New research shows most consumers still don’t trust brands in social media

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Only 10% of European consumers trust posts by brands on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter; in North America this number increases to 15%. This is the finding of new research from Forrester. It shows that consumer trust of brands in social media is still much lower than the trust they have for their friends and the posts they make.

The research, based on a sample of 20,788 (and 63,703 North American) European online consumers, was published by Forrester this week and explores how consumers react to different marketing messages and types of content.

Overall the message is clear – consumers trust content they go out to find (from expert reviews to recommendations from friends and family) than they do content that is pushed at them. Interruptive advertising such as marketing text messages and banner ads perform worst from a trust perspective. Posts by brands on Twitter and Facebook are the fourth least trusted source of information.

There is much brands can learn from this and from how they seek to build relationships online. The nature of social media is that it is about interaction and that it allows consumers to build their own networks or communities of people with whom they share common interests. And it can be difficult for brands to truly engage here.

Many consumers treat what brands say as they treat advertising – it is something that interrupts them when they are doing something else, and they treat it with a healthy level of scepticism. This is reinforced by the way many brands use these channels – promoting offers or discounts or new products to consumers.

For brands that truly engage in social the trust levels will be much higher. These brands are not using it for interruptive messages to to be part of consumers networks and communities, part of their shared interests. This is not easy to achieve and may not even be relevant for all brands, but with such trust can come real benefits.

In a world where we can learn so much from interacting with consumers and from seeing what they say, like and who they interact with, it is important that we earn their trust. Otherwise, there is a real risk that consumers block brands from their social media life; stop them seeing their data and stop them from understanding more about them.

Trust is important in social media and it comes from real engagement, not interruptive messages.

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