Originally posted at: SheSpeaks

It’s becoming more and more clear that women’s online communities are the true powerhouses of trust. Social networks have their place, but it’s the online communities that women trust the most for brand and product referrals.

New research not only backs up that claim, but hits it out of the park.

In a recent post at ForbesWoman, Jenna Goudreau reports on a new study:

“Women were more likely to say that women’s communities better understand their needs and help them feel they are spending their time wisely. They are also more trusting of product information or advice when it comes from other women online, according to the research. Most women (74%) say social networks help them keep up with family but are significantly more likely to use women’s communities to find out about new products (51%) and make purchasing decisions (47%).”

This shows us that where we have our consumer conversations online is becoming as important as how we conduct our conversations if we want to build trust around our brands. And who we have those conversations with should be women.

This means, though, that we marketers will need to learn the art of being part of these conversations in whole new ways.  We are being welcomed into these communities, but we need to remember that we are still the guests in these communities, even as our products become the topic of conversation.  Remember, it’s a fine line between being part of the conversation and taking over the conversation. Listen, watch, and take behavior and conversation cues from the community members!

Although the value of women’s online communities seems to be rising, don’t assume that this means social networks (like those built through Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are losing their value. They are still powerful tools for letting our consumers know about these women’s online communities, and they help associate those communities more broadly with our brands to a larger audience.  Just remember to use the right media “tool” for each “job”!  (For example, Goudreau used Facebook to follow up with ForbesWomen community members about this research — a brilliant use of that social networking tool!)

So the new formula for 2011: the right tool + the right people + the right conversations = trust.  Get your brand involved with a woman’s community and you’re on your way to recognition and ongoing customer loyalty.

What this really means… Build the Stage, Facilitate the Conversation, and then hand Women the Microphone.

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