Nobody Trusts Nobody — Not Even Peers

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trustno1ADOTAS – Some time ago, the phrase “It’s true because I read it on the Internet!” became a punchline.

The great thing about the Internet is that it supplies the world with a seemingly endless supply of information. Unfortunately, it also supplies us with a seemingly endless supply of misinformation. The social media revolution has only amplified this conundrum.

Hence why the social media wisdom of marketing — consumers are more likely to trust other consumers instead of paid spokespeople — seems to have been debunked.

Edelman’s recent Trust Barometer reports that the percentage of respondents who consider their peers credible sources has dropped from 45% in 2008 to 25% today. While those who trust spokespeople declined from 45% in 2009, the percentage was still higher at 39% than peer credibility

The barometer also noted the credibility of TV dropped 23 points and radio news and newspapers were down 20 points between 2008 and 2010.

One needs only to look at cable news to see why — breaking news on CNN has a tendency to be gossip repeated on Twitter. The rumor mill has taken over journalism. Part of the reason for the increase in popularity of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert has been their willingness to say, “Can you believe the shit the mainstream media is shoveling?”

We’re in age where no one trusts anything — and why should they? In the last decade the American consumer has been duped on level after level — including being coaxed into supporting a war on false premises. It seems almost fitting that The Who finished off their Super Bowl halftime set with “We Don’t Get Fooled Again.”

The social mediascape has not escaped this general distrust as consumers discover which bloggers have been shilling for corporations without mentioning their fees. The  FTC’s blogger disclosure rules are less about actual regulation than capitalizing on this populist anger. Spokesman are more trusted because it’s understood they’re getting a check. There are few things more infuriating than feeling like you’ve been duped — especially by someone you considered on the level.

Edelman CEO and President Richard Edelman told AdAge that the key takeaway for marketers is that “consumers have to see and hear things in five different places before they believe it.”

Is that a bad thing? I remember being taught in school to have a significant number of sources to back up my essays. In the impulse-satisfying days of the aughts, it seemed most consumer forgot this logic, but they’re remembering it — especially as they feel their wallets tighten.

In other words, consumers are smartening up (even if the whole Farmville trend would seem to counter that) and marketers entering the social mediascape need to acknowledge that and re-conceive their social networking initiatives.

Suggestion number 1? Be upfront and honest. Perhaps you’ve heard of this transparency trend that all the advertisers are jumping on?

The last several years, consumers have had their faces soaked with urine labeled as rain from just about every front, including social media. At some point they’ll just refuse to go outside.

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