A new study has revealed that while Americans believe that social media has made them more informed and influential as citizens and customers, a large majority are skeptical about the trustworthiness of the information that they find on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as the motives of the political figures and corporations that use these channels.
The Allstate Corporation and National Journal surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and over, and found that while some 60 percent of Americans believe that the internet and social media has made it easier for them to stay informed as consumers, more than two-thirds (69 percent) believe that brands and political candidates are active on social media to advertise or because they want to collect information on their customers or supporters, rather than to engage.
The survey also showed that Americans trust traditional news sources more highly than those online – social media ranked last with just 30 percent placing a “great deal” or “some” trust in this sector, ranking way behind public TV and radio (75 percent), newspapers (71 percent) and cable news (70 percent).
64 percent of respondents said that they’d like to see brands use social media for customer support, while 59 percent said that a brand’s use of social media makes them more likely to rate the company as “accessible and responsive”.
“The results of this poll show that most Americans believe the emergence of constant communication is providing them better tools to make decisions under their immediate control, like choosing between cars or planning trips,” said National Journal editorial director Ronald Brownstein. “But most don’t believe these tools are increasing their leverage over the vast public and private institutions that shape the larger currents of American life.”
While Americans might be cynical about the benefits, two out of three survey respondents had used social media in the past month.
“The greater question is whether these amazing new tools can also help make us more trustworthy in our messaging and in the end reanimate our free press and our free enterprise even as it helps reinvent those endeavors,” said Allstate executive vice president Joan Walker. “This poll shows that the jury is still out on these questions but suggests strongly that in social media there is much potential for good, creating more accessibility while demanding more authenticity to be successful.”