Personal relationships and recommendations key for brands in UAE: MEPRA

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DUBAI — An independent survey of more than 1,000 residents about how trust is built in products and services has highlighted that people still rely overwhelmingly on personal recommendations in the social media and advertising age.

Some 84% of those polled said they trusted face-to-face recommendations of products and services from their friends and family. When asked the same question about online, social media-based recommendations from friends and family, that number dropped to 55%. Only 39% of respondents trusted online recommendations from social media influencers or people with large followings.

The survey, which was commissioned by the Middle East Public Relations Association and conducted by YouGov, also covered trust in media and advertising. Trust in print publications, in newspapers and magazines, was highest, at 48%, followed by radio and television, both of which scored a 44% trust rating. Blogs were the least trusted source of information, at 39%.

Ray Eglington, chairman of MEPRA, said: “Over the past decade, paid advocacy such as advertising and the use of social media influencers has grown exponentially. But what is clear from this survey is that earning the voluntary endorsement of millions of ordinary people remains the key to brand success. That is what public relations is all about.”

Social media has become the most important source of information for people. Some 57% said social media has become a key source of information about goods and services today compared to five years back. However, half of the respondents also said that they have little trust in what they see on social media.

Newspapers were the second-most important source of information for half of the respondents, followed by television (45%) and radio (41%). Over half of the respondents (59%) agreed with the statement that so-called 'fake news' has lowered their trust in mainstream news media.

For advertising, the most trusted formats were television and billboards (both at 45%), followed by radio (41%), and online (37%). Over half of respondents (57%) said they trust advertising less today than they did five years ago.

Brand websites scored higher than both media and advertising for trustworthiness; 53% of respondents said they trust corporate websites. Conversely, almost two-thirds of people (63%) have more trust in what a third party says about a good or a service than what a brand says about its own goods and services.

On social media, Facebook is by far the most useful source of information for goods and services, with 52% of respondents using the site to know more about brands. WhatsApp was second, at 17%, and LinkedIn was third, with 10%. — SG


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