The tsunamic growth of social media in marketing has shown quite clearly that many guises of online advertising are far more trusted by consumers than ads appearing in conventional media.
It all makes complete sense.
As most marketers will tell you, consumer-to-consumer word of mouth has always been the most effective, efficient, cheapest and most trusted form of advertising in the history of mankind. Even to the point of human nature preferring to trust the word of a hairdresser or dentist, rather than a specialist TV, car, computer or furniture salesman.
Story in the stats
Nielsen's recent Global Trust in Advertising Survey
, of more than 28 000 internet respondents in 56 countries, showed that, while nearly half of consumers around the world said they trusted paid television, magazine and newspaper ads, confidence declined by 24%, 20%and 25% respectively in the three years since 2009.
According to the study, 92% of consumers around the world said they trusted word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising - an increase of 18% since 2007.
Online consumer reviews were the second most trusted form of advertising, with 70% of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust this platform - an increase of 15% in four years.
Only 40% of global respondents found product placements in TV programmes to be credible, while 42% trusted radio ads and 41% trust pre-movie cinema messages.
It is logical, therefore, that any form of mass media advertising that can replicate word of mouth will be far more trusted and efficient.
The old advertising adage of friends and family talking about products, brands and particularly customer service around the dinner table has now been revived in social media.
Rather than wait to tell a friend about bad service or a good deal, consumers can now reach anything from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of "friends" by instantly connecting with them through Twitter or FaceBook on their mobile phones or tablets.
It is because of the high trust factor that is embedded in social media messaging that companies are being subjected to infinitely higher levels of consumer complaints and negative comments.
Not a game anymore
In my opinion, social media monitoring
by retailers and consumer product manufacturers and distributors is no longer just a fad or something nice to do to show that the company is keeping up with the times.
Social media is instant and the corporate PR response now has to be instant as well.
Bearing in mind that perception is far more powerful than reality, any company that waits more than an hour, let alone days or weeks, will suffer untold damage and distraction.
Closer to the consumer
Equally, when it comes to advertising, it make sense that if marketers are finding that it is now more economical and efficient to focus on the point at which the brand comes into contact with the consumer - as in "in-store marketing" - it also makes sense that advertising will move along this same route towards far more direct communication with consumers.
Marketing is moving away from advertisers informing consumers of the products to consumers demanding information from brands.
And the big thing is that this information needs to be trusted by consumers before it is accepted by them. And therein lies the rub.