Is Social Media Dead? Credibility through Customer Experience

Have the winds changed? Is the social media losing the fresh influence it once enjoyed? There was an Edelman study in Advertising Age that received far less attention than I thought it would. I suspect that the reason the findings didn’t gain traction was that the results were unpopular and that people didn’t want to accept the conclusions.

In a nutshell, the Edelman study suggests that the influential power of social media is waning. According to their research, Edelman found that consumer trust “friends about half as much as they used to (25% versus 45%). We all know that for a time other forms of media were eclipsed by social media when it came to perceived referral value. But the newer Edelman data suggests that from a consumer viewpoint the most credible information about the quality of a product or service comes from radio, then print media, online friends and television.

So let’s break this down, not just as trend spotters, but for teachable lessons to guide our own business development and communication strategies. The traditional media (radio, print, and television) became the land of “hype” and “spin” where the truth was bent and tortured. Consumer’s heard outlandish brand promises designed to lure them into a purchase trap only to have a brand experience that fell woefully short of expectation.

Since post-purchase disappointment happened too often and our “infomercial products” didn’t work like the “pitch men” said they would, we looked to the “new media” as a resource for objectivity. Granted, we realized that many of our “online friends” were at best casual acquaintances but we also believed those acquaintances had no vested interest in product sales and as such were more credible sources of information. We read product reviews on-line and asked our “twitter” followers and “Facebook” buddies there opinions before we made major purchases or travel plans. With the uniquely personal nature of these dialogues. we flocked to the “new media”. With all that movement to online referrals and a perceived passion for the “new media,” advertisers and marketers began to use the “new media” to position product. We started to find that some of those product reviewers were not from actual customers but from the product providers themselves or worse yet the negative reviews were a part of a smear campaign by the competition.

While I am not ready to conclude that the “new media” is losing its potency, I am eager to dissect what all this really means! Independent of the method of communication – “Inauthenticity loses, Credibility wins.” If you communicate a credible message through any media and over deliver the experience to back-up that promise, the conversations about your brand will consistently be positive and maintain influence across all media channels. Many brands I have encountered would be better served enhancing the quality of their products and elevating all aspects of their service experience instead of spending as much time trying to advertise in the traditional media or develop a new media strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I love a catchy viral video as much as anyone else, I just like products and experiences that exceed my expectations far more!

So, where are you stretching your credibility to gain a sale or to match the exaggerated claims of your competitors? Where should you be spending more time on product or experience enhancement and less time on media channel positioning? 

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

1 Comment

  1. Mary Ann Henker on July 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Definitely food for thought!

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