Tagged: trust

Social media and the shift of trust from institutions into processes

This is actually chapter 6 from my book.  I have put it here in order to liberate it from a restrictive means of distribution – so it can operate effectively in the social digital space. The liberation of content from a restrictive means of distribution is, of course, what the social media revolution is all about. Apologies therefore for its reference to other chapters and concepts not similarly liberated (unless you wish to buy the book of course).

Back in chapter two I mentioned that I think one of the most profound changes that the world of social media is heralding is a shift of trust from institutions into processes. The reason this is so important is that trust (and its close cousin influence) is the single most important commodity upon which all societies are built.

We live in a society where trust lives in institutions. We trust banks to look after our money, because there isn’t another way to create the bonds of trust necessary to conduct financial transactions at any form of scale (insert your own joke about trust and bankers here). We trust the media to present to us a representation of the truth (insert your own joke about…). We also trust governments… (say no more). We are, perhaps co-incidentally, at the moment suffering a reversal in our trust of institutions but perhaps this may be more than just co-incidental. Part of the reason may be that we are starting to see other ways to scale the creation of trust, that don’t rely on its management within institutions. There is nothing like a bit of competition to create dissatisfaction with the established order. Continue reading

People trust strangers more than they trust friends?

Take a look at this article by Erin Mulligan Nelson published a few days ago in AdAge.  Essentially it deals with trust and the so-called Millennial age group – i.e. those people who have most comfort and familiarity in using social media tools.  I am uncomfortable with Erin’s assertion that brands need to host a “killer party that (millennials) won’t want to miss” – partly because I am not quite sure what that party would look like – indeed if it would even look like a party.  But I do endorse the activities that she recommends, especially the idea that brands need to “offer ways for them (millennials) to share their opinions on your brand; and make it easy for them to find “expert” opinions on your products.”  The reason for this is that research that her company, Bazaarvoice, has produced, shows that when it comes to purchase decisions, millennials trust strangers more than they trust friends – provided they can have an assurance that these strangers have relevant knowledge. (Summary of that research here, full report here.)

My take on this is not that they are trusting strangers over friends, which appears counter-intuitive.  Rather, they are trusting a process which allows them to determine that the views or opinions of a stranger are relevant and credible and it highlights what I think is one of the defining shifts of the social media revolution – the shift of trust from institutions to processes.  It is like Wikipedia – you trust an article based on how much trust you place on the process that has produced that article.  You don’t trust the institution of Wikipedia per se, because as an institution it doesn’t really exist – it is community of millions of people all tied together via a process.  Wikipedia is not an institution, it is a process and you trust it on that basis.

Adapting to the world where trust is not institutionalised based on who or what you are (a brand , a friend, a government) but is based on process (making what you do visible and open to critique) is one of the key challenges for any brand.  It is about the importance of understanding the concept of communities of interrogation – the places or spaces that people go to ask questions. These are the spaces within which brands have to live – not on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter


Wikileaks: a sign of the mess to come

The recent Wikileaks / US cables saga, and the previous Iraq leaks saga, illustrate very neatly the problems ahead as we struggle to come to terms with the social media revolution.  We are in a place where the world is changing, but we have yet to develop the rules and processes we need to adapt to this new world.

This new world is the world of greater transparency, where almost everything must be considered to exist in the public domain. Like it or not, this world is not going to go away; it follows inevitably from the fact that information cannot now be locked up and contained within institutionalised channels.  The ability to publish information is now, as Clay Shirky says, “global, social, ubiquitous and cheap”. Continue reading