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Conversatiated: Trust Barometer

• Author: , Sr. Account Supervisor

In our regular installment of Conversatiated, two Media Logicians share an ongoing dialogue about marketing issues and challenges in a conversation-centric world. This week, Josh and Fred discuss Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer and its implications on gauging consumer trust and assessing the value of P2P advice in 2010 and beyond.

Josh:

Conversatiated: Trust Barometer. Graphic showing Josh Martin avatar.Hey Fred, Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer was released recently. And one of the more interesting nuggets uncovered by the report is that “conversations with friends and peers as a source of company information saw sizable drops in the U.S.” On the surface, the report findings sound dire, specifically as they relate to social media – they seemingly crumble the foundational promise that makes social media so alluring for marketers. But, as aptly noted by some other sources (AdAge and SmartBlog and Going Social Now), the findings don’t really support the demise of social media as a marketer’s tool. Although, the findings made for an evocative story on APM’s Marketplace and good press for the annual report and the PR giant that conducts the research each year.

First, I believe that it is the isolated opinion of peers that consumers are losing confidence in, not the general notion of feedback from other consumers. When an opinion is expressed by a perceived expert or corroborated by a community of peers, consumers have faith in the veracity of the claim/opinion/advice. This provides strong support for those influencer- and community-building strategies that I know you have been pursuing with your clients recently.

Second, these findings seem to underline what I see as the natural evolution of social networks. The first phase seemed to be all about broadening social circles. “I should friend my brother’s best friend’s sister’s classmate.” It was all about the numbers – how many friends, how many followers. Now that we are getting a bit more sophisticated with social networks and building our social circles, the second phase seems to be about making sense of your network of “friends” and determining which people provide value and where they provide value. For example, I find value in your insight about the political dynamics of our industry. And you look to me for… well, I’m not sure, but you get the point.

What do you think? Am I missing the implications of Edelman’s findings?

Fred:

Conversatiated: Trust Barometer. Graphic showing Fred Urlich avatar.Don’t sell yourself short, Josh, I look to you for a lot of things. After all, you give me topics for pontification, and you know I love that.

It’s funny, because this hits on the “relevance” issue that we talked about last time in our last column, Mobile Ad Evolution. Of course, fewer people trust their “friends” now, than they did a year ago. Thanks to social media we now have a much broader definition of who is our “friend.” An acquaintance from high school might not know what I do for a living, so how can he know what products I’d like?

Awhile back, Clay Shirky gave a talk about the need for a better information filter. His main point was that complaints about “information overload” are not caused by too much information, but rather having no good way to filter and prioritize the information that we receive.

It sounds similar to your second point. What if I could “score” my friends in Facebook and give more credibility to the ones who know me better or whose opinions I trust more? Facebook has tried to do this by allowing me to group friends, but we tend to do that based on how we know someone, not based on how much we trust him. I’m more likely to listen to the voice of a person – or even a brand – who I trust rather than buying something after five people have told me to.

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