A friend recently asked me about press releases versus a company blog. He was arguing that the company blog is a more trusted source of information about product releases and other company information. Please note that the idea was spurred by this blog post by Jeff Bullas.
I disagree, but want to check first. I am wrong when it comes to assumptions like this, a lot. It's always best to ask. So I sent out a very quickly written survey to Facebook and Twitter. The results were interesting at first, and so I took the next step and sent the same survey to an email list of personal, non-Internet related friends and family. All responses were recorded in Survey Monkey. Below is the breakdown of where the responses came from and questions.
For those that care, I have over 3000 followers on Twitter, over 600 Facebook friends, and sent the email to 111 people.
1. Do you subscribe to or regularly read any company corporate blogs?
- No (70%)
- Yes (30%)
2. Do you ever read Press Releases when researching new products?
- No (61%)
- Yes (39%)
3. Think about the different forms of communication a company might use online to push information out about itself or new products. Please rank them in terms of perceived trust with 1 being the most trustworthy, and 6 being the least trustworthy.
- Third Party Review (2.11)
- News Section of Website (3.27)
- Company Blog (3.57)
- Press Releases (3.8)
- Twitter Stream (4.09)
- Facebook Page Wall (4.35)
Who can spot the boo-boo in here? The red herring I placed of sorts? I'll give you a minute to look ...
Got it yet?
What's typically in the news section of a company's website? Press Releases. But it is different, some place third party mentions. So I had to throw that in there too. To be fair, some of them have been replaced by company blogs, and press releases are on the blog. So it's all convoluted. This isn't a scientific study, k?
When taking in all responses, the most trusted source of company information is: Third Party Review. Hold off on the "Well, Duh!" comments, there is more cool information coming.
So news from the company website outranks social media in this study. But the closeness of the top three made me think. So I broke everything out by response collector (Twitter, Email, Facebook).
With this subset, which is largely more Internet focused influencers, the results changed substantially when it came to trust. The majority of responders still didn't read Press Releases (~56%) or subscribe to company blogs (~66%) though, which I find fascinating.
In this subset, the following results were found about trust in corporate communication methods:
- Third Party Review (1.98)
- Company Blog (3.45)
- Twitter Stream (3.63)
- News Section of Website (3.67)
- Facebook Page Wall (4.2)
- Press Releases (4.45)
So Twitter based respondents (discounting the "Duh"-answer of 3rd Party) trust a company blog more and press releases the least. And of course Twitter was more trust worthy than Facebook. No surprise there.
In the Facebook subset, there were fewer respondents, but still some interesting answers. Facebook was like both other sections in that they generally don't read press releases (53.8%) or subscribe to company blogs (61.5), but this side is more likely to read press releases. This seems to be in line with the fact that Facebook users are more on the cutting edge, but lean more on the side of your "typical consumer."
- Third Party Review (2.15)
- Company Blog (3.00)
- Press Releases (3.38)
- News Section of Website (3.46)
- Twitter Stream (4.23)
- Facebook Page Wall (4.38)
The interesting thing here is that they trust posts on a Facebook Wall the least!!! Wow. There are some trust issues there. But what I am more interested in is the fact that the blog still out ranks the press release, but still by a small margin. So the third group was selected of people that are not on the internet all day for the most part.
The email user list, as mentioned before, are NOT internet people. They are my friends and family that have "normal" jobs and don't obsess over metrics like these. They overwhelmingly do NOT subscribe to company blogs (88.9%), and with little wonder as most don't know what RSS even is. They don't generally read press releases (57.4%), but that is still average for the whole group. There is very little play there.
- Third Party Review (2.26)
- News Section of Website (2.76)
- Press Releases (3.13)
- Company Blog (3.85)
- Facebook Page Wall (4.52)
- Twitter Stream (4.61)
With this group, here is the highly fascinating thing, the "News Section" of a website ranks almost as high as the third party review. Fascinating! Remember though, the "news section" of a website is typically filled with press releases. But this was all based on perception, so they might not have made the connection.
What is more telling thought is that the third most trust worthy communication for these "everyday consumers" are press releases. At the bottom are blogs and social media.
The New Media Disconnect
My point in this study was not only to show what people "trust" more, blogs or press releases, but also show the disconnect. What we think as new media purveyors is not always accurate. We live and breathe this world, but not everyone does. Always keep in mind the Browsers Video (below), regular people don't think like we do.
The marketing choices we make cannot be centered around our own choices, but those of our customers. If your customer is a heavy Twitter user, then yes, using a survey asked of Twitter followers is fine. But the answers change when you get offline. Always know who your customer is, and how to best communicate with them. Don't let the "feelings" of a social media consultant (yes I am included in that) force your hand in a way that isn't best for your business.