Who do You Trust?

Marketers over the last few years seem to have rediscovered the value of word of mouth in terms of generating long-term profitable business relationships. As is often the case when we discover something good we sometimes over do it, by going too far.

I recently joined Twitter. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is a micro blogging site limited to 140 characters. I decided I needed to dive into social networking so I don’t get left behind.

In addition to meeting lots of interesting people from around the world and learning all sorts of interesting things I might not have been exposed to, there is also a lot of what I consider to be Noise. Many of the Tweople (People who Tweet) are obviously Affiliate Marketers. These individuals are paid to drive web traffic and or transactions to other web sites. Wikipedia describes this trend in great detail.

Many of these individuals will make an intriguing post that when you follow the link to read more and investigate, you are lead to a website to purchase a juice product, to get your colon cleansed or to join the latest MLM program. These are all valid products BUT the way you get there is often misleading.  “The latest consciousness raising break through,” can lead you to a cleanse, for example.

What I observe in myself is that when someone refers me to a product, a service, or an information source because they have found it beneficial and they are being generous I learn to trust them and they gain credibility. When it is a blatant attempt to get me to visit a site or to buy a product, I learn not to trust them and by extension the products or services that they are selling.

So if this is the case for many, as I suspect;  what are the implications for this growing phenomenon? How can business engage their customer in meaningful trust building vs. trust diminishing ways?


  1. Hi John,

    I have observed the same phenomenon. In fact, some of my blog articles have been used this way. And I have to admit that I really do not understand it. Logically, one would think that if I was diverted to a website that was pushing some product that I would be so turned off (as you are) that I would not buy the product, that their attempts would fail, and that this would soon come to an end. The fact that this is growing tells me that the marketers are having success with this idea.

    Unlike you and I, it is apparent that some people are not offended by this and actually responding to it. I don’t understand it. I certainly would not put my trust into these people, but there is no question that it is working.

  2. Hi John,

    While this phenomenon with Twitter is interesting, it is hardly unique. Haven’t we seen the exact same thing with email? Email could be a phenomenal tool but it was quickly hijacked by some unscrupulous marketers and turned into a vast wasteland. Today I am bombarded with hundreds of fake emails, from fake email addresses, with misleading or heavily disguised subject lines, all designed to get me to open and read a message that I have little or no interest in, or to click on a link that will take me to a website that is unrelated to the message itself.

    And while I find this appalling, at some level I realize that this technique, no matter how dishonest it is, must be working at some level or they would not keep doing it. So while I (like you) would never trust a twitter message or email that was obviously a trick, there must be a significant number of people who do respond to these.

    It says something about our society, doesn’t it.

    The worst part of this whole scenario is that it leads back to your question of “who do I trust?” Since these messages are clearly marketing oriented, it builds a basic mistrust of marketing in general. To me, real marketers must now work harder than ever to prove that they are legitimate and valid or I won’t deal with them.

    It would seem that a few bad marketing apples have spoiled the whole bunch.


  3. The answer to the question who do you trust, is interesting and lots of people write far more eloquently on the subject than me. However, I think this is where we (business leaders) can stand out. By taking the initiative to build trust in forthright ways that are focused on value creation; we stand apart and over time we reap the benefits.

    Thanks for reading,

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