I Trust Mike Rowe

Questions about the Trust

What is trust, exactly? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as, “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” It then goes on further to say trust is “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something one in which confidence is placed; dependence on something future or contingent.” I think this is why the notion of trust on social media is such a hard thing to define.  In terms of trusting an individual online, it’s hard to feel those feelings for people you haven’t spent time with.  So how do we determine whom to trust online?

Steve Rayson, in an article on Social Media Today takes a look at the equation authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith argue for in their book “Trust Agents.” They say the formula for trust is:

Influence + Reputation = Trust

Rayson gives his reasons for a new formula:

social media trust formula-white-160

(Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy) / Self-Promotion = Trust

I didn’t feel like their formulas represented why I trust people and companies on social media, so I tried to rewrite the formula myself.  Not liking the inclusion of self-promotion, I scrapped it.  Some of my favorite personalities online self-promote, and unless it’s the only thing a person does, it doesn’t bother me.  In fact, if it weren’t for their self-promotion I’d probably never have heard about them in the first place!  Then I replaced Authority with Credibility, Helpfulness with being Interesting, and Intimacy with Honesty.  This is what I came up with:

Credibility + Interesting + Honesty = Trust

Now, I wasn’t really good at math in high school, so I tend to feel like formulas like these are pretty good guides, but they can’t always explain why we trust who we do online.  I started to ponder, who do I trust on social media, and why?

I remembered a post I had read on Facebook from television personality, Mike Rowe.  It was about a liquor store owner who posted photos of shoplifters he’d caught on camera in his store as a deterrent to others.  Here’s the post.

Photo from Mike Rowe’s Facebook page

Now, I don’t agree with everything he says, I really don’t like any use of profanity, and I don’t follow him on social media, but whenever I’ve seen his statuses shared on Facebook or read an article about something he’d written there, I’ve always appreciated his voice.  I like that he’s real.  Can there be a formula for that?

From a business/marketing standpoint, his Twitter profile seems to be purely re-posts of his Facebook content, which isn’t an effective use of that platform.  But from a trust standpoint, I don’t care.  When he posts something on Facebook that is newsworthy, I read it, and I appreciate it.  His down-to-earth “everyman” persona on Facebook has become a bit of an anomaly to me.  He’s controversial, but he’s not mean.  I like that he comments on hot-topics and points out things that rub him the wrong way in our politically-correct society.  I find it refreshing from a celebrity, and that has led to my trust.   He is honest and entertaining.   As a result, I find myself interested in his television projects and foundation more.  So, my re-written equation actually applies.

Credibility + Interesting + Honesty = Trust

But the real equation that matters is:

My Trust = My Support

If I trust you online, I’ll support you.  I’ll watch your movies or television shows or buy your book.  I may even give to your favorite cause, if it lines up with my values.  The point is, trust is a valuable thing to gain on social media.

I’d like to hear from you!  What do you think of my formula?  Have you ever trusted someone on social media that you find it hard to explain why?

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6 thoughts on “I Trust Mike Rowe

  1. Hi AnnMarie! I didn’t even think about Mike Rowe, but I have very similar views as you when it comes to trusting him. While I just realized I don’t actually follow his social channels, I see his posts all the time because my friends and colleagues trust him enough to share his posts. Since I see his posts all the time and they seem so real, I trust him as well. It is interesting that trust can be earned by something as simple as being naturally real as Mike Rowe is when he posts. Many people try to act real in their fake posts, but you can always tell how fake they are. Mike Rowe is reliable and down-to-earth which is relatable for everyone. He also often posts about interesting, though provoking topics. I wonder if you took the interesting part out of your equation, if he would remain just as trustworthy or would the trust factor go down since his posts would be less noticeable and more benign?

    • Hi, Kayla! Thanks for commenting! I wonder if you took out the Interesting aspect to my trust equation, if Mike Rowe would still fit the bill. I think he would. In 2010 Forbes even listed him as #4 of their list of most trusted celebrities, so I know I’m not alone. That’s high praise, being alongside titans in the entertainment industry like James Earl Jones, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and fellow-everyman, Tom Hanks.

      Interestingly, I saw that he posted yet another blog post/Facebook comment in response to The Inquisitr’s article challenging it. Again, this is one of the things that makes Mike credible, interesting, and honest. He shares his opinions freely online — even about controversial things — and doesn’t shy away from folks who question or try to rebut him. He states his opinions, and I like that. He seems unfiltered (equating to credible, interesting, and honest), which has led to trust.

  2. Ann Marie,
    Thanks for your blog about Mike Rowe. As soon as I saw your blog, I immediately thought yeah, now there’s a guy I like and could see myself trusting. I liked your element of “Interesting” in your trust formula. But how would you define this further? “Interesting” is pretty subjective and maybe that’s the point. If I find someone interesting, am I more open to their viewpoints and find them more credible? You make a really good point. Is Mike Rowe interesting and credible because he’s popular and is a celebrity? I don’t know if he would be a credible source to talk about show lifting, crime, politics, etc. What makes him a relevant / credible source of anything aside from dirty jobs?

    With that said though, I am drawn to him as well. I’ve seen his show, enjoyed it, remember reading the shoplifting link and thinking – there’s a guy I could hang out with, have a beer and have a good conversation with that guy. There’s a guy that I could see myself trusting because of the “everyday kind of people” vibe he portrays. I agree with you that he feels real, but I don’t know if I can measure or validate that. Is it in his posts or messaging or the fact he’s positioned as such in his show. Does his “character” on his show spread to social media or is he being real?

    I loved his Facebook response that you shared, and thought Mike displayed some great tactics in responding – positive, helpfulness, care & honesty. Here’s a thought from our readings – if Jim Green (from the post) was an employee of a particular company, would that then mean that by him posting what he did, could a reporter say that Jim represents a company’s view? Or does this only apply for journalists? For that matter, when Mike Rowe responds does he represent Discovery Channel?
    “When using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., for reporting or for our personal lives, we must protect our professional integrity and remember: Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists” – The Washington Post – Digital Publishing Guidelines

    Thanks again for your post and great choice with Mike Rowe!

    • Thanks for commenting, Frank! I like how you deconstructed my thoughts on Mike Rowe being Interesting. I do think that is a quality that would be defined differently by different people, which is part of why it matters when it comes to trust. Different folks naturally trust different people online; there’s no one list that would work for everyone, and I think that’s the point. My thoughts on Mike Rowe being interesting and real are hard to define, yet they matter nonetheless.
      Mike Rowe WORKS

      One of the things, I think, that has helped Mike Rowe’s level of trust is the kind of “everyman” he’s become. His personal brand started for most of us as the TV host of the show, “Dirty Jobs,” where he tried out the kind of jobs that most people would turn their nose up to — literally. While being the host of this show, Mr. Rowe started to show his passion for the working man, the blue-collar folks. As a result, he started the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation, helping to supply scholarships to folks who were looking to learn a trade. It’s this sort of thing that has endeared Mike Rowe to most people and helped to build trust. Even those who don’t necessarily agree with his opinions, can see that he’s a guy who believes what he says and isn’t trying to “sell” us. Ironically, it’s part of what’s made him a valuable spokesman.
      Mike Rowe Print Lee Ad

      I also appreciate your questions about separating a person’s personal comments form their company’s image. I think that it’s hard to think that we, as individuals, could hurt our company’s level of public trust because we, as employees, speak, comment or are a part of groups that are our personal business. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anything private online, so anything we post we should assume will be seen by everyone and could have an effect on our work life.

      • AnnMarie, Thanks for the follow-up. I wasn’t aware of Mike Rowe’s foundation and will definitely take a look. Appreciate your points on personal vs. public online information.

      • My pleasure, Frank! I must admit, it’s one of the things I dislike most about the internet and social media — how nothing really can be private and a person can take things out of context (or in it, for that matter) and that moment can make them have a totally different feeling about a public brand you’re associated with. Is it fair? No. But, unfortunately, it’s reality. I think about celebrities and CEOs who are either really liberal or really conservative and how their opinions have been shared online and in the media and that opinion has effected their brand. Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A come to mind, as do the Dixie Chicks from back in the day… but I’m starting to date myself with that reference, so I’ll leave it there!

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