Trust in 2012: 4 Implications for Social Media

Edelman recently released the results of its 2012 Trust Barometer survey. Given the events of the last year, it’s hardly surprising that trust is decreasing pretty much across the board.

That is, except in Canada.

Results of the 2012 Canadian Trust Barometer

Today we announced the Canadian results of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer at an event in Toronto. A few highlights from the Canadian survey:

  • “A person like me” and regular employees both saw the biggest increase in trust in Canadian Barometer history. “A person like me” in particular has re-emerged as one of the four most trusted spokespeople behind academics and technical experts.
  • Trust in social media increased by 175 per cent in Canada, and trust in other online sources rose by 20 per cent. These increases are consistent – but larger – with those in the US.
  • CEOs are now the least credible spokespeople in Canada. While trust in business as an institution remained steady, business is not meeting the public’s expectations when it comes to building trust in companies.
  • Unlike in other countries, trust in media remains steady; in fact it was the only institution to see trust rise in the last year in Canada; possibly partly because the definition of “media” is changing and because the media is beginning to be seen as leaders in breaking news, rather than followers in reporting it.

Implications for Social Media

So what do this year’s results mean for companies in Canada, and those using social media in particular? Here are four social media implications from the results of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer.

1. Transmedia storytelling is critical

The continuing rise of trust in social media and online sources is a clear signal that companies need to think beyond text when it comes to communicating. However, trust also increased in the Canadian media (and remains higher than other sources) – a signal that proclamations of the end of traditional media were very much premature.

Companies need to consider the complete media cloverleaf – traditional, owned, social and hybrid media, and to use them together effectively in order to communicate effectively.

2. Social media is not the end goal

While trust in social media has increased, and in Canada has more than doubled, it still lags well behind that of other sources. However, trust in “a person like me” is through the roof. There’s a dichotomy here, quite possibly because “social media” means different things to different people – plenty of people think of Twitter as a bunch of people talking about their lunch; I think of it as my industry peers discussing trends (and the occasional LOLcat).

The dichotomy of trust in social media means we can’t think of social for its own sake. Gaining new fans on your Facebook page, or followers of your Twitter account, won’t solve your business problems. Companies with a primary social goal of adding new fans/followers, or of gaining views on a video, are missing the point. To drop a cheesy line, it’s not the size of your community but what you do with it that counts.

3. Use social media as a conduit and a connector

If trust in social media, although on the rise, is still low, what does that mean for us? It means we need to think of it as a conduit rather than a destination.

Just as search engines are a conduit to useful information, social media is a conduit to connecting with other people – both those inside the company (e.g. regular employees) and to “people like you.” As a starting point, stop thinking about social media in the same way you think of traditional marketing campaigns, and start thinking in terms of bringing people together around a common interest. However, that’s just the beginning. What do you do with (and for) them? What do you enable from that point forward?

4. Enable and amplify advocacy

Experts and “people like me” are among the most trusted sources of information. One of the most interesting uses of social media is in enabling and amplifying the advocates of your company. Become the enabler – provide your organization’s fans with the information they need to speak in an informed way about the things they’re passionate about, and provide them with the opportunity to do so. The recent partnership between Bazaarvoice and Buddy Media is a great example of a key piece of this puzzle.

Also posted on the Edelman Canada site.

12 comments
RayEskritt
RayEskritt

The idea of presenting a firm as "people like me" is an interesting one. I like it quite a bit. It makes a great deal of sense. I used to think that firms should represent themselves as professional, informed and in authority. The idea that a firm could be all those things yet still personable and human is very engaging. I wonder if the same is true of service providers such as lawyers, doctors and engineers. Should they still be detached, or would you be more likely to trust someone that is similar to you. Psychology would say that you trust those that look, speak and think like you. But when it comes to someone coming into my life (police, firefighters etc) I want to be able to trust them, not wonder if they were out parting last night too.

Hudlege
Hudlege

This is really great, indeed. Thank you so much for sharing with us...

SLoahSiegel
SLoahSiegel

There is a lot to be gained from those 4 points. A company's social media success will be gauged by the quality of posts, links, information, interactions, and overall activity, NOT the quantity of likes or posts.  The company's content is very important and how these different sites interact. As stated, these are people forming relationships, not simply words or numbers. In regards to the last point, there's so much potential for a company to gain a great reputation fueled by the consumers themselves. However, it is up to the company to really facilitate the consumers' views and guide it's success by responding to both positive and negative comments.

 

Noah S.

A.B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane University

Daman
Daman

 Experts and “people like me” are among the most trusted sources of information

Olivia
Olivia

The social media is definitely becoming more and more prominent in not only the Canada, but also the United States. I wonder why people tend to believe “people like me,” as you discussed in this post so much, when there are professionals out there that are provably more reliable?

Nika Twitter Followers
Nika Twitter Followers

We should not always rely on social media so much. It's still more credible if the comment or advertisement comes from real people from real life. Most people in the internet tend to create their own persona, they're not all real.

M Benova
M Benova

I think it's important for companies to realize what you said about traditional media not being dead yet. With all the hype over social media, it seems that companies have tunnel vision for non-traditional media. Building relationships is at the core of what makes businesses successful; so, instead of being separate entities, organizations should integrate and cross-reference their material with each media outlet they have. 

Finallyfast.com
Finallyfast.com

I belive that every online interaction should be treated like a real relationship and cultivate it with care. When you understand the value of a friendship and its relationship, you don’t care about the amount of friends or followers you have listed on your profile but who they are as they contribute to your success. ~Anja~

davefleet
davefleet moderator

 @RayEskritt I think that's a really interesting point. I've actually heard a similar analogy related to luxury brands - that distance from the customer is actually important to some - if Rolex were to start responding directly to clients, for example, they may lose that air of aloofness and luxury that differentiates them in the market. 

 

With that said, I think the context here is a little different - regarding the police, for example, I do want to know that they're listening and I've been encouraged to see the Toronto Police tweeting useful information and responding to people, for example. It does improve my perception of them.