In a virtual world, how do you build real trust?

Author: Carol Newswriting

Virtual communities are important marketing tools for companies, as consumers increasingly use the Internet as a gathering place to talk about products and services with other enthusiasts.

But a new study shows that in order for marketers to leverage consumers’ fascination with online interaction, they should keep in mind the foundation of any good relationship: trust.

Marketing Professor Constance E. Porter, co-author of “Cultivating Trust and Harvesting Value in Virtual Communities,” says building trust in a virtual community calls for more than good Web graphics or sales incentives. Porter found firms must provide consumers with quality content that is useful, relevant and timely. More important, consumers need to feel that they are organizational insiders with some influence over policy and product development.

“If trust exists,” says Porter, “consumers will be more willing to share personal information, devote time to collaborating on new products and become loyal to the company.”

Constance Porter studies trust and relationship marketing, virtual communities and technology adoption. For more information about Porter’s research, visit