person sitting on an airplane looking at Twitter on their phone
PHOTO: Marten Bjork

The start of 2020 appears to be a world full of fear and misinformation. And while we have been told that fear is a path to the dark side, fear may well be the start down a different path, where trust supports the journey.

Information is coming at us from so many sources. This complexity is being compounded by the increasing rate of content production on social media. Technology succeeds when it is used to transform data into information, information into content, and then content into insight that can generate action and meaning. Collective actions build mutual trust among community members, establishing knowledge sharing and knowledge building opportunities, lowering transaction costs, resolving conflicts and creating greater coherence. Trust sets an expectation for positive future interactions and encourages participation with technology. Communicating the meaning and purpose of why content is being used will build trust with its audience and impact positive experiences.  

Ultimately, trust in technology and the data flowing through its pipes will lead to greater participation, which will serve to increase information’s value and utility. Understanding what people need and being transparent in the technology, the people and the processes behind meeting those needs will improve the experience and start to build trust. 

And yet, trust is hard to come by. Social media is filled with falsehoods and rumors. Irresponsible authors help propagate misinformation and confusion in the race to be first with the so-called facts to feed to the masses.

The best way to combat this rampant word corruption and information narcissism is to slow down. Simple, yet effective. Slow down, take the time to evaluate your trusted sources of information, and evaluate what you are reading.

Related Article: Customer Trust: Are We Experiencing an Existential Crisis?

2020 Is the Longest Year Ever, and It’s Only February

The recent death of Kobe Bryant and eight others in a helicopter crash was broadcast to the world on Twitter, with many examples of errors, throughout the hours of that Sunday afternoon. Incorrect facts were published with the interest of being first to market, and to capture the audiences’ attention ahead of the next news source.

In another example, the Donald Trump effect of misinformation dissemination is the most prolific reminder of why sites like Snopes and Fact Check exist. Trump’s latest State of the Union fact checking exercise by some media outlets, as well as the ensuing video of Nancy Pelosi ripping up the speech at a time other than after the speech, point to such misinformation.

The profound and startling spread of the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, has also captured the attention of the world. And, as fast as the virus appears to spread, so too does the information surrounding it. While graphically stunning, the visual GIS dashboard created by John Hopkins University showing the spread of the virus was in stark contrast to the visual content coming from China … who was right, and why?

Data helps us optimize processes and technology. But if the data doesn't meet the user expectations of accuracy and authenticity, trust may be lost. Data creates a competitive advantage, with no greater example than in the rapid production and sharing of content on Twitter. But at what cost?

Without facts, trust will be hard to consistently build. Keep the challenges of the current situation in mind, and more importantly, be mindful of the people, processes and technologies that may influence transformation. Information, IP and content are critical to business operations. They need to be managed at all points of a digital life cycle. Trust and certainty that data is accurate and usable is critical. Leveraging meaningful metadata in contextualizing, categorizing and accounting for data provides the best chance for its return on investment. The digital experience for users will be defined by their ability to identify, discover, and experience an organization’s brand just as the organization has intended.

Related Article: Why Would Anyone Believe Your Brand?

Trust and Diplomatics

The study of “Diplomatics” in archival studies posits that a document is authentic when it is what it claims to be. The Society of American Archivists defines diplomatics as, “The study of the creation, form, and transmission of records, and their relationship to the facts represented in them and to their creator, in order to identify, evaluate, and communicate their nature and authenticity.” Arguably the greatest modern proponent of Diplomatics is Luciana Duranti, who reminds us to consider “the persons, the concepts of function, competence, and responsibility” when considering digital assets and trust, from creation to distribution. Trust in content created with authority, authenticity and responsibility.

Slow down. Identify trusted sources of information. Mute the “noise” and corrupted information on social media. Take time to evaluate what has been presented. There is no prize for being the first to publish content, but we are all definitely the loser for letting misinformation win.

Related Article: Trust in Digital Asset Management

Ensuring Information Integrity

“Transparency builds trust.” – Denise Morrison

Information integrity means it can be trusted as authentic and current. When content is allowed to move freely, the chain of custody can be lost, undermining trust in the information. By establishing rules around originality and custodianship, or document ownership, content can be relied on as authentic. For example, if we define content as something that has value to the organization, then it becomes clear we need to control access to that content. Without controls in place, or if the controls are insufficient, the consequences can be embarrassing and costly. The company may sustain damage to its reputation, or it could result in the loss of trust of clients or customers.

While metadata helps us find the facts needed for that truth, governance is the structure around how organizations manage content creation, use and distribution and is a critical part to developing trust. Ultimately, governance is the structure enabling content stewardship, beginning with metadata and workflow strategy, policy development, and more, and technology solutions to serve the creation, use, and distribution of content. Content does not emerge fully formed into the world. It is products of people working with technology in the execution of a process … the transparency needed for content to be authoritative, authentic, and all willing, responsible.

Related Article: How to Protect Brand Integrity in a Global Market

Slow Down

The struggle to manage content within the digital world is as complex as the digital workflows underpinning the efforts. Fear might be the path to darker, more disturbing places, but where is the awareness to pull us away from those places? Thank goodness for school librarians, who teach young people how to evaluate information for research, and that while the first page of Google results may be front and center, that better sources of trusted, authentic information can be found on pages 2, 3 and beyond. We adults might have forgotten those information evaluation skills in our eagerness to receive information from social media without question. The time has come for us to slow down. Trust may be built through effective data, and trust may be earned through good governance: your health depends upon it.