People trust the people they know

Community-building matters for messages to stick

Lauren Hug
Mar 17 · 3 min read

Over the past few years I’ve stopped describing what I do as “marketing,” and instead use terms like “community-building,” “community engagement,” or “building multi-way communication strategies.” In a noisy world, we increasingly make decisions based on input from people we know and trust. There are way too many messages out there to sift through them all ourselves. So, we use shortcuts — trusted resources — and these resources are our family and friends.

In this world, businesses, non-profits, and anyone else who wants to get a message out, will be far more successful in doing so if they serve as a connector/convenor/facilitator instead of an authority/advertiser/marketer. Give people a place to connect, discuss, and share, but also provide informed curation, expert opinion, and facilitated dialogue. Community discourse without input from subject matter experts can easily devolve into misinformation. But input from subject matter experts without community buy-in often fails to resonate. The combination of both is what is needed to make sense of the massive amounts of information and opinions swirling around out there.

It’s a mindset shift, for sure. We lived in a top-down world for a long time, where people had little choice but to listen to a small set of “authorities.” Digital communication has empowered the rise of horizontal communication, though. Everyone has their own broadcasting channels, and we can tune in to whoever and whatever we want. Unfortunately, not everyone has expertise in the things they choose to broadcast, and we haven’t yet developed the digital literacy skills on a societal level to know which “experts” to trust.

So, we trust the people we know.

I have no data to back this up, but I’d bet that folks who are personal friends with someone in the medical field who was vocal either privately or on social media about the need to prepare for COVID-19 were WAY ahead of the game in terms of stocking supplies and being ready to self-isolate. Why? Because no matter what we may read from media sources, things don’t feel real to us until we hear it from someone we know.

And that’s why it’s so important these days to build trust-worthy, information-sharing communities, to amplify the voices of those we know and trust personally on a subject, and to use our own expertise to make sure accurate and helpful info is being spread.


(Please feel free to use the comments section to share and highlight resources that are embracing multi-way communication to connect people, foster dialogue, and spread accurate information on any topic!)


Lauren Hug, J.D., LL.M., is a speaker, author, and strategist. She is the founder of HugSpeak, a community engagement and multi-way communication strategy firm, and author of Digital Kindness: Being Human in a Hyper-Connected World as well as two business skills books. After a long hiatus from the legal field, she is bringing her “lawyer brain” to a true crime, narrative non-fiction storytelling project. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Lauren Hug

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Strategist. Author. Speaker. Advocate for #DigitalKindness. Buy the book here: (link:

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