Twitter has proven that people care about what other people are saying online, regardless of whether they know them in real life. That fact makes brands and advertisers especially interested in getting into the space. But companies should be wary about getting too focused on winning friends and influencing social media users. Because people don’t seem to trust their online friends. 

Razorfish has put out a new study that found only 33% of consumers surveyed trust their friends online.

The study, “Fluent: The Razorfish Social Media Influence Marketing Report,”
looked at how trust works across the different platforms online and
offline. And found that people trust their online peer group less than they trust television ads or online reviews from strangers.

The study surveyed 1,000 customers about social media and e-commerce
activity and found that while 71% of respondents had shared their
recommendations of a product, service, or restaurant online, only a third of those surveyed trusted the opinions of their friends online. That’s compared to 73% of consumers who voiced near or complete trust in the opinions of their offline friends.

Respondents have more trust in TV ads and expert online reviews than in their online friends, with 52% trusting television ads and 47% trusting expert reviews. But most surprising is how consumers respond to online friends versus banner ads, which are considered a weak branding source in many areas. But the 33% of people who trust their online friends is only slightly higher than the 31% who trust banner ads.

Before spending money to win over influencers online, brands need to assess the value of what they’re getting. Most especially, these numbers point to the large gap between audience and influence. While social media is an attractive space for advertiser looking to leverage the audiences of actives sharers in the space, many people with large social media audiences are likely not influencing the decisions of their folowers

According to Razorfish:

“It is not enough to look at how social influencers affect brand affinity or purchasing decisions just online or offline. As the two worlds blur, brands will need to look at the role influence plays irrespective of the channel, platform or location of that influence.”