We all trust strangers

I liked a recent Mashable post from Universal McCann's Tom Smith, which discussed his report on the usage of social media (which surveyed 17,000 people in 29 countries) called "When did we start trusting strangers?" I'm not surprised to hear that IM and e-mail are the top channels to inform people about products and services, but social media is definitely catching up fast: 29% have commented on a product or brand on a blog and 27% have posted an opinion about a product or brand on a social networking profile. The research clearly shows, he says, that we trust the opinions of strangers online just as much as our closest friends, and certainly more than traditional advertising.

Smith's tips:

"Participation in social media is not a choice, it is now a default. This is a consumer revolution, they choose who takes part and they are already talking about and commenting on all brands. It is down to companies to decide whether to be actively or passively involved. Secondly, transparency is essential. Consumers are constantly commenting on products and brands, so honesty and openness are vital. Companies should share their inner workings. Mistakes have to be admitted quickly and control has to be loosened to allow consumers to discuss, share and interact with your brand."
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