Does it matter if social media is getting a bad rep?

Discussion
Nov 22, 2017

MarketingCharts staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

Television, long disparaged as an “idiot’s box,” has nevertheless drawn enough eyeballs to serve many a marketer’s aims. Is social media facing the same issue?

According to a new Harvard-Harris Poll survey, only one in four respondents felt Facebook cared about its users. Far more (38 percent) disagreed with the statement.

For Twitter, only 17 percent felt the platform cared about its users versus 45 who didn’t. Eighteen percent felt LinkedIn cared versus same 18 percent feeling it didn’t.

The findings come after social media’s leaders earlier this year were grilled in front of Congress about their role in Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The survey showed a deep distrust in the information and news users encounter on social media.

It also comes as Facebook, the leading platform, has dropped out of the running to be teens’ favorite social platform. Twitter is also losing ground among younger consumers to Snapchat and Instagram.

The respondents in the Harvard-Harris Poll survey were more enthusiastic about Google and its platforms: 43 percent agree that Google cares about its users, compared to 26 percent who disagree; and 30 percent felt YouTube cares about its users, versus 24 percent who disagree.

New research from The Verge likewise found just 29 percent of respondents trust Facebook. In that survey, Facebook scored high in its ability to help users stay in touch and reconnect with acquaintances, but only 26.5 percent agreed that it is cool and just five percent felt their accounts are safe from hackers.

The Verge survey also showed Americans look more favorably on Google and Amazon.com among tech giants versus the leading social media platforms. Amazon ranked first among companies people would care about it if it went away tomorrow. That was followed by Google, Walmart, Microsoft and Netflix in the top five. Facebook ranked seventh and Twitter was last on the list at 14 with few indicating that they’d care if it disappeared.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is social media losing its potential as an outreach and sales tool for retailers as it faces trust issues? Are you bullish or bearish on social media’s capacity to serve as a major advertising medium?

Braintrust
"I think the operative word here is “platform.” You don’t have to love the platform. "
"It is far too soon to toll the death bell for social media. Still in its infancy, in many ways, and clearly experiencing growth pains..."
"Now social media does keep evolving — it just makes it hard for marketers to harness for their own purposes."

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24 Comments on "Does it matter if social media is getting a bad rep?"

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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I think there’s a bit of overreach in this. Do I trust social media when it comes to news? No, not completely. Do I believe everything I see on social media? Absolutely not. Will I continue to use social media? Yes. Do I think retailers like Best Buy or Target are out to mislead me on social media? No, definitely not.

Social media is just a medium. The degree of trust I place on a tweet or post depends on who it comes from; that’s what really counts.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Neil, you voiced my sentiments completely. The medium is built to communicate. Just like any other medium; the information received is only as good as the source.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

The critical question for Facebook and other social media sites when it comes to advertising revenue is “are they losing eyeballs?” So far, that looks to be a no. The survey data cited simply shows that users are wise to the fact that public forums are ripe for manipulation and that everyone who posts has an attitude and an angle. The criteria for trusting social media content is the same as for trusting water-cooler gossip — who’s it coming from?

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I think the operative word here is “platform.” You don’t have to love the platform. You don’t have to trust it. But if it brings you compelling information and content, you’ll respond to it. So no, social media is not losing its potential as an outreach and sales tool.

In fact, I’ve actually been appreciating the curated ads I get from small retailers via Facebook. And I’ve bought more than I did in the past.

I find it sort of ironic that these respondents trust Google more. I’d love to have seen the answer to the question “Top three reasons you trust Google” and “Top Three reasons you mistrust social media.” That would have been interesting.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Yet another survey with little real value because of major perceptual flaws. Admittedly, I have not read the 75-page report but underlying is the unanswered question for those that do not trust the platforms, “Then why do you continue to use them?” It comes down to the typically unrecognized polling issue whereby people say one thing and do another. There’s even a data science book about the issue called “Everybody Lies.”

Additionally, I’m not sure of the reasoning as to why people would care if some companies went away was explored. Clearly, it’s a question of how their lives would be impacted, like no Prime shipping, rather than true affection for the entity being gone. With that logic, anything that gives a (perceived) benefit to a person would be missed, such as seats on a subway car.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
In many ways, social media is facing the same issue as retailers; there is too much sameness and the users are getting bored and tired of it. The loyal Facebook users like Facebook because it’s their “thing” that they enjoy but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “I don’t use Facebook anymore. I just don’t have the time.” We continue to find different interests and, today, between the online surfing and streaming any TV show or movie we want when we want it, it’s taking a bit of the one-time thrill of social media away. The second issue about most of the social media mentioned in the article is that they have no interaction with their customers other than texts or chats. Try calling LinkedIn if you have an issue with your account. Do they even have a phone number? So when a company has no real connection with its customers, how do they know if they completely satisfy them? Online surveys only tell you so much. So for… Read more »
Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Art, I was about to suggest, as you did, that the time and stature, trust, and accountability of social media may have peaked, and also wonder what advertisers will do, and what will be the next new thing.

Sky Rota
Guest
22 days 23 hours ago

I don’t really know what bullish or bearish is but I don’t have trust issues with social media. My mom told me you aren’t supposed to believe everything you hear or read.

I can speak for Generation Z and say especially for the younger part of us we are never creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account. I only have them for business and they only receive a feed, no attention. Gen Zers use YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat for all our social media needs and we will continue. We don’t want to post across 10 platforms. Advertising is going to be about keeping it fun, entertaining and most of all real. The companies that do that will get our attention.

Happy holidays!

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Social media is not losing steam with users. Consumers may change which sites they favor, but they continue to use the Internet to connect with friends, find information and shop. The problem lies in the fact that social media is difficult for brands to master. TV was easy — buy a schedule that would reach X percent of the population X number of times. TV spots are designed to sell. Social media is there to interact, have a dialogue and solve problems. Most marketers would rather sell than discuss. If used well, social media can connect with consumers and drive sales.

Alex Levashov
Guest

Social media is about having a dialogue between human beings and works for that. People are not really interested to “hear” from brands there. They tolerate it to a different extent, because social media is free to use. So in reality, it is pretty similar with old good TV, just more formats and targeting options for marketers.

Ed Dunn
Guest
22 days 23 hours ago

TV was an idiot box but infomercials and QVC/HSN prove it can be used as a medium for retailing. Social media is currently fake news but we just saw a cheese guy in Amsterdam show social media can be used as a medium for retailing using Facebook livestreaming from the store in a QVC/HSN matter with Facebook chatbots waiting online to take orders and answer questions. It’s up to the content creators to figure out the best use case.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

It does matter if social media has a bad rep, especially if that rep spills over to the content being shared. There’s a famous quote by Edward R. Murrow (the newsman) who said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.” When people discount communication, it leads to problems. But this is not all on the consumer or shopper, it’s incumbent on marketers to be truthful and open — to not take advantage. And unfortunately that is not always the case either.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

A correction in the social media phenomena can be expected as it is placed in a more realistic light related to the value that each platform delivers. The over-hype is not new to any tech-based innovation, and the needy and the greedy, with many in between, have the kind of field day that distorts its intended value. As an advertising medium the level of trust associated with social media is constantly in question, making it closer to a shill platform than one that delivers legitimately authored insights.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
Social media is much more effective when it comes to being “social” than it is credible as a “media.” Want to connect with your date from your 1956 high school prom? Works great! Want to gain an objective look at what’s going on in the world? Not so much. But the real question is, do you have to be engaged on all cylinders with a social media to make it effective, or does the “passive eyeball” effect work to build awareness? If you believe that people have to believe in a media before it’s effective, I’d say social media sites get low marks. If you think just registering your brand name is a benefit, I’d put my messaging — note I didn’t say advertising — everywhere I could. But do people really “trust” or “believe” television, or radio or print for that matter? We live in a world where the objectivity of facts is a forgotten concept, along with the idea that we can share a generally agreed to context to evaluate those facts. In… Read more »
Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Ryan, thumbs up for stating and labeling the problem(s) so well — I thoroughly agree with each statement and observation you’ve made, but you make them better and more cogently and interestingly than I ever could.

Chuck Palmer
BrainTrust

I think the use of social media as a tool for retailers and brands is nuanced and must be considered in the context of each consumer’s path. Sometimes it works for your objectives and sometimes it doesn’t. But thinking of it in isolation from other marketing techniques ignores the very behavior we’re trying to influence.

It is just one thing that influences and activates a consumer. Just like it is just one thing in a consumer’s life.

Ultimately, this comes down to strategy and content: why your customers engage and how they want to do that.

Yoav Vilner
BrainTrust
22 days 22 hours ago

The article makes a good point but I don’t think this will impact retail. Of course, social media is losing its reliability when it comes to news — there is so much news out there that it has become really hard to tell whether news is fake or it not. And the fact that more users are preferring Snapchat and Instagram over Facebook and Twitter is a meaningful sign of that. However this isn’t going to affect the retail industry in any way.

First of all, if a social media platform (Facebook) is losing credibility and users, users can always rely on a new, more popular one (Snapchat). More than that, users that still rely on platforms like Facebook will still be interested in retailers’ ads and promotions because a brand’s reliability has nothing to do with a platform’s reliability.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I’m not really sure how or even “if” many of these question/responses are relevant for companies who are trying to use social media for marketing (of course I’ve never been big on the idea anyway). There’s a big difference between saying “I trust facebook AS A COMPANY” vs. “I trust what John Doe shared on Facebook”… and regardless of what people claim, it’s what they actually do that matters. Of course if a site becomes so unpopular that no one uses it, then that site would lose its value, but that’s really more a measure of the rapid turnover in sites than the media itself.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Over the next few years, social platforms will consolidate, just as other industries have (e.g., car manufacturers, music playback devices, etc.) and people will continue to use them as a relatively unrestricted global communication platform. Retailers and CPG Brands will have the opportunity to leverage these platforms for building real loyalty and driving brand value.

Julie Bernard
BrainTrust

It is far too soon to toll the death bell for social media. Still in its infancy, in many ways, and clearly experiencing growth pains, at times, the leaders in the various organizations are none the less maturing and responding to growth opportunities. The benefits of social media most often outweigh the negatives. And the business models themselves are evolving in response to the ways users create and draw value from the platforms — and in response to what users demand in terms of improvement. So, yes, in three to five years, social media may well be different than it is today, but platforms of one kind or another will still be with us. What’s certain is that we’ll witness the emergence of new and increasingly valuable experiences — growth that will deliver refreshed value to the consumer.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Are you kidding me?! Social is trending up, not down. I’m very much a fan and proponent of social media to serve as an advertising and marketing platform … but you can’t do it the way you’ve always done it. Social media is a new way to communicate to customers, compared to traditional ways that have been around for decades. So, adapt and thrive!

Mark Price
BrainTrust

While users believe, rightly so, that the social media companies are focused on their own profits, the tools still play an incredibly important and growing role in the formation of consumer preference. The 2016 election and the subsequent fascination with Trump’s tweets show that Facebook and Twitter are more etched into public behavior than ever before, for better or worse.

Now social media does keep evolving and there is some evidence that Snap and Instagram play a greater role for Millennials. That trend in no way diminishes the role of this important and evolving channel — it just makes it hard for marketers to harness for their own purposes.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

These surveys have the same error as the prior surveys about TV: What someone says about trusting a medium doesn’t have massive effect on whether they trust messages sent through that medium — it’s the message that matters most. The key question is whether your ad is presented to them in a way in which they get the message.

That said, Social Media is getting a deservedly bad rep among ad professionals. Why? Mis-measurement. Over-statement of audience sizes by 30-50%. Lack of any independent measures. Abuse by foreign governments, etc….

At 20 years, TV was well established with independent measures as well as solid and strong quantitative (Nielsen) and qualitative (Simmons) measures that could be used for powerful planning.

At 20 years, social media remains a wild west of sources who just say “trust us — and you can because we have LOTS of KPIs.” It’s only been later that we discover things like, those aren’t real KPI’s — they’re estimates. And their estimating process is so bad that they have to be considered +/-50%.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Social media can be an effective tool for marketing if not abused. On a personal level, I use social media and like social media. But here is my bottom line: If social media disappeared entirely, the world would be a better place.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I think the operative word here is “platform.” You don’t have to love the platform. "
"It is far too soon to toll the death bell for social media. Still in its infancy, in many ways, and clearly experiencing growth pains..."
"Now social media does keep evolving — it just makes it hard for marketers to harness for their own purposes."

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