Chances are you follow someone on social media that you do not actually know in your real life. Social media has made it easy for us to easily interact with businesses, celebrities and other people that we don’t actually have a relationship with. And it didn’t take long to build them into our life so much that we started to trust them and their recommendations. However, social media and the marketing teams of the world may have made a mistake as “recommendations” turned to endorsements… So is social media killing trust?
Well, it is becoming apparent that consumers are putting guards up. Big businesses saw the value in social media as being able to reach the largest number of people for the lowest cost. And, like so many strategies before it, the exploitation of social media by marketing teams has killed consumer trust.
I will fill you in on a social media secret… It’s called cyber-shilling. Have you ever heard of it? It has hit news headlines as businesses are being sued for posting fake reviews.
Essentially, cyber-shilling is a scheme by which businesses or organizations enlist anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of people who work as “shills”. What these people do is coordinate the creation of mass social media accounts which are then used to generate fake ratings and reviews. These people are usually paid pennies for likes, re-tweets or each click on their review link. It is a model that has millions of dollars running through it but is nearly impossible to trace. You may have also seen posts asking “like-for-like” where people aim to boost each other’s social media profiles so that they appear more popular.
All of these schemes run on the same foundation – dishonesty. Consumers have caught on and can recognise a shameless, paid endorsement when they see one. And the backlash is that they’ve made people skeptical of anything they read on social media.
Researchers have found that the number one outlet for receiving trusted information is word-of-mouth. This means that people have shifted their level of trust to their inner-circles, people they live or work with, who they can talk face-to-face with. In fact, the connection to a real-person is so strong that people are more skeptical of recommendations that come from their friends via social media than face-to-face. This is an epic shift of trust in a short amount of time. It shows the utter dissatisfaction consumers have with how social media has been exploited.
For the past few years, businesses have been trying to humanize their social media because people trust people. However, it’s not enough to know that there is a person on the other end of a social Tweet, Like or recommendation. This does not mean the end of social media by any means, consumers continue to embrace social media platforms in full swing. However, it has altered the way in which we communicate with each other. Business have lost trust with the general public due to their own actions.
So what are your thoughts – is social media killing trust? It’s a fact that’s hard to deny. What do you think? Can business turn this phenomenon around?