WhoDoYou’s core value proposition can be defined in one word: trust. We consistently highlight trusted recommendations, trusted advice, trusted friends, etc. But in this post we’d like to explore the basic concept of trust a little more in depth. Who defines trust, and is the definition malleable? Does a trusted relationship necessarily infer trusted advice? And most importantly, what are the practical implications for people seeking help in finding trusted local businesses?
Before we get to the research, let’s point out a few obvious truths in the land of reviews. First off, when someone is paid to review a business and does not disclose it, you cannot implicitly trust their review. Secondly, if you can’t establish a person’s real identity, you may not be able to trust their opinion. This is important because many local business listing sites do not require a login (or “identity,” e.g. Facebook login or moderator approved membership). This can often result in people writing biased reviews – negative or positive – on behalf of, or against a particular business.
Intuitively, we all know these things to be true. But what else do we know about trust that can help us in finding recommended businesses and local service providers?
Contrary to much popular belief, psychological research shows that the Internet and social media are changing the way we encounter friendly relationships in positive aspects. People who use blogs, websites and email to discuss politics and current events become more socially engaged over time. In a 2010 study with 626 children and teens, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that lonely adolescents reported using the Internet to make new friends, and that they communicated online more frequently about personal and intimate topics, ultimately reporting higher levels of self-esteem. Our online friends may be more helpful than expected.
Why is there cynicism towards anonymous strangers anyway?
Studies show that it is mostly based on experience and learning. The vast majority of honest, authentic interactions end in a positive way. But if you’ve ever been betrayed by a stranger (think ‘a bogus restaurant review’) the experience probably taught you to question the type of trust you are going to build in the future. In a 2010 experiment (by Fetchenhauer and Dunning), study participants expected only 52 percent of people – with whom they had interacted directly – to be trustworthy in sharing monetary winnings. But the actual level of trustworthiness was a solid 80 percent. So when there is no ulterior motive, even strangers tend to be more trustworthy than we think.
So we know people are a bit wary of trusting strangers, but do we trust them when seeking advice? And what about friends on social networks, who are often connected to us, but not trusted friends in the traditional sense? In an observational study, Dunbar studied the content of people’s conversations in public places and classified conversations according to such broad categories as politics, sports, technical information and social exchanges. Social topics account for nearly 65% percent of speaking time with little variation due to age or gender, and within that, seeking advice was one of four main social topics. Additionally, according to a large scale study of 58,000 participants done by Forrester Research, 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from their friends as opposed to 10% who trust advertising.
All of which reinforces the basic intuition we each have, that lies at the heart of our mission at WhoDoYou: authentic advice you can trust. We believe that by building a trustworthy community of advice sharers and seekers, we get the best consensus on local business and service providers.
Getting help from our “online friends” is more important than ever because of information overload. Bottom line, we still purchase based on our friends’ recommendations. That’s why at WhoDoYou, we’ve built a community site of real people sharing the best, most genuine information. Why not come on by and try it today?