I look forward to Edelman’s Trust Barometer every year, where the PR giant surveys people around the world to determine whom they trust among businesses, governments, media, and NGOs.
I found two things particularly surprising in this year's results, just released: Trust in Social Media rose 75%, and Trust in People Like Me rose 22% (while trust in a CEO fell 12%).
Trust in Social Media
The numbers of people that trust information they find within social media channels are fairly low--especially compared to Traditional Media--but the growth from 8% to 14% is remarkable.
I don't think it's because people have more trust the medium itself. Rather, it’s because companies are taking social media channels more seriously. As companies dedicate resources to maintain a presence within social channels, and work to interact in ways that provide value, the information is seen as credible by fans and followers.
Rather than using social media channels as just another way to broadcast information, brands are participating in conversations, listening to feedback, and making changes to the way they interact with customers.
Trust in People Like Me
In a relatively short time, there has been a massive shift in whom customers find credible. Just a year ago, 50% of people said they trust a CEO of a company, but only 43% would trust someone like themselves, and only 34% would trust a regular employee. Today, 38% of people trust a CEO, 50% trust a regular employee, and 65% trust someone like themselves.
The change comes as people feel more comfortable sharing experiences about brands and products, and as carefully-crafted messaging coming from corporate headquarters comes across as inauthentic.
The rise of social media as a way for people to share information about brands and products will drive more changes like these. Brands that make the investment to participate fully in social media channels see the benefits of greater trust among their customers, and greater evangelism among their brand advocates.