Study shows we trust only 25 percent of what online friends say

Edelman study shows that online social marketing is far from foolproof

Whether your business is payday loans, auto loans or nearly anything else, online social marketing through such networks as Facebook and Twitter should be an important part of the way you do business. However, if the recent Edelman study quoted in Ad Age is any indication, social media friending is far from a be-all, end-all. In fact, Edelman’s survey shows that a mere 25 percent of social media users trust what their friends have to say about the credibility of a business.

What? They don’t trust their “friends?”

That’s what Michael Bush reports in Ad Age. It spits in the face of the online social marketing strategy that is central to many companies. Richard Edelman, CEO of the Edelman public relations company, uses his Trust Barometer to indicate that since 2008, the percentage of those who trust their online friends has dropped tremendously, from 45 percent down to the current 25 percent.

A sign of the times?

“The events of the last 18 months have scarred people,” Edelman said in reference to privacy issues encountered with such popular social networks as Facebook and Twitter. “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.”

Online social networks aren’t the only group to have lost ground. Bush writes that the Trust Barometer showed television’s credibility to be down 23 points, while radio and newspapers were down 20 over the same time span. Oddly enough, Edelman’s Trust Barometer showed that CEOs and financial analysts gained credibility in the eyes of the public. Have people been paying attention to the news?

Average Joes don’t hold sway any more

Perhaps we’ve finally reached a saturation point with online social media. The influence of friends is diluted by sheer numbers and mind-numbing speed of communication. Live feeds from friend lists that are hundreds of members long are too much for a human being to follow with any meaning or accuracy. Word of mouth is more valuable than ever, Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association President Paul Rand tells Bush. Yes, that’s the name of the association.

“The mind-set is no longer, ‘I can just trust it because it’s somebody’s opinion. It’s, ‘I can trust that specific opinion because it’s someone I know.'”

Which raises the question: Do you really know your online friends?

Most people can’t physically name 200 to 300 people they know, yet many have that many online “friends,” if not more. Personal Money Store and other online payday loans portals depend upon social networking to spread the word regarding their services. But as consumers become more sophisticated, they can spot marketing messages disseminated via online social networks more easily. If Edelman’s study is any indication, consumers aren’t responding as positively as they were just two years ago.

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