Can Brands Be Trusted Online?

Brands exist because of trust. The Web, despite its promise of near-perfect information, hasn’t obliterated that. In fact, it’s made it more important than ever.

The trick for brands is how do they build that trust online when people are just a search box away from getting the full story. It turns out the keys might lie in — surprise! — getting people to say good things about you online.

In a study done by, reviews were identified as inspiring trust twice as much as general likes, though seeing a like or recommendation from a friend increased the trust value of that action. With brands like Macy’s showing site visitors ratings and reviews from people within their own networks, it becomes easier to build trust and influence purchase intent. Respondents also said that they trust a brand more when their friends or followers post photos illustrating their own experience with a product or a service.

There are signs of this spreading to other areas. Take video. Fifty-six percent of respondents agreed that video builds trust when it adds illustration or explanation attached to other types of content. This argues for brands to dispense with the fancy metaphors and move toward showing products in action, as in, for example, Home Depot’s DIY video series on YouTube, which helps individuals improve their homes, without having to spend money on a contractor, carpenter, etc.

“With the vast amounts of information online, consumers are also using trust as a filter, and they don’t want to depend on just one source,” said Laura Salant, director of research at “Consumers are creating their own custom solutions using networks of trusted sources that include brands, content, social media and much more. The Internet is a powerful tool to help consumers get the information they need, and they feel empowered in their relationships with brands, in particular because it is easy to verify or refute brand claims, and shop around for the best prices and deals.”

That means brands have a couple choices. They can continue to pretend that they can use their marketing to paper over problems, or they can embrace consumer empowerment as a cornerstone of a new strategy for connecting with consumers.

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