Fleishman-Hillard1, together with Harris Interactive, published the Digital Influence Index this past June. The DII was a study of online behaviours and digital influence in seven countries which collectively account for about 50% of the world’s Internet population. I was part of a team that analyzed the Canadian findings. We learned the greatest portion of Canadian trust–a full 28%–is in family, friends and colleagues.

Rather than trying to reach out to as many people as we can, as far away from us as we can see, we need to focus our energy on building on the relationships with those closest to us — where community begins. This is something the C-suite needs to embrace. As my colleague John Sparks points out, people who clean houses are more believable than high-paid executives.

It’s no mystery why social comes before media. We’re social animals and connecting is about the social interaction, not the channel which makes the interaction possible. We’ve observed over the last few years that some people can be as effective building relationships one-at-a-time online as they can be in person. Those who are most successful in either mode rely on their innate networking skills. These individuals are personable, available, proactive, responsive and good communicators.

Perhaps this is what most surprises those who are new to social media and organizations considering getting into the new age of digital communication. Building a strong community isn’t about flipping a switch then sitting back with a coffee. It’s about a whole lot of small gestures and the occasional big one. It’s about building on that 28% and reaching people from your inner circle, out.

  1. Full disclosure: I’m employed by Fleishman-Hillard. []