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Russ Alman
Social Media Strategist/Website Designer
Wenatchee, Washington
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A Matter of Trust -- Social Media: Alternative Marketing for the 21st Century

The Social Media may just be the paradigm shift our society has been waiting for to bring a personal touch back into business relationships.
Written Jul 01, 2009, read 2597 times since then.


Historically, in agrarian societies, commerce was accomplished through word of mouth and referrals.  In our ancestral villages, if you needed to buy a pair of shoes, you didn't look in the sale paper or the Yellow Pages (they didn’t exist yet!) -- you asked your friends which shoemaker they purchased from or traded with and trusted their advice.  If you were satisfied with the quality of the shoes, you would tell your friends.  And because everyone in the community knew each other, personal reputation and trust were paramount.

Only since the printing press have businesses been able to "mass market" their products.  Due to factors such as the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 20th century, the move of American families to the suburbs during the 1950’s, and implementation of automated data technology systems, businesses have become increasingly isolated from their customers.

My father, who is at the leading edge of the Baby Boomer generation, once told me how he and my mother purchased their first home in the early 1970’s.  We lived in a small, Midwestern town, and my parents had only lived there for a short while.  My father was just beginning his career, and my mother was at home taking care of “baby me.”

My father had little credit or collateral when he and my mother approached a locally-owned bank for their first mortgage.  Although I’m sure this is somewhat of an exaggeration on my dad’s part, he claims that, despite their lack of credit or financial history, the bank’s loan officer personally approved their loan on a handshake because my father was an honest, hard-working man who had a stable job with one of the town’s prominent employers.  So began my parents’ “American Dream” -- based on a genuine level of trust.

Contrast that to the current debacle in the mortgage industry that has plunged the United States into the deepest recession in over 60 years.  Unscrupulous loan officers from large, corporate financial institutions qualified unsuspecting applicants for loans they could not possibly afford, sometimes without even having met the applicants.  It is a numbers game gone awry, with the American public ultimately paying the price.  We now face the highest foreclosure rates since the Great Depression, a generation of workers that have lost much of their life savings, and a national unemployment rate of over nine percent.  While the mortgage and banking crisis is by no means the only culprit in this economic meltdown, it has certainly been a major contributor.

What does this mean for future relationships between businesses and consumers?  In my opinion, consumers will emerge from the current recession much more cautious and more demanding of business relationships based on familiarity and trust.  In fact, I submit that our society is ready for a basic paradigm shift, back to doing business much like our agrarian ancestors.

However, unlike its face-to-face roots, this new wave of personalized business marketing will contain a technological element: the Social Media.  Business will once again focus on networking, referrals, and trust.  As a complement to these time-honored marketing systems, businesses will also rely heavily on Social Media to directly communicate with their prospects and customers.

I personally welcome this shift and am excited about what it holds for the future of commerce.  Thanks to the Social Media, for the first time, small businesses will be on an even playing field with large corporations.  

Learn more about the author, Russ Alman.

Comment on this article

  • Video Producer/Director 
Olympia, Washington 
Corey Lopardi
    Posted by Corey Lopardi, Olympia, Washington | Jul 01, 2009

    Trust based Marketing is very important today. I talk with a lot of clients about this topic. It was my reason for wanting to be a part of the SHINE event.

  • Managing Partner Media, Design & Publishing 
Olympia, Washington 
Tony Beahan
    Posted by Tony Beahan, Olympia, Washington | Jul 01, 2009

    Very well presented article Russ. Integrity and trust have always been essential elements of a good business relationship. I welcome the paradigm shift taking place, the consumer taking back the power and holding business to account. Those amongst us who have always held these values to be essential will benefit from this change and the unscrupulous 'deal at any price' business will be pushed out of the market place, hopefully for good. The Internet and Social media networks are certainly leveling the playing field. Small business is where true economic prosperity is born, anything which helps nurture these businesses should be welcomed and embraced by us all.

  • Social Media Strategist/Website Designer 
Wenatchee, Washington 
Russ Alman
    Posted by Russ Alman, Wenatchee, Washington | Jul 01, 2009

    Well said, Tony!

  • Business Consultant 
Regina, Saskatchewan Canada 
Grant Criddle
    Posted by Grant Criddle, Regina, Saskatchewan Canada | Jul 02, 2009

    Thanks Russ for a thoughtful post that highlights the emergence of the Social Web as a "trust broker" between business and consumer.

    As social networks continue to flourish and tools such as social bookmarking and link sharing become more popular, companies will need to step back and LISTEN to consumers instead of yelling their messages at them!

    You opened your post with an insightful description of how trade and commerce would have been conducted many many years ago. How trust and reputation was built by word of mouth and/or direct experience.

    As time goes by, conversation will be the new point of contact between a business or a brand and its customers or prospects.

  • Owner 
Olympia, Washington 
Don Stark
    Posted by Don Stark, Olympia, Washington | Jul 02, 2009

    So It seems that Social Media is not about cheap advertizing or schemes to drive my brand to the masses, but a way to develop deep longstanding relationships. So many are using the "social media" as a way to blast information to people that they do not know. Social Networking is to develop relationship and business flows out of relationship... My goal is not to blast but have a blast in relationships with real people. Thanks for sharing this info. My big takeaway is that traditional media is only a recent phenomena and we are returning to the real tradition.

  • Mediator 
Seattle, Washington 
Jeff Bean
    Posted by Jeff Bean, Seattle, Washington | Jul 03, 2009


    I really appreciate your focus on the humans here. I'm always intrigued when people either rant or rave about technology -- it's still always humans using it. And at a very basic level, as a species we don't change much -- at least not that quickly.

    Back in the early 80's a mentor told me "when you computerize chaos, you just make it faster." Now I'd say when you automate community, you make it faster, too.

    I am encouraged that new tools can help build connections, business relationships, trust and community.


  • Twitter Consultant 
Spokane, Washington 
Guy Siverson
    Posted by Guy Siverson, Spokane, Washington | Jul 09, 2009

    I couldn't agree with you more.

    Say hello to mom and pop's again. And really, its a cool time to be alive.

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Jaipur, Rajasthan India 
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