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Gingersnap
02-08-2010, 11:06 AM
In Age of Friending, Consumers Trust Their Friends Less

Edelman Study Shows That Only 25% of People Find Peers Credible, Flying in Face of Social-Media Wisdom

By Michael Bush
Published: February 08, 2010

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Whom do we increasingly trust less? Us.

It's a finding that strikes at the foundation of many a social-media marketing philosophy: Tapping into peer-to-peer networks is a way for marketers to tell authentic, credible stories to consumers whose confidence in corporate CEOs, news outlets, government officials and industry analysts has taken a beating. But according to Edelman's latest Trust Barometer, the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company dropped by almost half, from 45% to 25%, since 2008.

WHOM DO YOU TRUST? Edelman's barometer
Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, believes it's a sign of the times -- and the lesson for marketers is consumers have to see and hear things in five different places before they believe it.

"The events of the last 18 months have scarred people," Mr. Edelman said. "People have to see messages in different places and from different people. That means experts as well as peers or company employees. It's a more-skeptical time. So if companies are looking at peer-to-peer marketing as another arrow in the quiver, that's good, but they need to understand it's not a single-source solution. It's a piece of the solution."

Consumers are a distrustful bunch in general -- the credibility of TV dropped 23 points and radio news and newspapers were down 20 points between 2008 and 2010.

(snip)

If consumers stop believing what their friends and the "average Joes" appearing in testimonials say about a product or company, the implications could be significant not just for marketers but for the social networks and word-of-mouth platforms selling themselves as solutions to communicating in a jaded world. The influence of peers has been considered the leading rationale for brands' shifting marketing dollars to social media.

In some cases, social networks themselves may be contributing to the decline in trust. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed people to maintain larger circles of casual associates, which may be diluting the credibility of peer-to-peer networks. In short, the more acquaintances a person has, the harder it can be to trust him or her. Mr. Edelman believes the Facebook component has "absolutely" played a role in diluting trust levels.

Interesting. This fits in with Robert D. Putnam's research which demonstrates that the more "diverse" a community becomes, the greater the loss of social and interpersonal trust - even among homogenous group members.

Adage (http://adage.com/article?article_id=141972)