Thanks to gearing up for last month’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline, everyone’s heads are now fully in the data privacy zone. Companies must now treat their customers’ personal data with extra special care (or risk a hefty fine!). In other words, this is topic is even more serious than it already was.
On the plus side, we are more informed than ever before. People are increasingly aware of security risks that come with sharing their personal data; mostly because we’re hearing more about data breaches in the news.
Social media channels are under a new level of scrutiny since the scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica hit the headlines back in March.
In an age where personal data is more precious than ever, people who previously wouldn’t usually have thought twice began questioning the security and levels of trust they should place on social media. For months, news outlets closely reported every detail of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica case as it unfolded. But how much did people trust social media anyway; and have the revelations had any impact on this?
We collated some of the studies out there (of which there are quite a few!) to provide an informed viewpoint on whether social media is really losing its shine.
Trust in social media has always been low, but is now falling further
Edelman’s 18th annual trust & credibility survey was published in January. They questioned respondents from 28 countries. 3,413 people from the UK shared their views.
Less than a quarter of those questioned claim to trust social media as a source of information. These low levels of trust are nothing new; it’s consistently been ranked as the least trustworthy source in the Edelman report for the past three years (vs. traditional media, search engines, online-only media, owned media, and media as an institution). However, social is now falling even further behind, while trust in traditional media sources (now at 61%) has increased since the previous study in January 2017.
Distrust in social media is driven by inaction on some key issues:
Furthermore, over a third of people think social media is no longer a force for good. Prominent areas of concern for over half of respondents link to fears of being exposed to ‘fake news’ and the view that the average person isn’t accurately able to tell good journalism from rumour. Alongside this, people are demanding a greater level of responsibility from social media companies: regulation, transparency, and the sharing of personal data are all hot topics! Below are some of the key stats that show how severe these concerns are:
Social media channels also seem to be losing connection with their audiences
We’re also increasingly seeing a lower level of engagement with social media platforms (especially among young people):
As much as most of us enjoy using social media to stay connected, there is an increasing acknowledgement that an over-reliance on it can have a very negative impact. As a result, active rejection is becoming more common. Detox camps and advice on how to adjust to life without a dependence on social have been popping up here, there & everywhere!
A survey of 5,000 students, commissioned by Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference last year found that 63% claimed they wouldn’t care if social media no longer existed, and a huge 71% had already taken a break from social media in some form.
What about Facebook specifically?
Unsurprisingly, Facebook is the main company in the firing line, and there is evidence of the Cambridge Analytica scandal impacting usage of the network. The forecast is not overly rosy: Emarketer estimates that 2 million users under the age of 25 will stop using the social network this year.
Populus ran an Omnibus survey on the topic in March. While 73% of people reported that their Facebook usage hadn’t changed since the story broke, 1 in 5 people stated they used it less, and 30% had considered deleting their account altogether. They also asked people to evaluate Facebook against some important criteria. It was rated an average of 4.28 out of 10 on the favourability scale and only 3.64 in terms of trustworthiness. While we don’t have direct figures to compare this to, these are not exactly positive scores from a company set for world domination.
It should be no surprise that there are people struggling to believe that Facebook take their data seriously, with only 17% agreeing with the statement ‘I trust Facebook to hold data about its users securely’.
So, what does this all mean?
Users are becoming more savvy about the value that their data holds – and how companies use the data that they share. Social media channels have widened the trust gap, falling further behind traditional news channels as a source of information. Levels of engagement & over-reliance on these channels seem to be dwindling against many users. It’s clear that although we are a long way from breaking away from the strong grip social media has over us, over time (and especially in the light of a heightened focus on data privacy), users are becoming more cautious and starting to question the dominant role it plays in their everyday lives. Brand that prioritise digital should think carefully about how they use these channels to promote themselves and to build relationships with their ‘customers’.