Trust or Die Trying…

Rachel Bosman’s recent TED Talk about collaborative consumption, linked below got me thinking about our brave new online world marketplace, and how we are transforming our lifestyles and businesses based on our ability, and need, to trust others, online.  But can we?

When you jump into an UberX does it ever cross your mind that you are getting into a car with a driver who was vetted by a different standard than a taxi driver? Historically, our collective trust has been built out of necessity: When you get on a plane, you need to have the trust, and faith, in the pilot’s abilities and that the airline and government went above and beyond to secure your safety. There has to be a certain level of trust, because you are quite literally putting your own life in someone else’s hands. As a society we are doing this more and more every day, in every aspect of our lives. We trust and we act. But should we?

As the title of Bosman’s  TED Talk suggests, the economy we live in is based on trust – But, how do we know who to trust? Is social media and online commentary reliable? Between Google, Facebook and other online options, can we learn enough to tell us if we want to buy, rent, or date you?  Online consumer confidence is so popular that many companies are beginning to aggregate what folks are saying about you, collectively online, over tracking your influence or Klout score we are moving into online reputation scores and reputation management.

As a society, we perpetuate this new trend of online trust by embracing a whole spate of emerging online businesses, such as CouchSurfing or AirBNB where people you don’t know and never have met can stay in your house. And we judge  AirBNB profiles like we would an online dating profile; we see if there are shared interests, geographic desirability, and attractiveness. But we have absolutely no idea what the people who own the rooms are really like. Sure some quick Facebook and Google stalking could tell us more, but how far can you get with that?

The concept of “catfishing” demonstrates that online fraud is all too easy; however, we tend to forget that  you will eventually be exposed. We as consumers foolishly  expect honesty, but we shouldn’t  naively navigate the online market without some mechanism to help efficiently weed out the crazies, or protect our own credibility. Like in person, as in the real world where people meet face to face, you know, there are plenty of people who present facades.

Bosman’s talk made me wonder if we are  being too careless by blindly trusting people and companies online, based on our gut instincts and collaborative consumption.  Sure, there are a lot of fishy folks that walk in our non-cybery world every day –  I’ve come across my fair share – so how do we asses them? Equally important, how do others judge and trust us? How do you think others would describe your level of trust in 3 words? Is your reputation in person as credible as it is online, and vice-versa?

As the common maxim argues, “actions speak louder than words,” I, too, believe that you build trust from what people do, not by what they say. For many, words come easily. I have a strong gut instinct and am able to get a good read of a person when I meet them, but online is a totally different game. I have to base my trust on what they write or post, or what the internet says about them as other helpful measures such as body language or facial expressions don’t come through online.

Maybe, like with Uber’s two-way rating system, we know we need to be on our best behavior because not only are we judging the drivers, but they are judging us as well, and we both want good ratings. The smart thing to do is to always be kind and honest online and in person, much like you should be in life…treat as you’d like to be treated…  And as you navigate this brave new online world, it is equally important to ask yourself the following question – What would others say about you or more so, what would you like others to say about you? In this new online economy, no one wants their stock or reputation to be devalued.

Clearly the new landscape presents a whole new paradigm to consider, but perhaps the golden rule of our very first marketplace still applies to our modern evolving virtual marketplace – caveat emptor, or “buyer beware.”  Or to invoke another savvy self-protecting credo, trust, and verify… or die trying-



Rachel Botsman: The currency of the new economy is trust


About SilverStrategy

SilverStrategy is a Washington, D.C. based public relations and public affairs firm. We assist clients with forward-thinking campaigns and use strategic planning in order to gain exposure and achieve our clients’ goals. We provide: - Media Consulting and Training - Strategic Communications - Business Development - Event Planning - Fundraising - Image Branding and - Marketing campaigns for clients across all industries. Utilizing our unique edge, we converge our many resources within the press, business and non-profit industries to build our clients’ publicity. Bottom line: we create new opportunities for growth and partnerships.
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