Social media platforms provide businesses with a huge opportunity to improve consumer trust, according to new research by reviews platform, Trustpilot.
Over a quarter of respondents (29%) say brands that are active on social media are more “human”, meaning they appear more approachable and helpful by having real conversations with customers online. Additionally, 31% of people trust brands more when the company has conversations with people on social media, and 20% check a brand’s social media presence when they are thinking about making their first purchase with the company.
However, the type of social presence a brand has, and the type of content it shares is also important. The research looked into the ways in which brands interact on social media, particularly focussing on paid-for versus organic content.
Overwhelmingly customers prefer organic content. Almost a quarter (24%) say they trust companies who grow their social media audience by interacting with people, while a similar number (23%) say they don’t trust companies who advertise on social media in order to grow their network. Moreover, only 16 % of people say they pay attention to content brands pay for on social media.
The findings come amid an increasing appetite from brands to understand the impact of digital marketing, particularly on social media. In response to this, Facebook recently launched new measurement tools for businesses to assess how effective online ads are at increasing in-store visits.
Dr Jillian Ney, digital behavioural scientist and the UK’s first Doctor of Social Media, said: "The results of the research are interesting. They highlight that even new social advertising is regarded as a sales tool and has a lower level of trust and acceptance with consumers.
"On the other hand, organic content seems to be helping customers determine the service characteristics of brands and their communities, helping them to reduce purchase risk. Brands need to understand what content and triggers consumers want to see from social content and plan accordingly - they need to have the right conversations."
James Westlake, vice president at Trustpilot in the UK, said: "Trust is fundamental to all businesses in order to drive customer loyalty and to attract new customers. As digital technology becomes increasingly prominent in consumers' lives, it's important for businesses to assess how to expand their online presence to increase trust in their brands.
"Our research clearly highlights for many people, brands active social media are more trustworthy than those who aren't. This is unsurprising as platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube increase visibility and understanding of a brand's reputation and offer. It's also clear that increasingly, people prefer to see organic content. There are many ways businesses can deliver valuable, engaging content for their social media network, such as sharing online customer reviews. Customers will talk about your brand online, it's definitely worth being part of the conversation."