Why the Medium is the Message When it Comes to Trust

September 14, 2017

That I’m a passionate advocate of social media will hardly come as a revelation. It’s transformed the way we live; it’s democratic, unpredictable, exhilarating. And of course it’s those very qualities that make it susceptible to ugliness at times.

The brands that succeed in this sometimes frenetic environment are generally those who display the traits we’ve been exploring in this series of blogs. They maintain a constant presence. They engage in dialogue, and do it in a human voice. They use the platforms to add value for their clients at key moments.

But even businesses with the strongest online presence have met pitfalls on social media. A lack of control over the material that appears alongside their messages has on occasion threatened brands’ reputation, through no fault of their own.

The dilemma of regulation

This isn’t an easy problem for tech firms to resolve. Action over fake news, aggressive dialogue and compromised safety among the biggest tech providers needs to be balanced with the need to maintain freedom of speech – and the dynamism that makes social media so popular.

But that’s no comfort to a brand that finds itself sharing space with highly intrusive pop-ups, or worse, with offensive or abusive content. The financial sector is only just starting to claw its way back from a nadir of trust: companies need to guard against anything that might cause them to slide back in the public estimation.

At LinkedIn we’re fortunate in being relatively protected by the nature of the platform. Because it’s founded on people’s professional brands, people expect a certain value exchange – both from us as a host and from their fellow members and brands.

During the US elections, for example, I was struck by the response when users posted political content. The almost universal reaction from members was ‘This isn’t the forum – take it to Twitter.’ LinkedIn members are self-regulating, which makes for a very healthy online environment.

Minimizing brand risk online

In simple terms, brands need to be sure of the company they keep. That means choosing platforms where content will be easy to view, and not vulnerable to fraud or brand risk – the three priorities of media quality, as ranked by advertising professionals.1

LinkedIn scores highly here too. There’s only ever one ad per page, which offers 82% viewability.2 And its ad formats have been found by research to be the least intrusive of any platform.

Perhaps this is why we’re twice as trusted as our nearest rival, and three times as trusted to protect users’ privacy and data and to be clear of rogue content.3 If this sounds like bragging, I can only repeat that it’s the users of the platform and the way they use it that are its key strength.

When you find a platform that is safe and delivers for your brand, it makes sense to use it to its fullest extent. Companies such as EY, JPMorgan Chase and American Express have led the way on LinkedIn. They maintain a constant presence, enabling execs and employees alike to surface their content, and finding new ways to add user value.

In this way, brands are fighting back against the breakdown in trust that’s swept through our society. The only way to prove we’re worthy of people’s trust is by keeping two-way channels open – and today, for all its weaknesses, social media is the pre-eminent channel.

For a comprehensive guide on how to make the most of social media and content marketing, download The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to Content Marketing today. 

1 Integral Ad Science, “Top of mind for 2017,” as cited in company blog, Feb 13, 2017

2 AppNexus, August 2017. 

3 Business Insider Intelligence ‘Digital Trust Report,’ June 2017