How toxic and fake user-generated content has impacted brand trust

by | Jul 13, 2021 | Public Relations

There’s been an increase in inappropriate or misleading user-generated content (UGC) online since the onset of the COVID crisis, and it has caused consumers to have trust issues with brands, reveals new research from CX and digital solutions firm TELUS International.

Over half (54 percent) of respondents in the firm’s latest survey say they have witnessed this rise, with 36 percent seeing instances of inaccurate, fake or even toxic UGC multiple times a day, and an additional 15 percent saying they see this type of content daily. More than 40 percent of respondents will disengage from a brand’s community after as little as one exposure to toxic or fake UGC, while 45 percent say they will lose all trust in a brand.

“People are being exposed to higher volumes of inappropriate and misleading user-generated content as more of their daily lives have moved online since the start of the pandemic—a challenge that consumers want to see brands tackle head on,” said Jim Radzicki, chief technology officer at TELUS International, in a news release. “It is in the best interest of organizations to deploy strong content moderation tactics and technologies to combat this material when it appears on their channels as nearly 70 percent of survey respondents stated that brands need to protect users from toxic content and 78 percent said it is a brand’s responsibility to provide positive and welcoming online experiences.”

Other findings on the impact of inaccurate or otherwise harmful UGC identified by respondents included:

  • The most frequently encountered unwanted content includes spam (61 percent), fake reviews and testimonials (61 percent), and inappropriate or harmful images (48 percent).
  • Consumers report finding these types of content so impactful that it has affected the quality of their day, with 38 percent saying it has made their day worse, and nearly 30 percent reporting it ruined the entire day.

Brands that seek positive interaction with consumers online see higher engagement

On the flip side, when a brand engages with a customer online (e.g. liking a social media post or responding to a review/comment) it has a positive effect on their relationship with that company. More than half (53 percent) said it makes them more likely to purchase from the company again, while 45 percent said it makes them more likely to post additional UGC and increases the likelihood they would recommend the brand.

With 83 percent of Americans surveyed saying they have posted UGC—most frequently, images (52 percent), reviews or testimonials (51 percent) and comments in forums/social/online communities (44 percent)—brands that turn to social listening and community management practices in addition to addressing unwanted content will have a stronger chance at positively impacting the online customer experience.

Positive, welcoming online experiences are driven by a hybrid human-technology approach

“These findings demonstrate how brands have an amazing opportunity to prove how much they value their customers and take internet safety and experience seriously. The benefits of tech-assisted human content moderation are unmatched and essential for obtaining and sustaining customer trust. Our hybrid model, using humans and technology in tandem to combat fake and harmful content on one hand, and enable better customer engagement on the other, has proven successful with many of today’s leading brands,” continued Radzicki.

Today’s consumers are willing to help combat toxic or misleading UGC

Two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers reporting having flagged instances to brands. Respondents also indicated that many companies can provide a more timely response as less than a third (32 percent) of people received a response within 24 hours. In terms of actions they want to see taken by brands, 69 percent of those surveyed said they want the brand to remove the content, while 46 percent want a direct response about the actions the brand has taken and 40 percent want the offending user banned, at least temporarily.

“Facing a state of a near infocalypse on social media with deep fakes, spam, bad actors, and the sheer exponential growth of user-generated content, both customers and brands want a more protected online environment. Together with the shift to social media marketing and sales, this change is fueling the global social media CX services market, which is expected to reach $6.5 billion in 2024,” said Ivan Kotzev, customer experience lead analyst at business process services and IT services research and analysis firm NelsonHall, in the release. “Increasingly, companies look to partner with a trusted provider to benefit from multicultural and multimarket experience to improve social media CX at a local level. They also expect close to real-time customer and market insights at a granular level to enhance customer satisfaction, build brand loyalty, and grow revenue through cross-sell and upsell opportunities on digital channels.”

The survey findings are based on a Pollfish survey that was conducted on June 7, 2021, and included responses from 1,000 Americans familiar with the definition of user-generated content.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter