Social Media: Boogeyman or Trust Builder?


Can you build stakeholder trust with a good social media strategy? Trust is now considered to be the currency of the new economy. Simply put, people are attracted to organizations they trust. With 2020 approaching, many businesses are refreshing their strategies to boost stakeholder trust. You cannot buy trust on Amazon or at the bank. But, can you buy trust with a good social media strategy? No, but you can certainly earn it on social media if you have the right support! So, why do some organizations still consider social media to be the boogeyman to avoid? And, how can you influence your organization to improve how it uses social media to build trust? We asked advice from a chemical group who finally took the social media plunge and a seasoned social media university instructor.


We were speaking at events across the USA for an industry association and they warned leaders at these events to steer clear of using social media. In short, they viewed social media as pandora’s box where crazed mobs attack leaders and businesses. There are certainly horror stories of businesses suffering backlash on social media. On the other hand, there are many success stories where brands blossom and build trust using social media.


Several years ago, we encouraged leaders of a chemical group to use social media to improve community trust and relationships. At the time they had zero social media presence. They took our challenge to heart and four years later they are pleased with the results. Anderson Development is part of Mitsui Chemicals. At their chemical facility in Adrian, Michigan, they produce specialty chemicals used by others to make products such as aluminum wheels, outdoor furniture and other things. Because Anderson does not sell products directly to consumers, they are not a household name. Therefore, their plant can seem mysterious to community members. From a public relations and community relations perspective, you do not want to be the “mysterious” plant or business in town. You want to be a known and valued member of the community – and social media has allowed Anderson to move toward these goals.


There is a well-known saying, “Do not despise small beginnings.” Anderson embraced this idea as they set out on their social media journey. They do not have a dedicated communications team to maintain their social media sites. So, the job has largely fallen to Dana Walsh, who is in charge of Anderson’s Sales and Corporate Marketing. Walsh says they are very proud of what they have accomplished in just a short time. “Even though our following is small, it is still growing,” she says. “We get a lot of interaction from our employees liking and sharing our posts,” she says. 


Walsh says the biggest benefit to Anderson has been increasing their community presence. “We use Facebook and Twitter to promote community events in Adrian such as recycling days. We also promote the role of chemicals in daily life and advertise job openings,” says Walsh. She says they share what they do at their facility on Facebook and Twitter without being too technical. “Since our community does not know a lot about chemical processes, we share the cool product applications and teach them what we do. Social media has also allowed us to team up with other industry partners to cross-promote our business. We’ve gotten a lot of support from John Dulmes at the Michigan Chemistry Council. He shares things we do from his platforms,” Walsh adds.


If you are seeking ideas for using social media to build stakeholder trust, Walsh shares these three pieces of advice. 

  • “First, identify who you really want to reach with social media. Our focus is primarily on building community relationships. We have also used it for improving employee engagement and morale,” says Walsh.
  • “Second, don’t think you have to have a large following to be successful. Instead, align your social media strategy with your organization’s mission. Measure engagement by those who follow you.”
  • “Also, get your whole company on board with your social media initiatives, so you have help generating content and ideas. Include industry partners in the mix to share your content and support one another,” Walsh adds.


Mary Beth Reese is an expert in public and media relations and today she teaches public relations and social media strategies at The University of Southern Indiana. Reese once headed communications for a large Indiana utility, so she understands the business implications of social media. She says organizations contemplating a social media strategy should consider three things to build trusting relationships.

Social Media Tip 1:

“Social media provides your organization with a variety of communication channels to connect with your key audiences. So, first and foremost, clarify your goals. Who are the key audiences you really want to target? What kind of relationship do you want to have with them? Are you willing to take the time to share your stories and to create a new type of  stakeholder experience with your brand? If your answer is “yes” then consider what type of investment you are willing to make for managing social media sites. If you are not a Coca Cola with lots of support, ask what resources you can dedicate to consistently manage your social media sites. You need a game plan to be consistent,” Reese advises. 

Social Media Tip 2:

“Do your research and identify which social media platforms are used by your most important audiences. If you primarily want to boost employee engagement and morale, it is easy to find out which social media platforms they use. If it’s customers, find out if they are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or another site.” says Reese.

Social Media Tip 3:

“Use measurement devices to help you grow your social media engagement levels. Google Analytics is a solid tool and social media sites like Facebook also offer analytics to help you understand how your posts are resonating with your audiences. Measurement tools help you continually refine your content to fit your audiences to increase engagement levels,” Reese adds.


Social media will celebrate its twenty-third birthdayin 2020 so it is a bit surprising that some industries and businesses still avoid it altogether. Think of it as another way to connect and build trust with your most important audiences. With trust now considered to be the new currency, it is a worthwhile investment!

“Communication is to relationships what water is to grass.”

– Gail Borden, Benchmark Communications

Other Leadership Articles:

Words That Create Walls – The Impact of Negative Vs. Positive Words

The Best Media Spokespersons – What They Do Differently

3 Tips For Taming The “Meeting Monsters”

Forgiveness: Restoring Workplace Relationships


Gail lives on a Texas ranch with her family, five talented horses, one very cute donkey and an entertaining pack of dogs, cats and chickens! We support a horse therapy program for people with disabilities, as well as local animal shelters that rescue abandoned dogs and cats.

Benchmark has consulted with and coached leaders and associates from all 50 USA states and more than 25 countries. The Benchmark team provides award-winning leadership and communication strategies to Fortune 500 groups so they can achieve their business goals. We provide consulting, training and coaching services in: leadership development, storytelling / presentations, reputation management, crisis response, media skills, stakeholder engagement, effective communications, public speaking and soft skills training.