Do you trust your friends?

Posted on February 9, 2010

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An article in AdAge today talked about the Edelman trust barometer. It pointed out – in giant yellow text – that the number of people trusting their friends for advice has dropped significantly from last year. Sure, this could be a red flag for WOM marketers, but there are a few other things worth considering:

1. The chart shows that trust in all mediums has diminished. Why not call out the decline in trust for TV News, which seems to be even more dramatic? Apparently, no one trusts the news anymore. That is a huge blow for companies with reputation issues (or maybe no one even believes the recent news about Toyota).

2. This chart/story never hit on what kind of information we’re looking at. For restaurant recommendations? I trust my friends over social networks, marketers or the collective majority any day. Stock tips? I’m going to decline a friend’s advice and hit up an expert on that one. Context and expertise are important.

3. Who are my friends, really? Seems like a silly question, but Facebook is starting to get it. Their recent redesign ensures that when I search for a name, the first Sarah or Jessica that comes up will be the one closest to me in social proximity (the one with whom I share the most friends). I only “trust” those closest to me. Are my other Facebook friends really people I’d look to for advice or an opinion, or acquaintances I haven’t seen in 15 years?

In short, we could talk all day about trust, but the most important line in the story is this: “consumers have to see and hear things in five different places before they believe it.” Think about that for a second – you see something on the news (1), read it online (2), hear it from a friend (3), a connection calls it out on Facebook (4)… and you still need one more time before you’ll consider it to be true.

Marketers have their work cut out for them (this is good news as it’s keeping me in a job.)

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