Guest post: The trust transformation for communicators

Guest post: The trust transformation for communicators

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Inkybee's Hugh Anderson commented on my recent blog post challenging the public relations profession’s metrics for digital on the basis that many of them can be gamed or bought. He offered to write a blog post on the challenge of dealing with digital grifters. Fake twitter followers can be identified with Status People’s Fake Follower Check tool finding fake Facebook fans requires a little more detective work, but it’s possible and fake web-links are increasingly being quashed by the all-mighty Google who’s Panda and Penguin updates are making ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques a thing of the past.

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The good news is that Google’s clever mathematicians are getting better and better at it, releasing more updates this year.

All good and well, but it’s still a problem that is on the increase - a Gartner report at the end of last year reported that “by 2014, some 10 per cent to 15 per cent of all social media reviews and other forms of engagement will be fake, paid for by the companies getting endorsed.”

That frightening statistic got me thinking about one of the increasingly troublesome issues in society today: who can you trust anymore?

The issue goes well beyond social media fakery as it could be viewed as being endemic in today’s society. Our wider levels of trust are being increasingly eroded following huge breakdowns from highly visible and important sources, the most obvious being:

  • our banks - collapsing on the back of lending that they had no idea of the risk profile of, washing away honest people’s savings whilst still paying exorbitant bonuses to the perpetrators;
  • our politicians - the people we trust to run our country being exposed for morally (and in some cases legally) corrupt abuse of their expenses policies;
  • our energy companies - strangling household savings by managing to push through double digit price increases whilst making vastly increased profits; and finally
  • our food suppliers - fancy a nice beef lasagne for dinner, or is it horsemeat?

The issue is backed up by the evidence garnered from the highly respected Edelman Trust Barometer, the takeaways from which including that there is a “serious crisis of confidence in traditional leaders” and that “there's a new dynamic for communication”.

So, who can we trust anymore? And importantly, what does this mean for communications professionals?

All of this is in the context of the transformation in how we all consume the news. Pew Research’s recent report has some telling statistics (all US-based, but I would conject that they are equally applicable in the UK):

  • 31 per cent of respondents are abandoning their traditional news outlets as they no longer meet their needs;
  • 15 per cent get their news directly from social media;
  • 72 per cent get it from friends and family via word of mouth;
  • 77 per cent go on to follow links to the full news stories; and
  • in one year, mobile advertising has grown by 80 per cent;

You can read more on the research here at State of the News Media 2013.

The combination of the digital democratisation of news and the issues surrounding trust are changing the communications landscape forever.

It’s great news for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and all of the authentic, trusted bloggers out there who are building knowledgeable, valuable communities.

But what does it mean for how you and your clients or organisation communicates?

About the author hugh-andersonHugh Anderson is the co-founder of Forth Metrics Limited and Inkybee, a new solution for blogger outreach and influence marketing that is currently in free public beta. You can follow him on Twitter @hughforth.

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