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Democratization of Information and Trust Levels

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Written by: Evan Goodfellow

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People Want To Buy From Trustworthy Businesses

In a recent article entitled 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer Finds Global Trust Inequality is Growing, Michael Bush shares with PR Newswire about this year’s findings of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer study. In this year’s 2016 report he shares how there has been a widening trust gap between the informed public and the mass population citing income inequality and divergent expectations as driving the gap. The report also shows changing levels of trust for CEO’s, employees, businesses, and governments. The article shows that trust levels are becoming more important to address than ever, as they affect sales, and as customers are looking for companies that are transparent and trustworthy.

But what happens when we see the inequality of trust around the globe? CEO of Edelman, Richard Edelman explains how this “brings a number of potential consequences including the rise of populist politicians, the blocking of innovation and the onset of protectionism and nativism.” The widening gap is linked to income inequality. Double-digit gaps of trust exist between high and low-income respondents in two-thirds of the countries with the top three being the U.S., France, and Brazil showing the highest gap of disparities. For the mass populations many are expecting diminished future expectations.

What does this mean for businesses? The Barometer shows that respondents are increasingly looking to trust a “person like yourself,” or an employee over a CEO or government official. This can also be seen in the way social media sharing is taking place with respondents showing that they are “far more trusting of family and friends (78 percent) than a CEO (49 percent).

The Times they are a-Changing

Edelman goes on to warn that we must move beyond ‘The Grand Illusion’ as he calls it, which is the belief that the mass population will continue to listen to and follow the elites. The mass population used to listen to these ‘elites’ when the belief that becoming an elite was open to all through hard work. Now with the democratization of information and cases of high profile greed, misbehaviour, and a growing income inequality, those beliefs have been crushed. The trust of the mass population is no longer to be expected and is no longer the norm.

While many of the respondents are skeptical of business, it does offer the best opportunity to bridge the gap of trust. Many respondents said they viewed the institution of business as being more trustworthy, and able to keep up with change than governments (41 percent) or NGO’s (55 percent). Bush cites, “a decisive 80 percent believe business can both increase its profits while improving the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates.” While respondents showed an increasing trust in business due to a stronger economy, technology remained the most trusted industry (74 percent).

Profit and Social Benefit

We mentioned earlier that individuals were more likely to trust an employee over a CEO, however, their standing does hold potential. The report showed that the public is, “responding positively to CEOs trying to realize the dual mandate of profit and societal benefit, as CEO trust has risen substantially in the past five years to 48 percent. But they will need the help of their employees, whose trust levels (52 percent) are on the rise.” This difference in trust levels shows the need for CEO’s to work closely with employees to help promote positive images on the treatment of employees, business practices and crises.

What we can see from this study is that the perceptions of the mass population have been changing year by year, and in some years more drastically than others. The trends do show that with the democratization of information the public is becoming less likely to trust those in power and more likely to trust technology. We believe that as companies start changing their practices to cater to their customer, that technology such as market research online communities will become commonplace as they promote technology and a democratization of power within a company.

If you would like to know more about how online research communities can help your company feel free to contact us.

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