Consumers Expect Brands to Help Fix Problems Plaguing Social Media

A 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, prepared for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, reveals that brands are now receiving blowback from a sweeping lack of trust in social media around the world. The survey of 9,000 people in nine countries finds that a vast majority of consumers expect brands to pressure social media platforms to more effectively safeguard personal data (71 percent), curb the spread of fake news (70 percent) and shield them from offensive content (68 percent).

“Brands are the new democracy,” said Edelman. “Consumers expect brands to have values, not just a value proposition. That means consumers are looking for brands to act to improve social media because the power of the advertiser exceeds that of the individual.”

Only 41 percent of people around the world say they trust social media, with notably low trust scores in the U.S. (30 percent), Germany (27 percent), France (25 percent) and the U.K. (24 percent).* Recent events, such as Cambridge Analytica and fake news, may now be contaminating the marketing ecosystem. They have ignited consumer ire around all data-based marketing techniques, including long-accepted, universal practices such as loyalty programs.

A majority of study respondents (54 percent) are uncomfortable with marketers tracking their in-store purchases for targeting purposes. Seventy-one percent view it as unfavorable or think it should be illegal for a brand to buy personal information from another company. And nearly half (49 percent) say they are not willing to sacrifice some of their data privacy in return for a more personalized shopping experience.

The survey also found that roughly half of respondents see brands as complicit in other social media ills: 48 percent say it’s a brand’s own fault if its advertising appears next to hate speech, violent or sexually inappropriate content; and 47 percent believe that points of view that appear near a brand’s advertising and marketing are an indication of that brand’s values.

“Consumers are holding brands accountable, just like they do the platforms,” said Kevin King, global chair of Edelman Digital. “But the price a marketer pays for a mistake can be far costlier, as it’s easier for consumers to stop buying a brand of toothpaste or laundry detergent than it is to quit a favorite social media platform.”

The Special Report shows that people’s trust in social media has been damaged specifically by identity theft (71 percent), fake news (69 percent), cyberbullying and hate speech (69 percent). Only 40 percent of respondents trust social media platforms to effectively address fake news and hate speech, and a majority (60 percent) do not trust these platforms to behave responsibly with user data.

There are real risks if no action is taken. Four in 10 respondents claim to have deleted at least one social media account in the past year because they did not trust the platform to treat personal information properly. And nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said that they want government to play a stronger role in regulating social media.

“Consumers don’t want to give up on social media, but they want a new deal with the platforms,” said Mark Renshaw, global chair of Brand at Edelman. “It’s up to brands to protect consumers from exploitation and they can do so through four actions: demand accuracy of information; commit to spending their ad dollars only on sites with high-quality, non-offensive content; urge platforms to be explicit on what personal data they are collecting and how they are using it; and ensure transparency around influencers.”

*Data from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer global survey, released January 2018

About Edelman

Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm that partners with many of the world’s largest and emerging businesses and organizations, helping them evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. Edelman was awarded the Grand Prix Cannes Lion for PR in 2014; six Cannes Lions in 2015; and the Grand Prix in the Titanium category in 2016. The firm was named “2016 Global Agency of the Year” by the Holmes Report, and one of Advertising Age’s “Agencies to Watch” in 2014. In 2015, Edelman was among Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” for the fourth time. Edelman owns specialty firms Edelman Intelligence (research) and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, experiential), a joint venture with United Talent Agency.