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01st October 2016

Trust, The Rolling Stones and the internet

09th November 2015 | Posted in Opinion

I’ve been thinking about trust, The Rolling Stones and the internet recently.

1500When I wrote a Sales training course for the first time, I included something in there about helping your customer to understand that you think like they do. The unoriginal observation was that people trust the opinions of peers and are disinclined to follow the recommendations of those they regard as being different to themselves. Or, as Jagger and Richards put it:

‘He can’t be a man cos he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me’.

This thinking, in part, gives us the ‘peer reviews’ that tractor noisily around the internet. Experience has made it hard for people to trust organisations own opinions about their products and services, so harvesting the opinions of others has come along instead. The hope is that the ‘vertical’ relationship of trust with the organisation will be replaced by a ‘horizontal’ relationship of trust with peers. Unfortunately Trip Advisor famously made a fictional restaurant a hit through some great ‘peer reviews’. Equally fatal to the approach, Amazon is suing a thousand or so allegedly fake reviewers and paid-for favourable reviews in blogs is proving to be, um, problematic. And perhaps worst of all, Glassdoor aims to solicit workplace reviews from ex-employees and then charge employers to learn how to present the feedback in the most positive light.

So much for trust.

At its current stage of evolution, the internet is a market place and those businesses we don’t trust want to sell to us there. And this isn’t just any noisy bazaar because it’s been intermediated by the hustlers of Google who’ve ‘personalised’ search, which really means them controlling advertising revenue like a slightly dodgy tour guide pointing you towards their ‘favourite’ restaurant. So if we haven’t done so already, we will acquire as little trust in ‘peer review’ delivered this way as we have in any other form of self-promotion. It’s no wonder that ‘(I can’t get) No Satisfaction’ and perhaps the best advice is to look for it in other places. This week I’ll eat in a restaurant recommended by a friend, I’ll finish a book from an admired writer I’ve read before and I’ll resist all attempts to over-sell working with my employer. Those sound like a sounder basis for trustworthy recommendations to me.

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