A new wave of community-based influence and distributed trust

How an emerging model is a reckoning for brands

Matt Klein, Senior Lead, Trends & Partner Strategy
February 7, 2023
“A new recipe for trust is emerging that once again is distributed amongst people…This is just the beginning, because the real disruption happening isn't technological.”
- Rachel Botsman,
TED Speaker and author Who Can You Trust?

Trust. That seems to be a sore subject these days, not just in the crypto world but across all corners of the industry. And let’s be real—consumer trust is waning, whether that’s trust in brand claims, influencer posts, or even social platforms. In fact, 72% of people agree that it’s becoming harder to trust brands’ claims.1

For brands, that means marketing has to work even harder to address the wave of skepticism that’s pervaded consumers’ minds. The silver lining—on Reddit, you don’t have to worry about that. Our research reveals that not only do people trust our platform, they also trust the brands here, too. In fact, Redditors are +46% more likely to trust a brand because they advertised on Reddit.2

People trust Reddit for product and brand recommendations
Source: YPulse, Power of Community, US, 2021

Redditors trust the information they find here, discuss it with others in the community, and use it to inform perspectives of their own. Reddit is trusted for product and brand recommendations significantly more than all social competitors and Google and Amazon, who are synonymous with product purchase. In a time when authentic product recommendations are more difficult to find, user trust in Reddit has grown by 17% YoY, while trust in competitor platforms has decreased by 23%.3

And that trust in our platform transcends off-platform, too.





of US redditors say 'Reddit is my go-to place to learn more about products and brands'


of US redditors agree they're 'more likely to trust peer reviews over influencer marketing'

YPulse, Power of Community, US, 2021

Trust is distributed on our platform

We ask ourselves often—why are people so open to trusting strangers online? And the answer is simple: it’s because of the anonymity on our platform. Privacy is a fundamental part of the Reddit community experience, your identity is not important. People on Reddit aren’t distracted by age, race, sexual orientation, etc. Because of this, there is a much clearer focus on what brings people together: a mutual passion, or purpose, not what sets them apart. Ironically, anonymity was once thought to curb trust, but now actually it promotes it.

When hierarchy and status are removed because our users are anonymous, we know the recommender has nothing to gain. It’s low-stakes, unbiased and selfless. There’s no ulterior motive for them. They answer honestly because when it’s their turn to ask for advice, they want genuine answers too. They reply openly because it’s an investment for them.

In this way, trust on our platform is community-based and distributed. The information is cross referenced, decentralized, and can’t be toppled by one bad actor or person making a false claim. And because people are fact-checking one another, this community-based influence has become the true badge of trust.

Community-based Influence in action

Let’s take a look at how this unfolds IRL. When a makeup brand claims to be cruelty free, but a Vegan Beauty Community does the research to reveal that claim to be false—and then recommends which brands to purchase instead—that's a trustworthy community in action.

Stories like this are everywhere on Reddit, which is no surprise that 77% of people are thankful for strangers’ product and service recommendations.4

Source: Suzy Primary Research, February 2022 (n=500)

Brands need to lean in to build trust 

As the debate for credible information and trust wages on, consumers are doing their homework from researching ingredients to fact-checking ads. For brands serious about gaining trust, fandom, and community building, they’ll have to do the work like the others in the community. 

  1. Don’t Stress Perceptions. The more effort that goes into appearance (i.e. signals of hierarchy) the less trustworthy a brand becomes. Don’t posture with authority. For starters, try self-awareness as it lowers skepticism.
  1. Only Be A Member. Trust forms with an exchange of value. Ask questions, request feedback and seek information… then reply with relevant contributions. Don’t sell. Don’t spout brand platitudes. Add to the community. And again. And again. Contributions compound. 
  1.  Just…hang. Not having a motive feels paradoxical, but it is what drives trust in a community. The most important thing to build trust is to demonstrate presence. Listen, then talk. Trustworthiness is earned, not bought.



1Reddit internal data via Suzy, US, 2022; Rival IQ, Global

2 ​ Luth Research, 2021, US. Lifts = Reddit ad viewers vs. Social Platform ad viewers. Social Platforms = Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok 

3YPulse, Power of Community, US, 2021 

4 Suzy Primary Research, February 2022 (n=500)