Americans More Trusting of Online Social Networks than Brits and Canadians, Survey Finds

MarketingProfs’ article, Social Networks Influential, Not Always Trusted, provides the highlights of a recent survey by Vision Critical, which found that consumers are still quite wary of social networking sites in terms of information trustworthiness and privacy. The survey, which was conducted of consumers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., found these concerns consistent among the three countries. Of all respondents, 80% found family and to be either “Completely Trustworthy” or “Very Trustworthy” sources of information; 70% also trusted their friends. Just 12% trusted online social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Yet, what I found interesting was the breakdown by country, which was presented in tables within the article, but not really covered. The omitted narrative was very telling. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about their privacy on online social networks, and 55% worry about those sites selling their personal information to advertisers. British respondents were slightly less concerned than Americans, but Canadians were much more worried – 77% and 69%, respectively.

Americans, however, were more inclined than Canadians and Brits to view social networks as good places for brands and products to advertise, to learn about brands and products, and as a source where they can become more informed purchase decisions. Americans were also more inclined to have higher trust in brand placement on social networks, especially if the placement was in context of discussions and/or recommendations by family, friends, and contacts, or if the placement involved coupons. These numbers were still in the minority, but they are sizeable minorities. Generally, Americans were more willing to give up some privacy if doing so meant getting promotions that were relevant to them.

I think that tells us a couple of things:

  1. Although American consumers are concerned about privacy and trustworthy, they still consult the sites for information, so there is still value in your company’s having an online social network.
  2. Companies that focus on increasing the perceived credibility of their social networks – encouraging fans to pass their sites and info along to friends and family, and providing timely, objective, and thorough information – both online and offline will have a better chance of monetizing their social media marketing efforts. While only 18% of Americans bought a product through a social network, increasing credibility of the network can bring that percentage higher.
  3. Just because Americans are less concerned about privacy and trustworthy than Canadian and British respondents, that doesn’t mean that they are not concerned. Social networks need to increase their credibility and demonstrate that they are still ensuring privacy at the same time.
  4. There’s a real market opportunity to develop social network trustworthiness in Canada and the U.K. Even greater efforts in increasing credibility and privacy are needed in those two countries than in the U.S., but those efforts can pay great dividends. The trick here is finding the real issue behind the wariness and seeing how best to go about alleviating those consumers’ core pain points.
  5. Americans are more open to consulting several different sources of information when making purchase decisions or other judgments, and online social networks are a complementary piece of that decision making process. Increased credibility on these sites can increase that piece’s relative importance in the decision process.

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