The Eroding Trust & Confidence in Social Media Marketing

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The recent crisis for Facebook in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica revelation is reigniting a troubling issue among users and advertisers of a vast array of social media outlets. Already experiencing a decline in trust from consumers, marketers are beginning to hesitate implementing expanded social media campaigns. For Facebook, the current debacle promises to increase the numbers of users who are fleeing the media giant. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, well under half of Americans (41%) now trust Facebook to obey U.S. privacy laws and adequately protect personal data from misuse. Facing possible monetary penalties and new government regulations over the data misuse, perhaps the most damaging outcome of the affair between social media outlets and personal data abuses is the response the relationship has spawned among some very large advertisers.

Mozilla Corporation, Commerzbank, Germany’s second largest bank, and Pep Boys, a major automotive retailer announced they were suspending their advertising campaigns on social networks. Pep Boys CMO Danielle Porto Mohn explained, “We are concerned about the issues surrounding Facebook and have decided to suspend all media on the platform until the facts are out and corrective actions have been taken.”

For a number of years, researchers have been reporting a steady decline in consumer trust of online social media outlets as they increasingly turn to social platforms for product and service information. Consumers are expressing doubts about the credibility of information and an increasing lack of social media discourse. “This notion of media being the Fourth Estate, we’ve come to believe, is eroding,” Edelman Chicago Chief Operating Officer Kevin L. Cook told an Omaha campus group. “We’re also in an age where technology allows us to completely manipulate our news feeds and tailor what we read to only what we want, only to what suits our sensibilities.”

Distrust of social media is the most prevalent among millennials, the largest segment of the consumer spectrum. The trend to distrust is shared across the landscape of media outlets and may suggest that the bloom of the social media industry is fading as advertisers and users appear to be tiring of the proliferation of fake news and the questionable accuracy of published information in general.

In response to this erosion of confidence, marketers must refocus attention to a strategy of attracting and protecting consumer confidence by insisting on an elevated standard of media accountability. Emphasis should be placed on the quality of the messaging and less on the quantity of the messages spread across and in concert with multiple marketing channels. Consumer trust and confidence in the brand must be an important element of the campaign’s measurement of success. Such confidence and trust must be earned, not purchased.

“Research by professors Joseph Turow, Michael Hennessy and Nora Draper found that marketers were incorrect in assuming that a majority of Americans give out information about themselves as a trade-off for benefits they receive.” Only 21 percent of respondents agreed that getting discounts, free services or better services for collecting online information is a fair trade-off. Users may have glossed over social media platforms’ privacy policies in the past but never more. A recent Deloitte study found 93 percent of consumers believe they should be able to request that a company permanently delete their personal data.

Marketers cannot afford to lose the trust of consumers. It’s hard enough to capture the attention of consumers. Implementing measures that account for the protection of data and financial information is critical to evolving your business.