Nov 12, 2019

Are Social Media platforms Trustworthy?

In recent years, social media giants Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been under constant scrutiny - now that trust is shaken, will this affect consumers use of these social platforms?

  • YouGov research suggests that consumers trust social media platforms far less than they did two years ago and this means a split on how it has impacted their usage of the platforms.
  • With social media platforms facing a wave of distrust, agencies need to work harder to ensure that the brands they support are not also affected.

“Trust is the most important part of any relationship and for consumers and brands, it’s essential. Brands have worked for years to build public trust in the ‘real world’, therefore it’s vital they ensure public distrust in social platforms doesn’t affect them by proxy.” Anna Pańczyk, CEO of Grey London.

In recent years, trust in social media has suffered greatly due to several reasons including, quality and credibility of content, political ads, fake followers and the misuse of personal user data.

In YouGov’s poll of over 2,000 participants, 63% stated they have lost trust in social media platforms, leading to 22% of those participants using social media less and 61% who said they would be more careful about the privacy of their posts.

What is perhaps most surprising, despite an increase in the influencer marketing ad spend, is that 96% of participants still do not trust influencers. This lack of trust towards influencers is due to a lack of transparency and authenticity on their behalf. As a result, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have been enforcing stricter rules when paid-for content online is involved. They have cautioned many influencers and brands for disregarding these guidelines on platforms like Instagram, and are paving the way for hopefully a more trustworthy method of advertising.

However, influencers are not the only ones at fault where trust in social media is concerned. Political advertising also needs to be addressed after worries escalated from after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal polluted the industry last year. In light of this, Twitter has recently announced they will be opting out of political ads, effective from the 22nd November, they will be banned.

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.” Jack Dorsey, CEO at Twitter.

Findings from YouGov’s survey indicated that 59% of respondents strongly agreed that political ads should be more regulated on social media during elections and referendums. In response to these upcoming changes, brands would do well to consider this and implement changes accordingly so that they are not also affected.

Pańczyk adds, “If the public remains unsure about regulation on social media, then how can trust ever be restored? It’s vital that people understand they are protected when online from the harm of false advertising and disinformation.”

In a year where social media scandals have left public trust at an all-time low, brands must act to ensure the negative consequences are minimised. Consumers are less forgiving where personal data and credibility are concerned therefore if brands are not able to prevent further distrust, they risk losing their best method to reach and engage with consumers.