How social media influences trust in advertising

Posted on July 14th 2009

Hands and Red Pushpin
Creative Commons License photo credit: Artotem

Last week Nielsen released the 2009 Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries.  The survey covers degrees of trust consumers have for advertisers/brands. The top 3 are worth highlighting:

  • 90% of consumers surveyed trusted recommendations from people they knew personally
  • 70% trusted opinions from other consumers posted online
  • 70% trusted brand websites

There has been an explosion of user generated content, and as a result, consumers have a new way of assessing brands, products and services.  The report quotes:

“The explosion in consumer-generated media (CGM) over the last couple of years — we are now tracking over 100 million CGM sources — means consumers' reliance on word of mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don't, has increased significantly”

Forms of advertising ranked by changes in levels of trust from April 2007 to April 2009

Forms of advertising ranked by changes in levels of trust from April 2007 to April 2009

However when compared to the 2007 study, 2009 shows increase in trust across the board for all forms of advertising except newspapers. So what's happened in the last 2 years to cause this? Nielsen offers:

“it's possible that the CGM (consumer generated media) revolution has forced  advertisers to use a more realistic form of messaging that is grounded in the experience of consumers rather than the lofty ideals of the advertisers.”

The key takeaway for me is that “strangers” opinions posted online offer as much trust to the consumer as the company website. That can be a glass half full or half empty depending which side of the social fence you sit on.

  • For companies not engaging in the social media marketing conversation with their customers, they miss out on a literal world of opinion, market research, feedback and customer service opportunities.
  • Even these traditional, push marketing brands have had to increase their transparency, and be more honest about their offering because consumers can go and search for the truth online, offered by virtual strangers.
  • Those companies who value the opinions and expressions of their customers by displaying them on the company website have the most to gain. By demonstrating complete transparency, companies build trust. See Skittles.com for the most extreme form of aggregated social consumer opinion. See Crispin, Porter + Bogusky Beta website for a more sedate version.

What influences your opinion about a product, service or brand? Do you publish your opinions online? Has any brand you've published an opinion contacted you?


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