Survey: Social Media Creates Trust Issues—and Brands Might Be Caught in the Middle

A new report from Edelman finds that trust issues are so significant for consumers that many have quit social networks over it. And that could be a problem for brands, too.

Social media may be the way that a lot of organizations reach their members in 2018, but the recent controversies around social networks’ use of data have some individuals looking to curb their use of such tools.

According to new research [PDF] from the public relations firm Edelman, 40 percent of respondents worldwide (38 percent in the U.S.) had deleted at least one social media account in the past year, with people age 18-34 more likely to shut down an account.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report says a number of factors are driving departure from social networks, including the rise of identity theft, cyberbullying, fake news, clickbait, and bots—all of which 60 or more percent of respondents said had damaged their trust in social media. With trust in social networks at just 41 percent around the world (30 percent in the U.S., an 11 point drop from the prior year), it highlights some deeper concerns about the networks.

One factor that brands might want to keep in mind is how tracking affects the customer experience. While two thirds of respondents were OK with brands using their data to send coupons or suggest items to buy, such tracking was less desirable in the physical realm, with more than half opposed to tracking of in-store purchases.

The report adds that nearly half of consumers tend to blame brands if their content ends up in a dark corner of the web—say, next to a hate speech video on YouTube. On the other hand, social media remains a major engaging factor for many—with 39 percent of respondents globally (30 percent in the U.S.) saying that if they’re not interacting with a brand on social media, they’re unlikely to become emotionally attached.

In a news release, the company stated that the trust issues highlighted by the study underline the fact that consumers are holding brands to a higher level of accountability.

“Consumers are holding brands accountable, just like they do the platforms,” said Kevin King, Edelman Digital’s global chair, in a news release. “But the price a marketer pays for a mistake can be far costlier, as it’s easier for consumers to stop buying a brand of toothpaste or laundry detergent than it is to quit a favorite social media platform.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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