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I know that this will come as a massive surprise but social media marketing has a trust issue. No, really. It does.

It turns out that brands have been using social media channels to promote their products in an ever so slightly dishonest way. Brands have not been making it clear when people reviewing or recommending their products have been paid by them to do just that. Companies have also been caught by the ASA posting fake reviews.

What marketers sometimes forget is that people can see these ‘promotions’ for what they are. This is leading us to become more cynical and less trusting of genuine reviews. Worse still, it may result in us not trusting the channels at all.

Research carried out for the Chartered Institute of Marketing shows how bad this problem is getting. They show that there has been a major deterioration in trust across all channels in the last year (see the table below)

Channel % of people who had little or no trust
2014 2016
Facebook 20 30
Twitter 15 25
Instagram 11 23
Pinterest 9 21
Linkedin 8 20


Increasingly, people are turning to social media as a key source of information when making purchase decisions. Some 62% of people questioned in the CIM study said they now ‘always’, ‘often’ or ‘occasionally’ use social media when deciding whether to make a purchase, up from just 17% in 2014. So this is bad news for all of us because we all want to know what the unbiased views of other people are before we book that holiday, visit that restaurant or make that purchase.

The CIM study also shows the impact of being caught out by your customers. According to the CIM report, 38% of respondents said they would lose trust in an organisation if they discovered content wasn’t genuine (I think this is on the low side).

The upshot of all of this is that we should never be tempted to post fake reviews or pay for glowing recommendations. The social media marketing opportunities are almost limitless and we’re in danger of screwing it up! It still all comes down to providing great products and services, responding brilliantly to issues and ensuring that customers are well informed and happy. You can then leave social recommendations to take care of themselves.