Survey: Consumers Trust The Internet More Than Friends And Family

Surveys. Boy, how we love surveys. You never really know what people will say or how they'll react to a crazy question, but it's oftentimes hilarious to see the results. A survey taught us that people prefer airport Wi-Fi to good airport food selections (hey, we can't argue!), and now a survey has found that consumers trust the Internet more than their own friends and family. Wait, really?!

The Digital Influence Index  event, presented by Fleishman-Hillard International in partnership with Harris Interactive, is to thank for this crazy revelation, as it found that "for the average UK consumer, the Internet outweighs all other channels in terms of influencing purchasing decisions." Involuntary interactions are also trusted - such as companies who use Twitter to monitor and respond to consumer issues.

The Digital Influence Index was the subject of a presentation and panel discussion last week about social media and its impact on a variety of industries. The panel explored how social media has changed the landscape for how consumers interact with brands and organizations and explored everything from the revitalization of the National Health Scheme and Mommy blogger product endorsements, to voter activation during the recent UK election and managing an online crisis via social media. It's not too surprising to learn that the Internet has become a go-to place for information, and people are generally more trusting of the online think-tank than their own friends, relatives or print media publications. A few of the key findings are below, but here's the primary one. Next time your friend asks you about something, now you don't have to feel bad about saying "Just Google It!"

The Key UK Consumer Findings of the Digital Influence Index Include:

    *     In the U.K., 36 percent of online consumers do not read magazines and 33 percent do not read a printed newspaper.
    *     The internet is absolutely or very important when making decisions to almost 30% of online consumers, more than twice as much as TV (13%).
    *     53% of internet users in the U.K. think that others share too much personal information.
    *     Only 9% of Internet users in the U.K. are concerned about the impact their social media activities could have on their career, compared to over half in China.
    *     Only about half of Internet users in the U.K are comfortable that a company would monitor a person's Twitter account and respond to issues expressed by customers. This is the lowest level of comfort of all studied countries.

The study also measures several key aspects of consumers' use of the Internet, from media consumption patterns, to the degree of adoption of various digital behaviours, to involvement with online social networking. Now in its second year, the Index has expanded to include 48 percent of the global online population, spanning France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Japan and the United States.

"Our survey provides overwhelming evidence that the Internet is at the center of the decision-making process of consumers," said Dave Senay, Fleishman-Hillard president and chief executive officer. "It suggests, definitively, that marketers who do not have end-to-end strategies which put digital influence at the center of their marketing plans are doing so at their own peril. Marketers who 'get it' will be able to leapfrog their competitors who don't." The Digital Influence Indexreveals the following nine key insights into the Internet's global influence on consumers' lives:

1. Funding Gap: Globally, digital dominates in influence but not marketing dollars spent. The Internet is by far the most important medium in the lives of consumers, but companies continue to underinvest in their online marketing efforts.

2. On the Edge: Chinese Internet users are more advanced, but are early adopters, with room to grow. Although the Internet is the most important medium in all countries, it plays an even more critical role in China, home to the world's largest and fastest-growing population of online consumers.

3. Beyond Mainstream: Digital is core to decisions -- for research, purchases and peer influence. The Internet plays an integral role in the decision-making process.

4. Too Much Information (TMI): Online oversharing of personal information isn't just a bore, but a rising threat, as well. As more users embrace social media and generate content, a consensus is emerging -- people share too much personal information, and too little of it is particularly interesting.

5. Cautiously Trusting: People trust the Internet most when they have multiple sources -- and a friend is one of them.

6. Pay to Play Doesn't Play: Trust in bloggers for hire remains weak. Across all countries studied, Internet users report a lack of trust in content produced by sponsored or paid bloggers.

7. Real-Time Trust: Microbloggers trust companies that listen and respond in real time. Users who have adopted microblogging tend to trust companies that monitor their online activity. They seem to view this online listening as a sign that organizations care about their needs and want their feedback.

8. Mobility Gap: As apps multiply and speeds increase, mobile users snap up smartphones -- but realize only a fraction of their potential. Although mobile Internet use is growing, a significant gap exists between the capabilities available to mobile phone users and the number of individuals who actually take advantage of them.

9. Where to From Here?: As Internet use continues to grow, will its influence grow, too? Depends who you ask. As important as the Internet is now, will its consumer influence continue to grow in the future? The answer varies from country to country ... but in China it is a resounding "yes!"

To download a complimentary copy of the Digital Influence Index study, and read in-depth analysis on all nine insights, please visit