Consumers look to brands to solve privacy concerns, says Edelman study

But that could change if consumers see companies as complicit in data abuse.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: Consumers are looking to brands to solve problems such as data abuse, fake news, and hate speech, according to a report released by Edelman on Monday.

The public wants companies to do something when brand content sits next to fake news or offensive posts, and they expect companies to pressure social media platforms to keep data private. The research, part of Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer, has implications beyond social media marketing, said agency CEO Richard Edelman.

"There were two surprises for me," he said. "The first is that brands are seen as so responsible for fixing the problem. People understand that they as individuals don’t have the power to fix it. All they can do is to decide to sign off Facebook."

Edelman said the study also shows that suspicion about data abuse is growing beyond the confines of social media.

"The second thing that surprised me is this idea that somehow this concern of the use of data in social media has caused a broader concern about the use of any data in marketing," he explained.

In an essay accompanying the study, Edelman said this mistrust is spreading to all data-related marketing techniques, even practices as mundane as loyalty programs.

The research found that data breaches, along with hate speech and fake news, have made people in nine countries warier of social media. More than seven in 10 (71%) blamed identity theft for those suspicions, while 69% blamed fake news and hate speech.

Most also felt that social media can’t be trusted to deal with these issues. More than six in 10 people in the U.S. (61%), Germany (64%), and in the U.K. (65%) said they don’t trust social media to properly safeguard their data. Nearly half of all surveyed (48%) said brands are responsible for ads running next to questionable content, and 47% said when that happens, it means the brand agrees with the content.

More than half of the people surveyed said brands should push social media platforms to protect their privacy and deal with questionable content. Most (62%) favor government regulation of social media, though less than half of U.S. respondents (48%) felt that way. Seventy-one percent of all surveyed think social media should do more to support journalism.

David Bersoff, SVP of global thought leadership at Edelman, added that companies could morph from potential saviors to social media scourges if they’re not careful.

"[That’s] the other shoe that hasn’t dropped yet," he said. "There will be a lot of renewed concern and consternation about data privacy because consumers may not have fully realized yet that all that stuff is fully bankrolled by the brands."

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