In the Digital Age, Trust is Distributed

Still wonder why Donald Trump became President of the United States or the British people voted for Brexit? It's a matter of trust, or lack thereof.

Still wonder why Donald Trump became President of the United States or the British people voted for Brexit? It’s a matter of trust, or lack thereof. The general population has more or less lost trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media, as the global communications giant Edelman found out in their annual survey (published in January). In the words of CEO Richard Edelman:

People now view media as part of the elite. The result is a proclivity for self-referential media and reliance on peers. The lack of trust in media has also given rise to the fake news phenomenon and politicians speaking directly to the masses.

People now trust their peers more than they trust traditional institutions. Rachel Botsman describes the shift as a move towards ‘distributed trust’, or direct trust between human beings or with intelligent machines. Institutions weren’t designed for the digital age.

In contrast, digital marketplaces are in the business of trust. The way they design trust is so different from a traditional brand. The question is, can technology make us smarter around who and what we trust?

According to Botsman, digital marketplaces have a closer connection to what the market wants.

It’s feedback on steroids, whereas older companies still often work on a linear, supply and demand pipeline. It’s not the way the world works anymore. Organisations in this camp need to take the dynamics of a marketplace and behave more like one. What trust does give brands permission to do is play in a role in the consumer’s life. Trust has always been important. Where institutions struggle is in the way of building, managing and repairing trust – there are whole new set of rules around that.

In her upcoming book “Who Can You Trust?”, Rachel Botsman explains why trust is collapsing in all kinds of institutions and yet at the same time, the rise of new technologies is enabling ‘distributed trust’ across networks of people, organisations and intelligent machines. I think we can trust her that it will be a good read.

Photo by Chris Greenhow on Unsplash