Opinion for Sale: Trust in Social Media Eroding?

It seems that while many businesses are pinching traditional marketing budget to accommodate social media, consumers have started showing lack of trust on messages carried by the medium. In recent years, social media phenomenon exploded, riding high with the trustworthiness of friends. The holy grail of marketing appears to be found in the minds of friends rather than advertisers; with such information it’s now possible to deliver more targeted ads and less irrelevant ones. If I like somebody’s post about a Rickenbacker or Epiphone guitars on Facebook, I might see more ads about the same brands of guitar, or amplifiers, CDs or tuners later on.

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Surely, we enjoy using Facebook (although not at all times) and its ability to share information with friends. In fact, I am thankful that through Facebook, I am reconnected with a long-lost friend based in Japan or a dozen high school pals. But little did I know that I am giving up my privacy to Facebook (or Google) to enjoy these features. Yet there is a feeling that the whole business model of offering a mainstream social media platform everyone seems to embrace is more or less monetizing our privacy. For us to enjoy this form of entertainment, we must be willing to give up something in return.

Yes, consumer buying trends are more and more determined through likes and dislikes from friends within social media circles. But take a break and look at each and individual friends we have made connection with. How many of them do we really interact with, and who among them are friends we only know online? It’s therefore not surprising that Edelman’s study reveals an erosion of trust in social media. Confidence has dropped by nearly half since 2008 leading to only about 25% of people trusting their peers and friends online for information. Although Edelman’s methodology exposes one big catch — the interviewed group is generally well-educated, well-off and news-savvy, something that majority of social media users can’t be described as such.

Social networking as we used to know it is a peer to peer communication with honest opinions that mattered between friends. But as companies started to capitalize on its power, social networking became infiltrated with elements that have ulterior motives: promote brands, sell products and other objectives that’s not necessarily centered towards the interest of friends. Also, there is a prevailing notion that the more friends we make, the more exposure everything we say gets. That’s why Twittad and Sponsored Tweets try to persuade advertisers to use celebrities and popular people who have thousands/millions of Twitter followers to promote businesses. But effective social media doesn’t always require involvement of many followers or connections or as implied by the question on whether too many Facebook friends is one recipe for the downfall of social media.

Is social media indeed losing steam and has dwindling level of trust?

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