Can Social Media Be Trusted?

Have you ever asked a regular consumer where they get their information about your brands, products and services?A lot of brands have done this, but push this question a little bit further: when consumers let you know where they first heard about your brands, products and services, why not ask they how much they trusted the information they got? Chris Brogan and Julien Smith wrote an amazing business book (and New York Times best-seller) titled, Trust Agents (which is now available in paperback), all about what it takes to build trust and relationships. Through the power of Social Media, we know that those who are open, transparent and can engage in some semblance of conversation can also build market share, conversations and – maybe – an online community to go with it.

Does the everyday consumer actually trust Social Media?

… And when we say “Social Media” what does that even mean? Is a Blog as trustworthy as a status update on Facebook? Does a tweet on Twitter garner the same respect as a Podcast? Some pretty interesting things to think about (especially if you’re about to embark on a Social Media strategy). Today, eMarketer had the news item, What Makes Social Media Trustworthy? Here’s the gist of it: “A study of frequent social media users by market research firm Invoke Solutions found that the most trusted information was posted by people respondents knew. But blog posts were more likely to be trusted ‘completely’ than posts on Facebook, and trust dropped off sharply when it came to Twitter, even among friends. Postings by brands or companies were trusted less, but levels were similar whether companies posted to Facebook or blogs. Online community sites did not hold the same trustworthiness as Facebook or blogs, whether postings were made by companies or fellow members, and respondents had an even more skeptical eye for independent bloggers. And across all categories of content creator, Twitter streams were trusted less than other media.”

We have a long way to go (just click over and look at those stats).

It’s not that the people creating Social Media content are not trustworthy. It’s the channel that people don’t trust (yet). The media channel is so new that people don’t trust it (fully). They’re skeptical (and it’s not just because every other day there’s another tweet stream about some celebrity that’s dead… even though they’re still alive). Things like this take time. Do we trust everything we see on TV or read in a magazine? Now layer that fear over a brand new media with no regulation and with content that is – and can be – created by just about anybody.

This is going to take time and things are not going to slow down.

eMarketer had another news item that AdWeek reported on titled, Social Net Growth: No End in Sight. “The number of people visiting social networks on a monthly basis in the U.S. will reach 127 million, or about 57 percent of all domestic Internet users, by the end of 2010, a 16 percent increase over 2009. By 2014, two-thirds (65.8 percent) of U.S. Internet users will be regular visitors to social networks, the firm reported.” Social Media is big. Social Media is getting bigger. Social Media is showing no signs of a slowdown… but…

The pending Social Media bubble burst is bound to happen (they always do).

There will come a time (some time soon) when Facebook won’t be adding users that fast (in fact, some may be going some place else). There will come a time (some time soon) when everybody won’t be broadcasting every thought to everybody in 140 characters on Twitter. So, yes, Social Media will not be the latest and greatest shiny object, but it will transcend and transform. It will become a trusted media source and outlet. We’re going to learn how to better edit and aggregate the content. We’re going to understand who to trust (and who is on the take).

We’re going to get much better at this. Consumers are going to trust it more and more. Don’t you think?

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