“There will be no such thing as a stranger” said a sharing economy entrepreneur recently. This was not a statement made to grab attention. Rather it was the conclusion to a presentation which laid out how important online trust mechanisms are becoming in our increasingly web based world.
A new market has emerged in which we no longer need to face big corporate hotel chains in order to find somewhere to stay in during our next minibreak. Now we can rent a room directly from ‘Mrs B’, a retired gran with a great eye for minimalist design, and an unbeatable scrambled egg recipe. This ‘peer-to -peer’ market is expanding fast, and at its very core are people like you and me, along with technology to help us connect and trust each other.
Few, it seems, are willing to share a lift or spare room with someone they don’t feel they can trust. And who can blame them? The media certainly prefers to focus on negative news stories than positive ones, so it’s easy to find your trust in people waning. And anyway, although some may feel that we’ve become too nervous as a society; most will still agree that a reasonable level of risk aversion is both natural and healthy.
Yet there is a lot to gain from sharing with people you’ve not yet met. Not only can it lead to new friendships, it can also present an opportunity to make or save a bit of money, and therefore potentially opens up new opportunities for those of us not on six-figure salaries.
In order to help us feel more comfortable sharing and transacting with strangers, a wide range of trust mechanisms continue to be developed. These include the option of uploading personal details such as biographies and profile pictures, messaging users, enquiring about a vehicle’s safety and leaving each other reviews.
Many of these mechanisms are proving highly effective. On Liftshare, for example, you’re 27% more likely to get contacted if you have a profile picture. Consequently we’re feeling increasing pressure to provide information about ourselves online and be extra lovely to each other in order secure positive ratings.
This may all sound fine and dandy, and if the outcome is that we all share more then this is surely a good thing. However reputation systems can be somewhat excluding. You’ve not yet uploaded a profile picture or received a rating from anyone? You may find that some are less willing to transact with you.
Indeed it’s not so much that strangers will eventually cease to exist; it’s just that they may get left in the dark as fewer people will be prepared to connect with them. The solution? Start building your online reputation now and avoid getting excluded later.
If you’re after more trust and safety advice then Liftshare is here to help. You can also check out our trust and safety tips and interview with Paul Wilde, founder of Just Give It A Thought.
Author Lucie Boyle