Consumers Punish Brands For Deceptive Behavior Online

Newsflash: people don’t like being lied to! Brands who trick consumers with deceptive practices on social media pay a heavy price for their dishonesty, according to a new study from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK, which surveyed 3,000 British consumers in April. However consumers still see social media as a valuable resource for researching purchase decisions – just approaching it with a healthy skepticism.

One quarter of consumers said they’ve seen fake online reviews fabricated by brands, up from 17% two years ago. Furthermore, 21% said they have seen brands pay people to share positive comments, while 16% have seen brands pay people to promote their products online without the appropriate disclosures.

No surprise, consumers are also increasingly skeptical about the content they see online, with just 19% saying they feel like they’re able to distinguish between paid promotional and organic content. That’s down from 38% in 2014, suggesting that deceptive practices are getting more sophisticated. All this has consequences, as 38% of consumers surveyed said they would avoid a brand on social media for engaging in deceptive behavior on social media.

Trust in most social platforms is decreasing, with one important exception – Facebook. Here, 62% of respondents said they have “complete trust” in information they get from Facebook, up from 46% two years ago. However, the proportion who say they have complete trust in content they see on Twitter has decreased from 55% to 47% over the same period, while the proportion for Instagram fell from 49% to 38%, and blogs tumbled from 67% to 43%. Sites posting online reviews are also deemed untrustworthy, with just 25% of respondents saying they consider reviews genuine.

On the other hand a majority of consumers still believe social media is a source of useful information when researching purchase decisions: the same survey found that 62% use social media when deciding to buy a product or service, with 32% citing Facebook, 18% for YouTube, and 17% for blogs. Meanwhile despite the low level of trust 81% said they would read an online review before buying a product, and 54% said they would post a review online if they were pleased with a product or service.

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