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Marketing For Trust

Vanessa Eaton

When Facebook and Twitter recently banned a handful of Canadian-based extremists and white supremacist groups (among others), the platform giants likely weren’t only looking to deprive dangerous individuals and organizations from disseminating hatred to mass audiences. Rather, these decisions mark the latest in a series of attempts to confront a festering reputational problem that dogs the world’s top social media brands.

This brand management saga – fueled further by the recent opinions on the dangers of a Facebook monopoly and the federal government’s Digital Charter announcement, promising increased penalties for privacy violations – is also about confronting declining societal trust. This trend is highly relevant to marketers who depend on digital channels to communicate with consumers.

Our fourth annual CanTrust Index study on trust in Canada in 2019 indicates that trust among Canadians has declined from previous years across a wide range of domains: governments, large and small companies, business sectors and leaders.

The results also show that while trust in certain information sources like word-of-mouth recommendations and editorial content has remained strong (at 76 percent and 57 percent respectively), trust in social media companies has declined. The credibility deficit has widened over time in particular for Facebook, which dropped 23 points in two years, from 51 percent in 2017 to 28 percent in 2019.

We’re now seeing social media companies wake up and try, with limited success, to ward off regulators and regain lost trust by actively applying previously established protocols or by creating new ones. A growing number of media organizations have also moved to bolster trust among their audiences, either by establishing public editors or by implementing transparency, accuracy and bias protocols (e.g., those based on standards developed by The Trust Project, an international initiative that surfaced through the advocacy of a journalism ethics expert at Santa Clara University in California).

But what’s the path to building credibility for marketers who rely on these popular platforms to promote their ideas, products and services? And how do they build trust with audiences that are losing trust in corporate Canada while increasingly scrutinizing what they encounter online?

Here are some trust-building considerations for marketers:




Our CanTrust Index shows that Canadians are seeking refuge in the genuine trust that exists within real-world social networks, as opposed to virtual ones. But companies and brands can earn a spot here, too. Winning and protecting trust, while uncovering new ways to optimize for it, must become an organizational priority. Purpose-driven companies with healthy reputations will come out on top. Trust me.