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DCN’s new research: Trust as a Proxy for Brand Value 

December 6, 2017 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

As the digital landscape continues to shift, it’s essential to understand the value of trust in digital media and the components needed to build a successful consumer relationship. New DCN research, Trust as a Proxy for Brand Value, shows that consumers today are increasingly using social media as their digital gateway to access information from news to entertainment. In fact, Facebook’s newsfeed is the number one place users go to get digital content.  

Interestingly, our research uncovered that, while consumers use social platforms as a principal access point for information, they often do not trust the content they find there: Only 55% of consumers trust the information they find on social platforms. Furthermore, significantly fewer Millennials (45%) trust the information they find on social media. It appears that newsfeed automation and algorithms have a hand in the problem. Six in ten consumers (62%) agree that “there’s so much random content on social media, there’s no way to tell if an article is credible or not.” 

As a result, a younger audience of “Social Skeptics” has emerged. Seven in ten of these consumers choose quality brand sites for content and prefer brand sites/apps for information. In fact, 41% of Social Skeptics have subscribed to digital content, which also signals a preference for premium content. This high-value audience is quite desirable: 61% are under the age of 40 and 68% purchased an item in the last month based on an ad they saw online. 

The DCN research also showed that “fake news” and the spread of misinformation is impacting consumer trust in digital media. Eighty-two percent of consumers agree that “there is a lot of fake news on social media.” The fake news problem doesn’t stop there. Fifty-five percent of consumers surveyed noted they find a lot of fake news on brand sites and apps as well. Younger generations (Millennials and Gen-Xers) are even more likely to say there is a fake news problem. Misleading headlines, too many ads, and sensational, clickbait articles are top items that break consumer trust. 

Brand sites build trust by delivering on key attributes, such as credibility and accuracy, which correlate highly to both trust and importance. However, there are also hidden drivers which are less obvious—but correlate highly to trust. These include popularity, virality, and personalization, all of which are important strategies to employ and very much a part of the algorithms of platforms.   

Four key building blocks of trust that brand sites should incorporate into their strategies were uncovered in the DCN research. All four components are important in establishing and maintaining brand trust. 

  • attribution: confirming information with multiple sources; 
  • reputation: acting as an authority; 
  • navigation: ease-of-use /smart user experience;  
  • prediction: positive past experience and direct relationship with the consumer. 

Advertiser Impact 

Consumer trust in brand sites also positively impacts advertisers on the site. Higher trust in brand sites results in a trust halo effect for advertisers. Brand sites provide a significant boost in advertiser trust and positive perception compare to social media and YouTube. 

Two attributes that highly correlate to the importance and trust of advertisers on brand sites include emotional connection and identification with the style and tone of the brand site. In terms of building trust for the advertisers on a brand site, these two components resonate significantly with Millennials as compared to other generations.  

Consumer expectations around trust is higher for brand sites and apps. Consumers expect them to be trustworthy, credible, accurate, and up-to-date. Thus, brands should closely monitor trust and work to maintain it as a key differentiator in the volatile digital media marketplace.