Trust and New Media: Request for Favorite Stories

I’m giving a talk in a few days to a large software company about trust and new social media.  I want to use examples to demonstrate the power of social media to increase trust–and to destroy it.

I’ve got several, but would love to hear from you.  What are some examples of trust creation or destruction involving new social media that you consider to be important, archetypal, paradigmatic (or any other big impressive adjective)?

Please add your stories via comments below: it could be a really interesting list we all could benefit from.

Thank you!

14 replies
  1. Andrew
    Andrew says:



    Take a look at "Christan the Lion".  It is a short video that shows a lion that was raised in captivity and then released into the wild remembers the people that raised him…



  2. Rebekah E. Donaldson (Red)
    Rebekah E. Donaldson (Red) says:

    Charles I wonder if there is any usefulness in taking a look at the debate about policies in the post and thread for "From the Shocking Marketing No Nos Department". Some leading marketing automation companies are arguing that it’s ok (and perhaps a "public service") to assume permission.

    I’d so value your comments and the comments of your readers, either way; public ( or private ([email protected]).

    It seems to me that getting this principle right is essential… so we need subject area experts to weigh in.


  3. Michael Benidt
    Michael Benidt says:

    Hi Charles,

    You already know one of our answers to your question. We just wrote a blog about Google, Twitter, trust and preconceptions –

    I wouldn’t normally link to one of our blog articles in someone’s else’s blog, but it’s a cautionary tale about how we trust things to be a certain way – and they may not be.

    On the other side, I can think of zillions of areas of social media that I don’t trust. I don’t trust 90% of my last 100 Twitter followers (Twpammers?). I don’t trust people who put self-serving "questions" in the "Answers" part of LinkedIn. And, most of all, I don’t trust those companies (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the rest) who want access to my entire Outlook and Gmail contacts. I believe that the people who gave me their contact information did so in trust – and were not saying "You can now share my private stuff with any tech company on earth."

    Lots not to trust in social media. But, that wasn’t your question, was it?!! Sorry, go back to my first paragraph for a great example of a way trust popped up in an online research quest.

  4. Charl9e (Green)
    Charl9e (Green) says:

    Good question, Shaula.  I’m defining as:

    Facebook, Twitter, blogs, MySpace, online communities, LinkedIn, YouTube, Second Life, and their similar ilk. 

    Wikipedia says, "Social media is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies that is intended to facilitate communications, influence and interaction with peers and with public audiences, typically via the Internet and mobile communications networks."

    If you say it fits, it probably does.


  5. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Another iconic story for you: The Plaxo Fiasco of 2003

    I’m guessing you may be familiar with Plaxo‘s story as there was a big stink in the tech world at the time: online contact management company whose product automatically emailed EVERYONE in your address book (from your grandma to  your vet to the email address that your bank uses to send you automated alerts about transactions). I think Plaxo is a great example of trust gone wrong, because they built spam into the nature of their product, they didn’t originally design for opt-out or editorial control, and it upset users enough that the mistakes almost brought down the company.  (Apparently they are still alive and kicking, although I haven’t heard much about them in years.)

    I hope you are keeping in mind your original Twitter post, too.  The criteria you lay out for effective communication provides a great framework for discussion social media tools, too.


  6. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    A couple more for you, Charlie:

    The Red Tape Chronicals tells a great anecodote about the ironies of online exhibitionism, in the course of a discussion on Facebook’s most recent privacy failure (Epic Fail, in fact).

    And as iconic social media stories go, I’d be remiss not to mention the infamous 2004 Kryptonite bike lock blogstorm.   (Keep your eyes open if you dig into that one; there seems to be almost as much discrepancy between the recieved wisdom and what really happened at Kryptonite as there is confusion around J&J’s handling of the Tylenol murders.)

  7. Rick Morgan
    Rick Morgan says:

    Clearly, just participating in social neetworking does not build, create, or guarantee trust. Just like in "real" life trust is earned over time. Yet, I have many personal stories of how I have used social media to build trust and gain value from trusted relationships.

    I found speakers and panelists for an event I am helping sposor in Chicago later this year through Twitter. First meeting and conversing on Twitter, then email and phone conversations followed. I now have a "rock star" panel of social media folks for the event.

    Before I purchased my Flip video camera and my Kindle I asked by on-line friends for reccomendations and suggestion – I trusted that input and it turned out to be "right-on".

    I attended an Webinar and was impressed with one of the presenters. We subsequently communicated via email and Twitter. I then booked him for a presentation I was chairing for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America – he did a great job and we continue to communite and work together.

    Michael Benidt (see above for his comment) met on Twitter. After several Twitter conversations he invited me to and event he was presenting at in Denver and we met in person.

    So, can social media lead to a trusted relationship  – Absolutly


  8. Stephen Hultquist
    Stephen Hultquist says:

    Trust. Trust is no different in a social media context than it is anywhere else. When I was interviewed by CNN earlier this year about getting my news from Twitter and other social networks (, the reporter wrote this about what I told her:

    "traditional media sources also make mistakes or give skewed reports.

    "If anything, Twitter reminds me that everyone is human and they all have their own views and a paradigm through which they see the world," said Hultquist who had a unique appreciation of the quick, firsthand tweets that came after the earthquake in China last year.

    "I was five miles from the epicenter of the earthquake in 1989 that happened right before a World Series game and I noticed that the media that was reporting on it wasn’t getting it all right," he said."

    What’s the point? The point is that all reporters are human beings. Some are paid to gather and report, while others do it because that’s what they enjoy doing. All of them do it for their own reasons, and often those reasons do not include being accurate or empowering.

    Similarly with trust in general. How much do you trust what you read on a social network? How does what you read on a social network impact your trust of a third-party being discussed? The answers to those questions are complex and based on the web of relationships represented by the greater network of connections.

    For example, there are a number of people who I know to varying degrees beyond the social networks or as a result of long-term connection on those networks. These people are afforded greater trust and broader recognition. Others, I just "met" today. These are taken with a grain of salt, and have just entered the vetting process.

    Therefore, what they say about a third party is weighted very differently.

    There’s more, but perhaps that will be useful for you to some degree.

  9. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Thank you for making this conversation public, Charlie.  It has been fascinating to read everyone’s contributions.

    I have another question for you, because I’m not clear on the scope of your talk.

    I get, I think, where you’re at with "new social media," and very much with "trust creation and destruction."  What I want to clarify is which agents / actors interest you.

    In my mind, you have five main stakeholders: content creators (e.g., blogers, Tweeters), content consumers (e.g., blog readers, Twitter followers), content monitors (e.g., companies or politicans who want to know what’s being said about themselves online), content sponsors (e.g., advertisers), and platform providers (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).  (That’s just me; others may define stakeholders differently.) And you have different kinds of relationships between those groups. 

    Do you know which stakeholders are represented in your audience? Which stakeholders your audience cares about?  Which 2-party relationships your audience cares about?  (You have 10 combinations to choose from, and that’s if you limit it to 2 parties–that’s a lot of material to cover.)

    Finally, have you set the scope yet for which relationships you want to address?

    Thanks for your patience with my questions.  I’m really interested!


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