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A growing majority of consumers (71%) say brands must take a stand on ethical issues

Aligning with changing consumer values has never been more important for brands. If your actions don’t meet your customers’ expectations, you run the risk of them voting with their feet. A recent McKinsey and NielsenIQ study found that sales of products promising social responsibility and sustainability benefits grew at a faster rate than those that didn't. 

Key findings

This movement towards more conscious consumerism is backed up by findings from the most recent edition of the Sprout Social Index, which surveys consumers and social media professionals to identify emerging trends in the social media landscape:

A brand’s alignment with personal values is 74% more important to consumers than it was a year previous

Trust remains the biggest factor for consumers to pick a brand over a competitor - identified by 58% of consumers

71% of consumers think it’s important for brands to take a stand on sensitive issues

Building trust

At a time when trust and authenticity have become highly relevant for businesses, establishing it with consumers has become more complex. How that trust is earned looks very different today than even a few short years ago. Younger generations have shifted the expectation for brands to be more authentic whilst simultaneously being accountable for business actions.

Social media has an important role to play in fostering a more meaningful connection between brands and consumers, through more relatable content and opening a channel of communication for two-way dialogue and customer support. A thirst for more authenticity on these channels is an opportunity for brands to eschew highly polished, unrealistic videos and share more immediate content featuring products in the hands of customers themselves.

Be transparent

Communicators can help their business leaders bridge a trust deficit by incorporating transparency, authenticity and empathy into their social media communication. Another Sprout Social study found that 63% of people think that CEOs with an active social presence make better company representatives, while one third would buy more from brands with leaders demonstrating transparency on social.

Employee advocacy

Employee advocacy can also play a vital role in winning consumer trust. By empowering workers to grow their social presence and open the window to their working lives, brands can demonstrate how the values of a business can align with those of their customers.

Ultimately, consumers want to relate to the people they are buying from, and when used in the right way, social media is the most effective way to forge that connection. However, communicators should be mindful of the old adage - trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose - never take it, or your customers, for granted. 

Methodology

The Sprout Social Index polled more than 2,000 consumers and 1,000 social marketers in the US, UK and Ireland to identify attitudes to brands and social media and how brand strategies align with those expectations.

Written by Cat Anderson, head of marketing, international at social media management platform Sprout Social

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