Building Trust…Even with Internet Strangers

Almost everyone is a stranger, especially on the internet.

As someone who is trying to build an audience and close deals using the internet, this can be a good thing. The glass half-full side is that there is a seemingly endless pool of people who could become your next champions.

On the other hand, the glass half-empty side is that we don’t trust strangers. It all started when your mom told you to stay away from strangers, especially the ones with candy and puppies.

But what do you do when you are the stranger with candy and puppies?

Trust is the foundation of any real relationship and the best way to turn interest into sales. And we are forced to build it faster than ever before as our attention spans get shorter and shorter.

So if you want to turn strangers into customers? Put the candy and puppies away (for now) and try these three key ways to fast-track building trust with strangers.

Entertain and Educate with Content

One way I like to build trust is by combining education and entertainment — I call it edutainment.

Let’s say you are planning a trip to Disney World and happen upon a Disney blogger called “Mommy Mouse.” Mommy Mouse, aka Roxanne from Tallahassee, has been going to the parks since she was a kid and can recite Frozen while doing a handstand. Roxanne shares photos on Instagram from “secret” places in the park that only locals know and posts insider tips weekly on her blog.

Her excitement is contagious and before you know it, you’re following her on Instagram and even watching her stories. You might give her your email address for the “5 Things to Avoid at Magic Kingdom” or follow her blog link to her favorite Disney property and book your vacation.

Based on Roxanne’s recommendations, you went from only knowing her as “Mommy Mouse” to trusting her with your hard-earned $10,000 family vacation.

Take Advantage of Word-of-Mouth Recommendations

Another way to build trust quickly is to have someone we know vouch for us.

Our world lives off word-of-mouth. And word-of-mouth goes a long way toward building trust. It’s no secret that an essential part of the online buying process has become reading reviews. Why? Because people want to know what other people think. We’re all looking for validation, especially before making a purchase.

For instance, let’s say Ivan is a graphic designer trying to build a freelance business. His only client so far has been Sherri, a family friend who needed a new logo for her cat café. Ivan designed the logo and when Sherri couldn’t stop raving about his work, he asked her for a testimonial.

The next time Ivan pitched a potential new client, they asked if he had anyone who could recommend his work. He immediately shared Sherri’s testimonial and, within just a few days, Ivan was hired.

Help prospective clients feel more comfortable by ensuring you have people who can vouch for you when someone doesn’t know you yet.

Don't Be An Asshole

A final way to build trust quickly is to be likable and relatable.

Nobody trusts a jerk right off the bat. You might eventually trust someone you don’t like, but it will take longer.

For example, Stacy is on a first date with Joe. Stacy could approach the date one of two ways.

The first option is to dwell on the negative and complain about what’s not going well in her life. She could tell a 15-minute story about how her Instacart shopper couldn’t find the right brand of oat milk at Whole Foods so replaced it with soy milk. What did the shopper expect Stacy to do with soy milk? They may as well have replaced it with 2% for all the good it would do.

The second option is that Stacy could approach the date with optimism and a genuine curiosity in getting to know Joe. She could shrug off the Instacart mishap and keep smiling, focusing on asking good questions and sharing interesting details about her life.

Which version of Stacy would you trust faster?

It’s the same in your business. If you spend all your time trying to prove your intelligence or talk down to your prospective customers, chances are you won’t close many deals. However, if you share anecdotes about how you learned the lessons you’re sharing, you’ll be creating a natural opportunity to draw people in.

So when you’ve got to build trust quickly, remember to lead with your content, network, and likability.

And if all else fails…now it’s time for candy and puppies.