So this may sound like stating the obvious, but too many companies overlook this key ingredient within their community activities.
What trust does in communities is to lower the transaction costs for all participants. If you pick up a piece of advice from a community member in a community that you trust, you will spend less time doing due diligence on that piece of advice than if you got it from a community in which you have less trust. The result is that more transactions will happen in communities or because of information coming from communities with a higher trust level.
Even though we inherently don’t trust information coming from companies, I contend that most companies who engage in community activities start with a positive influence on trust if they do it right.
So what is doing it right?
For starters, companies should host communities that are centered around the members and their shared passion or pain. If they have employees who are experts in the field, those employees should engage, as long as they identify themselves and as long as they do not all sound like corporate mouth pieces. The company should deploy its resources, which members may not have, to ensure quality professional content development, professional moderation services, online and offline events, and other activities that benefit the membership.
If companies provide a true quality service to their community members by having a community with a high level of trust among members, then that trust will implicitly get associated with that company. And because companies usually have the wherewithal to make that happen, they in fact start with a positive influence on trust.