People are starting to trust their peers less and less, according to a report — Who Do You Trust?— from MarketingPower.com.
Researchers attribute this drop to overfriending. We see it all the time with people on Facebook with a few thousand friends, most of whom were gathered to build an army in Castle Age (guilty!). But all these friends telling us we “should” do this, we “ought” to try that. We can’t really trust anyone anymore.
This means, says MarketingPower.com, that people are starting to trust professionals a little more:
There’s been a decline in trust in a “person like myself.” A “person like yourself” fell from 47% in the 2009 study to 43% in 2011; this represents a steep decline from 2006 levels of 68%. In addition, a regular employee increased in credibility from 32% in 2009 to 34% in 2011. When it comes to the credibility of information, respondents trusted academics or experts [emphasis added — Erik] the most (70%), followed by a technical expert within the company (64%), a financial or industry analyst (53%) and a CEO (50%).
What does this have to do with social media? Basically, it means the need for social media experts is growing, and people don’t want professionals who use goofy titles to avoid the whole social media expert controversy. They want to be able to trust people who are credible and have the information they need — 70% of us want the experts.
- If you’re a consumer-level trainer, like Patric Welch (aka Mr. Noobie), you’re highly sought out by noobies who are looking for basic answers on how to use Facebook and Twitter, how to write blogs, or how to research, buy, and use digital cameras and laptops. These beginners want someone they can trust, because that person has high credibility. They don’t want ninjas, gurus, superheroes, or surgeons, they want experts. In short, if you’re not an expert, or your Memaw’s favorite grandson who knows a lot about “Facespace,” they’re not going to hire you.
- Although the data points to individual trust, this kind of thinking is also starting to find its way into the workplace. People are beginning to look to colleagues and associates within their professional networks. We’ve already seen the growth of the use of LinkedIn, reading industry blogs, or looking to their Twitter feed for professional advice, and the use of “real” experts is starting to grow. If you’re still playing at being a social media guru or shaman, companies are not going to call you.
- Websites and print publications want experts to write for them, conferences want experts to speak to them. They need people who know what they’re doing, and have demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of the issues. This is not the time and place to use goofy titles. While it will work within our industry, when you talk to people outside the industry, they don’t get our cute little quirks and they don’t understand the whole expert/not-an-expert debate.
Trust is becoming more important to people, especially in the business world. Social media as a whole is all about user-generated content. We form opinions and make buying decisions by reading reviews and comments from our friends, and even strangers. But this may give way to, ever so slightly, to the need for independent experts who have a lot of information, and are willing to share it.
Photo credit: Fawksy (Flickr)