Building trust: Credibility of social media continues to grow

Published: September 24, 2012

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. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

KARACHI: 

Is it just a fad? Is the social media bubble eventually going to burst? Is social media credible? It is inevitable that these questions still get asked even though social media has permeated our private and public lives and just about every sphere of human activity. Right from marketing to activism, from personal pages to political agendas, from business projection to revolution, the list goes on.

One thing that makes social media marketing powerful is consumers’ trust in “people like them”—their friends, family and other online peers. Marketers want to tap into that trust.

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 sceptical eye for independent bloggers. And across all categories of content creator, Twitter streams were trusted less than other media.

Asked to rate what was most important to making social sites trustworthy, users’ top concerns were that the dialogue be open to both positive and negative comments, the quality of content and the responsiveness of the content creator.

A new survey has also found that company CEOs who use social media are viewed as more trustworthy — and not just a little bit. According to this survey conducted by the social media consulting and data tracking firm BRANDfog:

86% of respondents rated CEO social media engagement as somewhat important, very important or mission critical.

82% of employee respondents said they trusted a company more when top executives communicated via social media.

77% of respondents said they were more likely or much more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media to define company values.

It comes down to transparency and communication. A company that connects with clients or customers via multiple platforms is keeping the firm’s message and vision in front of the people who matter most. That communication also creates familiarity, which can be a potent consumer motivator when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

There will come a time when Facebook won’t be adding users that fast. There will come a time when everybody won’t be broadcasting every thought to everybody in 140 characters on Twitter. I think it is entirely possible that Facebook might eventually die out, or be replaced by something else. It is also possible that Twitter may end up being replaced, but I also think the concept or the ideas and the impact that the two sites have had on communications, customer service, and more, will just inhabit another site.

So, yes, social media will not be the latest and greatest shiny object, but it will transcend and transform. It will become a more trusted media source and outlet. We’re going to get much better at this. Consumers are going to trust it more and more.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.

 

More in Business