Vision Critical's Matt Kleinschmit raised the issue of trustworthiness not long ago in discussing the "Quit Facebook" campaign, and it came up again when he told me how advertisers need to approach social networks. He said:
It came out of nowhere, [in research conducted] last fall, that social media as a way to reach people is really regarded poorly in terms of trust relative to the traditional media.
In fact, he noted that 60 percent to 70 percent of respondents felt that social networks were sharing their information with advertisers even though the networks told users they were not doing so.
Results from a recent Zogby Interactive poll reinforce the idea that Internet users don't place much trust in social networks. The online survey of 2,100 people found that people trust Apple, Microsoft and Google more than they trust Facebook or Twitter, according to the Zogby website. Specifically, 49 percent of respondents said they trust Apple, 49 percent said they trust Google, and 49 percent said they trust Microsoft. But only 13 percent of those surveyed said they trust Facebook, and Twitter has earned the trust of a mere 8 percent of respondents.
The numbers for Facebook and Twitter improved a little for younger adult respondents, however. Twenty percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 said they trust Facebook completely or a lot, and 15 percent of said they trust Twitter completely or a lot.
Interestingly, only 8 percent of those who responded to the Zogby poll indicated they trust the media, where Vision Critical found that those who responded to its surveys trust the traditional media more than social networks. Notwithstanding the difference, it's clear that social networks have plenty to work on in the trust department.