There’s No Such Thing as Social Media

I read a question the other day…

How much do you trust information from the following sources?

Social media

I don’t understand how a question like this could possibly be answered by a respondent. It implies that social media is some sort of sentient being that socializes information — some of which is true and some of which isn’t.

It’s like asking if you trust information that you hear over the phone. I mean, Social Media is a platform across which messages are conveyed. Yes, some social media platforms may have more “fake news” than others, but how can a respondent be asked to evaluate the veracity of a statement simply based on the medium through which it was sent? They can’t. And they shouldn’t.

The other part that irks me about these question is that often you’ll see something like this:

Social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)

Seriously, if this is your view of social media, then you really need to get with the times. Any marketer knows that the demographic makeup of the users of these sites is VASTLY different, and, thus, the content of the communications promulgated through different social media platforms is going to be VASTLY different. The corallary is that the trustworthiness of each of the platforms will be evaluated differently.

A question like this is better framed as an “all else equal” question. For example:

If you heard/read [INFORMATION], from [PERSON], how much would you trust that information if you read/heard it on each of the following media/platforms?

Asking the question like this limits your scope a little bit, but how much scope are you really looking for here. I assume you just want a general sense of how some piece of information would be interpetted on different platforms … does it really matter what that piece of information is? Do you really need to generalize to the point that the question becomes unanswerable for the respondent?

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