Archives for May 2012

Trustworthiness. Socially speaking, of course.

I wrote a post last week about trust that was prompted by a study I had read earlier in the week.  This study suggested a causal relationship between CEOs’ and other top business executives’ personal participation in social media and the perception of trustworthiness of them and their companies.

I was skeptical.

So, I decided to do my own (equally scientific) research.  I started with The Temkin Group’s 2012 Trust Ratings.  This survey polled 10,000 U.S. customers of 208 companies across multiple industries, reporting the top twenty and bottom twenty companies.

I took a look at the top sixteen distinct logos, their CEO by title and searched for social web presence of each.  I focus on twitter and blogs in this search.  I didn’t look at whether any chief executives where engaging in customer dialog on Facebook fan pages, owned media or other such community forums.  In my search, I did find video clips of several executives on YouTube.  But, they were all news clips or other such media, not what I would call personal engagement.

Also of note, I did find a reference to two blog posts on USA Today from 2009 by Hyatt’s head, Mark Hoplamazian.  But when I clicked through to the USA Today site, the posts were not there.  I also found this recent YouTube clip on CVS’s corporate social responsibility report posted last week (I was viewer number five).  But I’m pretty sure @fartmagic is not the twitter handle for the head of this $97b company.

So, do tweets equal trust?  You decide.

16 of the Most Trustworthy Companies


A large component of the brand social media conversation revolves around this notion of trust.  Up until now, I hadn’t thought too much about it.  And being that I’m not a brand manager or anything like that, I never really saw it as a topic for this forum.

But a recent survey report I read from Brandfog called 2012 CEO Social Media & Leadership Survey prompted me to reconsider.  Before I get to some of the data that poked me in the ribs, I think it’s interesting that a survey would look at social media as relates to leadership.  The analysis within the survey seems to suggest that CEOs can enhance their leadership skill by personal participation in social media.  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that.

As for this question of trust.  The conclusion of this survey by Brandfog was that executive engagement in social media raises brand profile and instills confidence in a company’s leadership. “It builds greater trust, brand loyalty and purchase intent”.  I’m not so sure.

It’s not that I’m calling into question the reality of the response data.  But the survey population is a bit interesting.  The population consisted of company employees commenting about their own organization’s leadership and about the leadership of other companies.  What about the customers of these companies? 

I’m curious about the causal relationship.  So that’s the question that I’m posing here.  Is it enough just for an executive to participate in social media? Is the mere participation enough to alter perceptions about a company’s trustworthiness?  Also, what is the weighting of social media participation in the trust perception equation?  Is it that, all other things being equal, social media participation tips the scale?  If your product stinks, your experience is poorly designed and your customer service has a poor reputation, does the fact that your CEO tweets about the company’s mission and values even matter?  In fact, that’s about as disingenuous as it gets.  Isn’t it?

Or, is it that we, as consumers, are so easily influenced that the simple fact that a company’s CEO tweets makes that much of an impression on us that we are willing to give that company our trust?

My conclusion?  Trust is a core value.  A customer’s trust is earned through every action taken and decision made by a company and its leadership, on a daily basis.  Tweet that.