to being the follower giving away the trust, one digital media guru has gained mine through her artful application of the Trust Formula.

Marie Forleo does an exceptional job of building a loyal fan base via social media. By sharing valuable information on “building a business and life you love” through her Marie TV YouTube Channel, as well her blog, Forleo easily meets the criteria of Rayson’s formulaic expression of trust.

Along with consistently demonstrating expertise in her video content, Marie has established authority as a thought-leader in the world of online business by gaining the endorsement of Oprah, The Webby Awards, and other digital communications experts.

Her posts effortlessly hit the “helpful” requirement of the formula by providing valuable insight on success in both life and business.  Marie’s personable and transparent presentation style epitomize the intimacy factor, as she always wears a warm smile while inspiring her viewers.

When it comes to self-promotion, Marie uses it very sparingly.  For example, she only offers her B-School program for aspiring entrepreneurs on an annual basis.  This naturally limits promotional content.  As enrollment season approaches, her fans expect to be informed but also trust to never be bombarded with hard-sells.  Forleo lets her quality content naturally do all the indirect promotion, and it’s working for her!

Many argue that reliability should also be considered with evaluating trustworthiness.  If this is the case, Marie has nothing to worry about.  Her team consistently posts frequent blog content and weekly “Q&A Tuesday” videos.  Additionally, daily activity occurs across social media platforms from Marie’s Facebook page, to her Twitter, to her Instagram, and so forth.  There is plenty of conversation and engaging activity on all of them.


Summing Up The Trust Formula

If brands crave success in the digital realm, earning trust through appropriate communication and behavior must be a priority.  Applying the Trust Formula can win the devotion of a social media network brimming with fruitful relationships.


What Do You Think?

How do you implement components of the trust formula?  Do you have your own formula for successfully building relationships with your target audience on social media?



  1. says

    Hi Angela,

    I had not previously considered the relationship that we feel like we establish with YouTube users after watching their videos. In many cases, they let us into their life and share things with us so we feel like we can let our virtual guard down and trust them. Viewing Maries’ videos alone can lead one to trust her for the above reasons. To add to that, I would also say that Marie’s wardrobe, appearance and professionally produced video lend credibility to what she is doing. I have no prior knowledge of what exactly Marie does, but as you have highlighted, it sounds like she is a very trustworthy person. Do you think somebody who may be in the same field as Marie, but with a less professionally polished appearance, would appear to be as trustworthy? Did you think you may have subconsciously attached credibility to her based on how professional her blog and videos appear to be?
    Side note, I really like that she has included a disclaimer at the bottom of her website–that alone makes her business plan seem a bit transparent.

    • says


      I’m so glad you brought up this point. In the past I have given quite a bit of thought to Marie’s quality of production and have aspired to create content to be as close to such quality as possible. The reason for this is because, yes, I do believe this aspect of her presentation DOES lend credibility. It’s natural to think, “Oh, she must know what she’s doing…” because of this. I have heard other content marketers say it doesn’t matter the quality of the video, but what matters is the message being shared and value added to the viewer. I think that’s a little naive. If people decide in the first few seconds whether or not they’re going to trust you and continue watching, then aside from a good hook, physical appearance, and previously established credibility within the mind of the viewer, there’s not much else consider, is there? A person can’t make a judgement on worthiness based on content if he or she doesn’t stick around long enough to consume it.

      This conversation reminds me of what we’ve discussed in past classes about perceptions and trust when a browser first lands on a brand’s website. Visual components such as images, color, amount of text, professional appearance, etc. are all absorbed and processed immediately and the decision to stay a little longer or bounce away is made. I think it’s the same sort of thing…

      Thanks for reading and sharing your great insights!

  2. says

    Hi, Angela.
    Your post looks great. Nicely done with your subheads!

    I like how you highlighted Ms. Forleo’s attention to the separate components of the trust equation. The video you included was perfect for supporting your thoughts about this social media figure.

    A couple of things I noted: you make a great point about developing a loyal fan base. It takes more than just being out there, making claims and promises and sometimes just posting sensationalized content to draw followers. There must be more substance to keep your followers loyal. I suppose having the support of Oprah doesn’t hurt!

    Another excellent point you made was about Marie Forleo’s B-school and the expectations of her audience. Managing expectations is an important part of effective and ethical social media management. I suppose expectations fall under reliability, but the more I think about it, perhaps it could be its own variable in the equation. (Makes me wish I had read your post before submitting my lecture response!) Making sure your audience knows what to expect from you is very important when it comes to trust. I struggle with that because, as a writer and an educator, I have so much to say, but not every message is suitable for the discrete audiences. It sounds like Ms. Forleo understands her audience and knows how to deliver her messages in a consistent manner, thereby giving her followers what they expect every time–which, of course, leads to trust.

    In answer to your questions, I haven’t gotten far enough to implement any specific trust formula, but I’m so glad we have this course to show us how to get right straightaway because I’ll be a little ahead of the game when I really get into it. Mostly, I just want my readers to identify with me, to know that I write from the heart, so they can trust me and hopefully join me in my creative journey. A little idealist, I know, but at this point, I can still afford some idealism. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • says


      Thanks for your positive feedback and kind words :).

      I felt the same way when reading others’ responses about the Trust Formula and added components. It seems like the formula provides a guide, but it’s certainly not all-inclusive. “Trust” is such an abstract notion that it’s always going to be subjective. For instance, the formula seems like it might be more effective when evaluating a company or a company’s content rather than an individual who is also the brand. Megan mentioned Marie Forleo’s physical appearance and dress, as well as the professional-grade quality of her content, as possible deciding factors. I would agree. (See? I wish I’d added that in the original post! 😉 ) Appearance goes a long way, whether we like it or not…

      I know that you haven’t implemented a “formula” with your brand yet, but I’m sure you have one that you use to gain the confidence of your students ;).

      Thanks for stopping by!

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