Matt at Techno//Marketer linked to this Forrester “trust study” the other day, and asked some tough, relevant questions that deserve airing before this chart gets much more exposure online. And it does seem to be getting a lot of pick up — not suprising since it reports that a “blogger’s review online” is trusted by only 30% of respondents. A call to arms!
The study looks at what “North American consumers” trust for information about products and services — respondents rate friends’ recommendations and TV, radio or newspaper reviews and the manufacturers’ websites as the most trustworthy on new products.
Matt presents a nice list of questions:
What are the demographics of the survey respondents? Marketers are going to take this research at face value without knowing if this research might scale from generation to generation. Does the category “known expert” include or exclude bloggers? For example, if you’re 18 and looking for product reviews of technology chances are good that Engadget and Gizmodo are very high on the list. With the 30% trust of bloggers, is that for unknown bloggers who may come up in a random search or it is generalized to all bloggers? Does that differ from an unknown opinion site vs. a known opinion site? As the tail quickly falls from short to long for the majority of product categories, mass media coverage drops out of the picture. Does this take into account long tail, niche categories or are you talking about things like refrigerators and vacuums vs. left handed Cuban cigars or organic dog biscuits? Finally, I found this information through Twitter and blogs. Do I need to wait until somebody I knows calls me or I see it on TV to trust it?
I’d also note the fine print that says that the study was from Q3 2006 — nearly 2 years ago. Might attitudes be changing? Or levels of trust among different types of consumers — or people shopping for different types of products — be splintering?
Or, perhaps the questions are just irrelevant. If asked you whether you trusted product information you received over the telephone, you’d probably say that it depends on who’s on the other end of the line. Same deal: No media — online, print or broadcast — is so uniform that you can answer the question without consideration for who’s putting the message into the media.
This kind of study is the reason that the standards of professional news organizations need to expand rather than shrink — and they are shrinking. Every first-year journalism student learns to be skeptical of research — and to ask basic questions about how it was produced (it doesn’t mean they always use that knowledge, but it’s out there).
Every corporate communications and marketing professional needs to ask the same questions as we push more content into the marketplace of products and ideas — not just “does it work for us” but also “is it true, is it real, and can we back it up independently?” That’s how we’ll keep earning that trust.