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Trust Barometer: Forget TV and Radio – Consumers Today Prefer Search and Social Media

If you’re a business owner who’s hoping to build trust among consumers in ways that help you engage more effectively, it’s probably time to stop focusing your marketing efforts on TV and newspapers.

In a study that confirms the growing influence of local search and social media – as well as the decreasing relevance of traditional media – public relations firm Edelman reveals that, for all Internet users, online search engines have now grown to become the most trusted source of information globally.

  • 64 percent trust online search engines first and foremost;
  • 62 percent trust traditional media;
  • 53 percent trust hybrid media (a mix of media in traditional and digital formats);
  • 48 percent trust social media; and
  • 47 percent trust owned media. 

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer contends that “building trust is essential to successfully bringing new products and services to market, and building trust in new business innovations requires that companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, behave with integrity and engage with customers and stakeholders throughout the process.”

The study’s findings prove that business executives and other influencers should seek more creative and innovative ways to earn the trust of the informed public. Here are some of the most interesting highlights:

  • In terms of content creators, not many trust company CEOs (only 46 percent), popular online personalities (45 percent), celebrities (34 percent), and elected officials (40 percent).
  • The most trusted group is friends and family (72 percent), followed by academic experts (70 percent), companies or brands the consumer uses (60 percent), and journalists (53 percent).
  • A “person like yourself” is also found to be more trustworthy than – and twice as credible as – a company CEO.
  • When searching for business information, users turn first to online search (31 percent), which ranks ahead of TV (22 percent) and newspapers (21 percent).
social media marketing

According to Edelman, there are certain key attributes that help build trust. Businesses and brands looking to maximize engagement opportunities should, for example:

  • Listen to customer needs and feedback (including online reviews, ratings, and opinions)
  • Treat employees well
  • Place customers ahead of profits
  • Communicate frequently and honestly on the state of its business

“Building trust requires high levels of engagement from multiple stakeholders, and peer-level conversations are especially effective,” writes Edelman’s Tonia Ries in an analysis. “For most institutions, starting those conversations requires more than a viral video or shareable GIF. It requires a thoughtful, informed point of view on important industry issues and customer concerns, and a strategy for using that intellectual property to power conversations among multiple stakeholders.”

Are you a small business owner looking to build trust? Get started by checking out our 5 awesome tips for improving customer engagement.

(Infographic: Edelman)

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.


  1. Vince

    I rarely put any stock in what I hear on television. Even news stations don’t seem all that professional compared to looking up your own information online.

  2. Kyle

    Have to agree here, TV and radio has absolutely no impact on my decisions. There is no replacement for a friends advice (of course it should be a real friend, not facebook friend which I’ve seen twice in my life) or advice of family member.

    • Guy Cleveland

      I must agree with with Kyle, friends and family are the best source if they have any experience with the particular thing you need advice with. I can’t recall when was the last time I watched TV or listened to a radio station. Social network is something for fun, but not for helping in decisions.