Trust in social media advertising is taking a beating these days.
It’s certainly not being helped by the current controversy over personal data breaches, particularly with Facebook – a story that is making headline news around the world.
When trust in a service gets hit, the reverberation is felt everywhere.
A survey by research firm eMarketer relates the stunning reality of our times.
How comfortable are people with the level of truth and accuracy in ads? Here’s how they stack up:
- Newspaper ads had the highest rating: 70 per cent
- Ads on social media, the lowest: 24 per cent
- Ads before online videos: 27 per cent
- Google, Bing or search ads: 28 per cent
- Ads on websites you visit: 32 per cent
Clearly, there is an issue of integrity and ethics. Trust in social advertising is already low. Because some social media channels, particularly Facebook, are under siege that can only pose more problems in gaining consumers’ trust.
“All advertising channels gather as much data as possible to profile you. Most often, this is baked right into the terms of service – the ones everyone ignores, but readily accepts,” says Robin Eldred, Director of Advertising for Communicatto Inc., a digital advertising agency based in Calgary.
You may think you get are getting something for nothing, but people should understand they are ultimately paying for this service.
“There’s always an exchange of currency, and that currency is data about you: Who you are, what you like, where you live, etc.”
Since the time of the town crier, advertisers have targeted their message based on their audience, adds Eldred. The modern version is a lightning fast, fully automated system, and that scares us.
“It’s the Faustian bargain we’ve all made with Facebook, Twitter, and Google,” he says.
“Personally, I have no problem with ad platforms knowing about me. I know I’m going to get advertised to, so it may as well be relevant.”
But the ability of anyone to self-publish on social media means questionable and often inaccurate posts populate the online world. It only leads to more distrust among the general public.
What do you believe? Who do you believe? Naturally, this growing integration of social media platforms into our daily lives will lead to more issues regarding distrust. If you don’t trust what posts appear on certain social media channels, it’s likely consumers will also view ads on those channels with skepticism.
“As such fodder is revealed as fake news, the distrust grows – not necessarily for the source, but rather the channel itself. So, not only are the Russian fake-sters bad, but Facebook is equally culpable for letting it happen,” Eldred says. “Consequently, anything that shows up on the channel, including properly-vetted journalism, is painted with the same brush as the Russian news bots.”
That, of course, challenges the veracity of social media platforms such as Facebook.
If you can’t believe what you read on these platforms, it’s a given that you will be leery of advertising.
“The ironic consequence is that we need mainstream media more than ever. We are inundated information, much of which is being passed off as news. Never has there been a greater need for the reliable, trustworthy and unbiased filter that proper journalism provides,” says Eldred.
People have two choices when it comes to trusting what they read on social media. Either find specific sources that you believe are trustworthy – a journalist or a media outlet – or do some fact-checking yourself. For the latter, the rule of thumb is to find two sources that can corroborate what you’ve read.
As for advertising on social media, perhaps companies and organizations should consider a commitment to ethical advertising.
Eldred says this includes taking several steps:
- Learn how to advertise on different platforms and which tools to use, including audience targeting on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Set out how personal information will be collected and used.
- Limit your association with questionable businesses or organizations.
- Determine the types of messaging and content you won’t use, such as clickbait headlines and bait and switch.
- Ensure your ads don’t misrepresent the product or idea you are “selling”. Aim for accuracy and transparency.
Adopting some of these standards could improve the trustworthiness of advertising on social media, adds Eldred.