Social Media Trust Tracker – October 2023

October, 2023

228 million Americans use social media*, but many have a love-hate relationship with their social platforms, particularly when it comes to trust. Since November 2022, Horizon Media’s WHY Group has been keeping a monthly pulse on how much people trust social media platforms and how that changes amid persistent news headlines and changes in the landscape.

Each month we survey Americans to understand their views of Twitter/X, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and Discord based on their experiences and any news they may have come across through Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse panel. 

Specifically, we set out to understand:

  • How important are various aspects of trust when it comes to social media?
  • How do social platforms meet our expectations?
  • What impact do events or actions have on trust?
  • Does a lack of trust equate to a lack of advertiser trust?
  • How does trust impact our desire to use these platforms?

What we found:

Social media consumption remains stable; some behaviors show signs of growth.

Big gaps in the trustworthiness of users and information haven’t stopped people from using social media as an information hub. The use of social for news is up 7pp to 44%, and over half of Gen Z + Millennials turn to social media to keep abreast of current events.

Social shopping also remains unaffected and shows signs of growth, with over 1 in 3 engaging, and older generations growing slightly more comfortable, up 5pp to 37%.

Gaps persist around data safety, trustworthy information, and user verifiability and continue to grow among younger cohorts. 

Trust concerns are more pronounced among Gen Z and Millennials: overall gap increases in data safety (45%), trustworthy information (33%), and user verifiability (31%) are driven by this group. 

Showing signs of fatigue, Twitter/X has seen a decline in reported use while other platforms remain steady.

Although Twitter/X does not have lower trust than other platforms, the emergence of an alternative in Threads may be the tipping point for users growing weary of Musk’s leadership. 53% of those leaving or using the platform less identify as Democrats, although there is no difference between younger and older cohorts.

Threads’ launch turns into a lukewarm reception but it’s not down yet.

Despite large download numbers, Threads has only achieved a 10% trial rate and 3% regular use – with young, male liberals as the current primary audience.

Threads has failed to deliver on its initial positioning. Fewer than 1/3 find it safe, more positive, or less political.

Political shifts, such as a more conservative X, could drive liberals to Threads (48% of those who have tried or are open to trying Threads are Democrats). This trend could accelerate if Twitter/X moves to a paid model.

Advertiser trust is high for all platforms despite platform distrust.

Instagram is particularly attractive from a brand safety perspective; positive news outweighs negative, and users feel better about brands that advertise there compared to other platforms.

For the full report, click ‘Download PDF’ below.

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