A blind study by Artios, a London-based artificial intelligence company, in which 1,000 UK adults analysed and rated content from brands including Airbnb, Protein World, Lloyds Bank and John Lewis, has revealed how our perceptions of content differ when we don’t get to see who is posting.

Participants rated the content based on a variety of criteria, including trustworthiness, approachability and friendliness.

The study revealed:

  • Facebook was found to be the most trustworthy social media platform for brands, with 55% of men and 65% of women saying they found the content trustworthy above anything else.
  • Instagram was rated as most approachable, with an average of 56% of men and 65% of women saying the content was approachable.
  • Twitter was found to be both the least trustworthy and the least approachable social media platform for brand communication. The lowest scoring tweet in the study, posted by retailer John Lewis, was considered trustworthy by only 4% of the people surveyed.
  • An Instagram post by Protein World’s was regarded as most approachable and a Lloyd’s Bank Facebook update was the most trustworthy.
  • Over 50s are the least likely age group to trust customer service conducted via social media.
  • Men are more likely than women to find corporate social media accounts untrustworthy.

Overall, 61% of women and 50% of men responded to branded social media messaging positively. Various age groups also responded in different ways. On average, 13% of those aged 18-24 found the corporate social media posts they were shown to be trustworthy, whereas only 8% of those over 55 were in agreement.

John Lewis won Verdict Retail’s Best Retailer Award in both 2013 and 2014, scoring highly with British shoppers for value and customer service. Despite this, their social media post about #backtowork day scored poorly when shown to people with their branding removed. Only 4% believed it to be ‘trustworthy’ and 8% found the content ‘approachable’.

Online protein and diet supplement retailer Protein World were received well when their Instagram post was made anonymous. 32% of women and 23% of men thought the content “approachable”, despite the controversial brand attracting a significant amount of negative press for their ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ campaign in 2015.

“We are here to help everyone achieve their weight loss goals! Start your journey by setting your target and let us help you get there. How much have you lost so far and how much have you got to go? Tell us in the comments below!” – @proteinworld, Instagram.

The social media posts which received the most positive response were posted on Instagram and Facebook, and the posts themselves either encouraged interaction from the audience in response to the post, or were a direct interaction with one of their customers.

This Facebook post from Lloyd’s Bank, despite acknowledging a complaint, scored positively for 55% of men and 66% of women:

“Hi Sara. Sorry to read your comment. I’ll certainly ensure your comments on this are recorded for feedback. Apologies for any inconvenience caused”, Lloyds Bank, Facebook.

Andreas Voniatis, a data scientist and Managing Director of Artios, who conducted the research, wanted to see how much a brand’s known reputation affects people’s perceptions of their social media presence:

“When logos and the names are stripped away, people actually react very differently to social media content. British retail heavyweight, John Lewis, who have maintained a positive reputation with consumers for over a hundred years, were judged more harshly than Protein World, whose brand is synonymous with a controversial billboard.”

“The results also show that not everyone is won over by customer service conducted via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, despite it becoming increasingly common. Unsurprisingly, those aged between 18-24 were consistently more positive than those aged 55+, who are generally less familiar with social media and less active on it. The age groups that are more open to it, however, respond very well to posts which encourage interaction, feedback and dialogue and eradicate the distance between consumer and brand.”