Who do you trust on social media?

Assignment: Who do you trust on social media, on any platform or combination of platforms? Focus on individuals rather than corporations. Reference some of their social media content. Why do you trust them? What behaviours do they display in their social spaces? What do they benefit from gaining your trust?

 

As I began to ponder WHO I trust on social media, I was surprised to find myself continually turning to companies rather than people. Although I was initially surprised by this, I began to realize the expectations I have in regard to companies and social media marketing. I chose to follow many of the companies, and afterall they are businesses, so would it be so wrong that they market to me? Do I love being bombard it by it ? No, and of course that’s where the self-promotion comes into play, but I’m accepting of it. Although my level of acceptance may be significantly impacted by my profession, which includes social media marketing, it did make me wonder if the formula for trust is different for companies than individuals. While I don’t consciously believe I have expectations for individuals on social media (because let’s face it, nothing is surprising anymore), I do believe businesses have somewhat of a professionalism to maintain.

Now, is that to say I don’t have hopes for how people would use social media (i.e. respectfully) – certainly, but I don’t place those expectations on them. After feeling as if I couldn’t trust anyone on Facebook as I scrolled through my feed, it hit me – a former neighbor, stay at home mom, and mother of two. I’ll refrain from using her name or screenshots of content, but as I thought about WHY I trusted her, the MORE I trusted her and reminisced about previous posts of hers.

In order to explain why I trust this woman, I must share with you my revised trust formula….well it’s really more of a modification in wording for the formula discussed in our ethics course.*

According to Steve Rayson, the formula for trust on social media is as follows:

A=Authority, H=Helpfulness, I=Intimacy, SP=Self-Promotion

A=Authority, H=Helpfulness, I=Intimacy, SP=Self-Promotion

While I do believe the formula created by Rayson would produce relatively the same results, I would use different wording and factor in consistency. Although I don’t know that the mathematical side of the equation would make sense, if I HAD to re-write the equation I suppose it would look like one of the two equations below:

TRUST = Authority x Compassion x Transparency x Consistency / Self-Promotion

OR

TRUST = Authority x Compassion x Transparency / Consistency – Self-Promotion

The individual whom I spoke of that I trust on social media uses Facebook as her primary platform. She doesn’t share only the positive, or gripe about everything negative. She’s transparent about both the high’s and low’s of her life. Her posts show photos of her children’s misspellings, side pony-tails her daughter has created on her (the mom’s) head, images of family members that have past and date nights with her and her husband, as well as their triumph over his battle with cancer. Her posts ooze with compassion toward her family, her new friends and those she had to part from when she moved away. She posts regularly on Facebook and is a mother, wife and simply a human being, which in my opinion gives her the authority to speak openly about life. While I believe the “self-promotion” factor is a little more difficult to factor in when it comes to individuals’ posts, particularly if they don’t work, this person doesn’t post about herself often. While her family, friends and religion are all very closely related to her, it’s not the same as posting a photo or status about herself personally.

As I thought more about how much I trust this person and how quickly we became close as neighbors, my feelings became more pronounced. I supposes that’s how I know I trust her. Not only do I believe her, which is definitionally related to trust, but I care about her. I also suppose this is why a company would want you to trust them, so that you reciprocate a certain level of compassion or care. I also can’t help but realize how my relationship with this individual off-line has influenced my feelings toward her online. Again, I suppose that’s also similar to businesses. If they promote trust online with consumers, they must also provide that same environment in their storefront or through their customer service. While I can’t say that I am connected with anyONE on social media that I haven’t interacted with outside of social (I would consider my peers and I interacting through coursework outside of social media), I would imagine it’s more difficult to start a relationship with no reputation and build trust entirely online, for both an individual or a business.

In a nutshell, I trust those individuals (and businesses) on social media that not only fit the criteria of the trust equation online, but also have a trusting relationship with them outside of social media as well.

*To my peers: For more details on why I chose to change the wording of the formula check out my reading reaction post for week three. In an effort to (somewhat) stay within the word restrictions, I have not included my detailed reasoning within this blog post.