You know how you keep hearing that social media is the future of marketing? And how social networks are changing the way people behave? There’s clearly something going on here, but it’s only the beginning.
Marketing is all about figuring out what influences purchasing decisions. And being able to tell who a person knows and talks to is central to this. You know why? Because for many thousands of years, we’ve relied on the wisdom of those around us when making choices. Modern social networks cleverly take these support systems and pin them up online. We’ve been given our first glimpse of how decisions are influenced on a global scale.
But not all friend requests are created equal. Your Facebook wall displays your college drinking buddy’s recommendation to try out that fabulous new ice beer. But it also (unfortunately) includes your weird uncle pestering you to sign up with his karate instructor. Your “friend list” goes a long way in identifying the people in your life who can sway the buying choices you make. But that list inevitably gets diluted.
What is it that actually matters here? The real value that’s hidden within a social network is the trust network. Who trusts this person and who does he or she trust. This is the holy grail. It’s who people trust rather than who they know that drives their shopping decisions.
But why is trust such a big deal when you’re about to make a purchase? The answer is simple: because every transaction is based on trust. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying your dream car or just a takeaway dinner for two. You only want to do business with someone you trust will do as they promise. In a world filled with uncertainty and fraud, you need to find merchants whom you can believe in.
And in this scheme of things, your trust network plays a crucial part in connecting you with the right merchants. The magic happens when someone you trust, tells you about who they trust. The recommendation works because trust can be transferred and our relationships serve to pass that trust along.
Networks of trust, and indeed social networks themselves, are as old as the first handshake. And as we take our relationships online, we’ll get better at telling them apart.
That’s when things start to get interesting.