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People Don’t Trust Their Friends Anymore?

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Here’s a fascinating take-away from Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer — the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company — dropped by almost half, from 45% to 25% since 2008.

“It’s a more-skeptical time. So if companies are looking at peer-to-peer marketing as another arrow in the quiver, that’s good, but they need to understand it’s not a single-source solution. It’s a piece of the solution,” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman told Advertising Age.

Part of the decline in trust could be because people now connect with more and more “friends” via Twitter and Facebook then ever before. Hence, the more people one connects with, the less likely they are to know them personally, and trust them.

However, there is another factor in play. Perhaps, with all of the PR shilling going on in social media, it has devalued the amount of trust people put into those sources. As Advertising Age‘s Michael Bush writes, “People have caught on to the fact marketers are increasingly behind that influential blog post or tweet.”

One agency CEO quipped to PRNewser that they found the Edelman results “ironic” considering it was Edelman who “pioneered the usage of shill bloggers back in 2006.” The CEO referred to the famed Wal-Mart blogging campaign. In addition, it was PR that pushed brands into social channels, in part arguing that “peer-to-peer” communication is more trusted than other forms of PR and advertising.

Lets take Twitter as an example…


A recent study by Pear Analytics, presented by eMarketer, showed that a full 4% of Twitter posts are spam, with another 6% labeled as “self promotion.” A whopping 40% were described as “pointless babble.”

Needless to say, the Edelman Trust Barometer is just one study, albeit a fresh one. A report from Nielsen Online in April 2009, revealed, “recommendations from personal acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising…”

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