I had an interesting lunch yesterday with Jay Deragon discussing online connections and trust.
One observation that I made during the course of our discussion was that a major weakness of any and all social networks as they exist today is that they all suffer from a lack of a real analog to what “trust” means in the “real world.”
In truth, trust can only be gained over time and with experience.
Saying I trust someone who is known to me only by way of an avatar or email address or Twitter account is akin to saying “I love you” on the first date. It has no meaning, or worse yet, it exposes your lack of understanding of what you think you mean.
All good relationships (personal, professional, social, familial) are predicated upon some degree of trust. One’s trustworthiness is proven over time by how one fosters their end of the relationship contract. An unfaithful spouse is an untrustworthy partner; a business contact who delivers on time and on budget – consistently – has a higher degree of trust than a first time contact who does the same thing, one time, but has not proven themselves able to repeat their performance over time.
In short, no matter how viral our connections are, no matter the velocity in which we build our virtual networks, the ingredient of trust among our connections cannot be short circuited.
Our trusted connections are trusted because they are prolonged, they have continuity, and they have consistency.
In short, these are the ingredients for experience.
On the Uncommon Sense blog today there is an excellent post on Brands on the Brain. It touches upon the concepts of consistency and frequency of brand presentation, but could just as easily been talking about personal reputation.
Simply replace the word “reputation” for “brand” in any marketing discussion. Substitute “brand” in any discussion about personal reputation on the social web. The intersection of these concepts is the “lightning in a bottle” that marketers, hucksters, salesmen, developers, and common citizens are trying to capture and grok.
From my vantage point, there are no shortcuts. To garner the same rewards one reaps in the real world with one’s virtual networks requires the same amount of, if not more than amount of, attention and intention.
I’ve said it before: engagement does not mean connecting and walking away. Engagement is a conversation, with both sides making , and fulfilling, commitments.