Another Reason Why Social Media isn’t a Panacea: Study

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Hot-stuff PR agency Edelman has released its 2013 Trust Barometer study, and boy are the results interesting. Although distrust in business and government around the world, in general, is shrinking, people, still, are awful distrustful.

A paltry 18 percent of those surveyed expect business leaders to “tell the truth, regardless of how complex or unpopular it is.” Only 19 percent expect them to make “ethical and moral decisions."

So, guess what: even if you, as a business owner, are telling the truth, very few would believe. It isn’t because of you individually -- it’s all the many, many of those who came before you who were corrupt, incompetent and otherwise bone-headed that have ruined it for you.

So what can you do? Turn to Twitter or Facebook or your company blog and spout off all the time, trying to be as transparent as possible? Tough bones there, because according to the study: “In new media - social networking sites, blogs and microblogging sites like Twitter - CEOs are least credible. Instead, activist consumers are most trusted communicating on these platforms – by double.”

This shouldn’t come particularly as a shock. As we’ve seen in the entertainment industry, there’s been a pronounced shift away from treating individual members of the media as sacred gatekeepers.

It used to be that a movie critic could make or break a filmmaker or screenwriter’s big opening night. But, instead, they have been funneled into aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, churning the voice of all the critics through a digital melting pot. They become voiceless.

So why trust one individual over the amalgamation of many individuals. Right? Think about it how a consumer might, right? You want your best bang for your buck, so you’re more likely to crowdsource, which is just a fancy way of asking what your friends think or what the Internet is saying. That is, perhaps, probably why this study has found that people are, generally, far more trusting of search engines than anything else online.

They’re being considered more trustworthy than traditional media.

So, in short: You may not need to be on social media to get your message heard, but you definitely do need to be online. We all know print is dying, but figuring out where you should be instead is a far more productive train of thought.   

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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