I know that I often argue for robust research, but I’ve also presented an argument many times that online ain’t that different to “the real world”. That’s my reaction to all the fuss on the topic of who people trust. [Link via Judy Gombita]
I’m surprised that bloggers seem surprised by recent studies indicating most people trust people they know and friends and family are key influencers on attitudes and decisions.
Source credibility theory has long proposed a number of dimensions of influence:
- physical attractiveness
Trust is a key factor. But it has been publicly seen to have been abused in recent years by traditional “expert” influencers, such as journalists, corporations, scientists, politicians, doctors, lawyers, banks, celebrities, etc etc.
We are less and less impressed by those claiming expertise or status in society. We’ve few real role models in public figures to look up to. We question objectivity knowing that corporate cheque books often buy endorsement.
Trust is something that has to be earned, and this involves a consistent believability that is established over time. So no wonder we look to those we have built genuine relationships with when making important decisions.
Whether bloggers and virtual social media friends are influential will similarly depend on the relationships and trust that is established.
The rules that public relations practitioners need to reflect when counselling organisations in the area of credibility, trust and influence are pretty basic. I’ve written about it before – do as you would be done by.
That means that big businesses, such as oil companies, are unlikely to be trusted when they report record profits, while motorists struggle to afford petrol at £5 a gallon. Banks are bailed out and pay big bonuses, yet many ordinary people face the threat of losing their homes.
Politicians lie, scientists twist figures to suit their cause, celebrities are vacuous and self-interested. Hardly the characteristics of people who should be trusted. So why all the surprise?