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October 26, 2021

Local Marketing Insider #019 // What is Distributed Trust?

In Local Marketing Insider issue #019 we introduce the academic concept of "distributed trust" and what it means for your marketing.

Before we get into this week's Insider, I want to introduce Widewail Academy: a new way to learn about local marketing, reputation management and local SEO. Based on feedback from our customers, we've created a multi-level course on Google My Business. The course covers the basics (eg. setting up an account) but primarily focuses on all the little ways the GMB can be optimized (eg. add the right keywords in the right places to get found).

Now, to LMI #019:

There has been a shift in how trust is built in recent years. Since the industrial revolution trust has been built company-to-consumer. Today, trust is built consumer-to-consumer, known in academia as "distributed trust".

To give context, I think it helps to briefly cover the three historical phases of trust:

Local Trust: Early civilization through the early-1800s. Trust was interpersonal, based around local communities, generational, face-to-face. Pre mass urbanization.

Institutional Trust: Mid-19th century, mass urbanization, globalization led to institutions and institutional mechanisms, a scalable trust model. Corporations, brands, financial markets, contracts, insurance - all developed to help build trust at scale. Institutional trust is generally top-down and non-transparent.

Distributed Trust: With the widespread adoption of connective technologies (Google, FB, IG, Twitter, TikTok, Snap) and a long list of corporate trust failures (‘08 financial crisis, BP oil spill, VW Dieselgate, Sony data breach) in the last ten years, trust has evolved for the third time to a system of distributed trust. Trust now flows through marketplaces, networks, and platforms. Consumers trust their peers to provide the information they need to build trust in a company or idea.

Screen Shot 2021-10-20 at 10.02.39 AM

Distributed trust takes the power away from a single source and shares that responsibility across a wide range of sources.

It is undeniable that distributed trust is new. The technology needed to facilitate the whole concept is only 15 years old. We are in the early stages, but the transformation is happening quickly. The message is clear, build trust with prospects through your past customers, or risk not building trust at all.

As I mentioned in the last Insider, trust is highly contextual and deeply interpersonal. For 100+ years society dealt with an unnatural relationship to institutional trust because it was necessary, but not preferred. Now, through technology, we have found a way to scale interpersonal trust-building. 

Learn more about the Oxford researcher who originally coined the term “distributed trust”.

If you enjoyed this issue please subscribe.

See you in 2 weeks.

Jake Hughes

Marketing Manager

P.S. Here's a look at the Widewail Academy course list. We've included 51 GMB optimization tactics to help your business show up higher and more often in local search results.



Jake Hughes

I’m the Director of Marketing here at Widewail, as well as a husband and new dad outside the office. I'm in Vermont by way of Boston, where I grew the CarGurus YouTube channel from 0 to 100k subscribers. I love the outdoors and hate to be hot, so I’m doing just fine in the arctic Vermont we call home. Fun fact: I met my wife on the shuttle bus at Baltimore airport. Thanks for reading Widewail’s content!

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