AI is Destroying Consumer Trust

…But Communities Can Rise Above the Noise

October 26th, 2023

By Ben Turtel, Founder & CEO, Kazm

This post was originally featured in Advertising Week 👀

Digital and social feeds are awash in content with an agenda.

Brand posts and ads attempt to convince, connect, or convert us… though more often than not, they just confuse us. Influencer posts have us wondering whether they really use the products they’re promoting or just getting paid for it. There are also more platforms and fewer gatekeepers than ever, opening the door for 5.3 billion people to create content.

But the volume of authentic, human-created content may soon pale in comparison to AI-generated and/or sponsored content. Authentic content is being drowned out by a proliferation of unprecedented digital noise driven by bots, AI, and disguised promotions. It’s only natural that real people feel increasingly distrustful and skeptical of the content they encounter.

Overwhelming Consumers with Content

In today’s digital marketing landscape, a low-quality brand with few real fans can thrive in a low-trust environment by duping even just a handful of customers. But a quality brand with a legitimate following may find its growth constrained by pervasive consumer distrust.

With an ever-increasing volume of generative AI content hitting the market, these dynamics could deliver a devastating blow to consumers’ relationship with brands. In a survey by Forbes, 76% of consumers said they were worried about AI-related misinformation that could pervade product descriptions, reviews, websites, and chatbots. Influencers are suffering a similar fate, according to Nielsen, which revealed that consumers are oversaturated and skeptical of the financial motivations of many content creators and reviewers.

With more platforms and channels to reach consumers, the proliferation of content is understandable. On average, consumers interact with a business across eight different channels, including many that can be infiltrated by bots like email, phone, social media, mobile apps, websites, online chat, and SMS or other messaging services. More is not better, and these strategies and tactics are struggling to cut through the noisy clutter and losing impact.

With so many points of contact, traditional and AI-enhanced brand messaging is prone to becoming overwhelmed by digital noise that can inundate the customer experience at almost every turn.

AI Creates More Noise Pollution for Brands

Further complicating matters for brands is the emergence of AI-driven social bots that can rapidly spin up abundant, unique, and deceiving content. As these technologies and tools become more sophisticated, research shows they can more easily evade detection.

Abundant and sophisticated AI-powered bots create pitfalls for data-driven marketing departments:

  • Flawed ROI metrics: Fake traffic or outright click fraud can warp the accuracy of conversion rates and other analytics that measure campaign effectiveness.

  • Inaccurate Insights: With the ability to create online personas, hard-to-detect social bots may give brands a false impression of consumer demographics.

  • Contaminated funnels: Bots that look like promising leads are actually dead-ends, which can draw sales efforts away from real clients and undercut funnel management.

  • Misguided strategies: Misleading data about customers, engagement, and conversions can form the basis of campaigns that use the wrong tactics or target the wrong audience.

For brands, this noise pollution, content skepticism, fragmentation of consumer experiences, and disaggregation of data pose significant threats to their business. They can result in wasted ad spend, the development of ill-advised or inefficient campaigns, and make traditional channels for reaching consumers less effective… all of which can negatively affect brand positioning and reputation.

Cultivate Community to Rebuild Trust

To combat noise pollution, brands must prioritize building communities and empower fans, consumers, and advocates to form new connections, collaborate in the creation of content, and endorse products via word-of-mouth personal recommendations from people they know and trust (just as used car shoppers might ask friends for a referral to a reputable dealer).

In doing so, communities will help establish and bolster brand and consumer identities, especially when consumer relationships exist across distributed platforms and channels.

The traditional model for branded loyalty programs focuses on a single touchpoint (e.g., the point-of-sale) and a one-dimensional link between the brand and each individual customer.

This approach not only fails to capture multi-channel touchpoints, but also ignores how webs of engagement between consumers create stickier and more resilient connections around a brand.

Peer-to-peer interactions happen whether a brand is present or not. Reviews, blogs, and social media posts directly influence brand reputation and identity. Instead of fighting this reality, brands can embrace these powerful links among members of a vibrant community.

As Susan Fournier and Lara Lee wrote in the Harvard Business Review in the early days of social platforms, the most successful brand communities share key characteristics:

  • They are not simply transactional: The “buy 10, get 1 free” punch card model is too antiquated for most modern communities. Consumers want an experience of inclusivity and identity that goes beyond just a discount.

  • They function across platforms: Since brand-to-consumer and consumer interactions unfold on many different channels, communities should be able to recognize and reward activity across diverse sites of engagement.

  • They provide a role for everyone: While brands should always value their biggest fans, there should be space for participation and buy-in from people at all levels.

  • They are nurtured, not controlled: Trying to micromanage every aspect of a community stifles authentic relationships. Rather than exerting total control, brands can set ground rules and incentivize activities that allow positive connections to flourish.

Consumers who feel valued are more inclined to join meaningful, viable communities and become brand champions among their personal connections. They’re also far more likely to share first-party data with the company, making it easier to discern real customers from bots and glean feedback that enhances consumer insights. As brands look for solutions to noise-driven customer skepticism, a community-first strategy can be a lynchpin of social proof, brand authenticity, retention, and long-term relationships.

Looking to build community and break through the noise?

Kazm enables unified cross-platform community engagement and loyalty. Easily launch white-label memberships to reward activations across EVERY touchpoint - with no-code and no limits.

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