If you ask the average consumer how they decide what to believe on social media, they will tell you they look at the source. Is it a reputable organization? A brand they like? If so, they trust the information.
The reality is far different.
It turns out that consumers’ perceptions of trustworthiness are much more influenced by who shares the information than where it originated, according to a recent study by The American Press Institute. If a trusted friend shares a post, it’s assumed to be true—even if it is from an unknown news source. If a frenemy re-posts something from a highly reputable media organization, it is more likely to be disbelieved.
Social media users also tend to take action based on a post from a trusted friend, regardless of who generated the content. They like, recommend, and follow the friend’s unknown source at higher rates than the frenemy’s reputable source.
And remember…this all happens while consumers believe they are making judgments based on the trustworthiness of the original information source.
Sources: American Press Institute 2016, Gallup 2016, Media Insight Project 2017