Having an authentic online presence can build customer trust and loyalty, and position you miles ahead of your competition. That’s why it is so important to keep your audience in mind with every piece of content you post. You might be staring at a screen but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with and sell to your digital audience, just as you would if you met them in person.

Digital content marketing is here to stay, and businesses of all sizes are conversing with their customers and telling their brand story. To survive in the online environment, you need to gain trust from your customers immediately. Here’s how:

• Listen and respond to your customers Be visible. It sounds obvious but we can’t stress it enough. Posting content is all very well, but it’s a two-way conversation and if your customers can’t easily contact you or don’t get a response when they do, they are quickly going to look somewhere else for the products or services they need.

Offer reassurance This is especially important if you have an e-commerce site. People want to feel safe when parting with their money, so post your refund, privacy and security policies in obvious spots across your website and prominently display logos of trusted partners (such as PayPal). Once again, communication is key so clearly explain your delivery details and shipping methods, and stay in touch with regular updates throughout the process so customers know exactly what to expect.

Share positive reviews Ask satisfied customers to write a testimonial which you can then post on your site and share across your social media accounts. And check out external sites that are relevant to your industry – for example TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon and Yelp – or your Google+ page for reviews that you can feature on your blog or website. And while it might be tempting, don’t delete negative comments. Instead, use them as an example of how your company responds to complaints.  

Maintain a consistent image People are going to get suspicious if your branding, logo or company name changes between your website, blog and social media accounts. Even if it’s something you don’t think anyone notices, like your colour scheme, keeping these elements that identify who you are and what you are about consistent and visible is not only going to make you look more professional, it adds to your credibility.

Ask the experts It’s a no-brainer. Being associated with a trusted authority is one of the easiest ways to transfer credibility to your brand, so seek to connect with industry experts and feature them on your site in some way.