Trust within the Sharing Economy

*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.netTrust is vital to the sharing economy. After all, we all want to know that the person we are opening up our home to, letting drive our car, or borrow our lawn mower is trustworthy.

Rachel Botsman, a driving force behind the sharing economy recently said at Wired Money in London that, “Personal reputation is being transformed and it’s going to become a currency and cornerstone of our society in the next decade.”

It is no wonder then that sharing services are scrambling to establish this trust between virtual strangers. But how is this done?

Not long ago, I came across a study carried out by the founders of BlaBlaCar — a ride sharing network — on this very question. After years in the market, Frédéric Mazzella and Nicolas Brusson discovered that users trusted people who created full profiles almost as much as they would a friend or family member.

So how does one put together a complete profile?

Mazella and Brusson broke the process down into several steps they referred to by the acronym D.R.E.A.M.S.

Here’s a brief look at the different components as mentioned in their study.

D . or Declared is the concept of building a transparent profile. The user volunteers information, telling the community a bit about him/herself. This aids in removing some of the anonymity and starts to form the basis of online trust.

R or Rated. Ratings aren’t anything new. Take Amazon or eBay for instance. One can give a purchased item between 1-5 stars as well as write a short review of the product. Here the idea is the same, only users rate each other instead of a product. Some sites, Reputationsuch as Airbnb and RelayRides, go as far as to provide ratings in several different areas like communication, cleanliness, pickup/return, etc.

E. or Engaged. Knowing one’s commitment to the exchange goes a long way in providing peace of mind. For that reason sharing services allow pre-payment as an incentive for both parties to see the transaction through to completion.

A. or Activity-based. Context is everything. Just because someone is a great host, it doesn’t make him/her by default a great driver. Nor does someone with great ironing skills necessarily know how to assemble furniture. For this reason, Mazella and Brusson say,

“It’s vital to enable a reactive exchange between [users], ensuring that the transaction progresses smoothly from initial interest to payment. To do this, information about one user’s activity must be provided to the other party in a transaction.”

M. or Moderated. Third-party verification is a must! Be it the contact info, banking details, or the user generated content, people want to know that what they see online is authentic and up to par.

S. or Social. We live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. Through social networks, users can bridge the gap between their “real world” and online identities. Linking these accounts to one’s profile on the sharing service provides others with a view of one’s background.

The challenge (or annoyance) facing many people is the need to re-establish trust on many different sharing sites. For that reason, groups like RepStamp are surging in hopes of bringing together a unified reputation score that will show a user’s status from all the sites.

Ultimately, reaching the high level of trust mentioned earlier is only made possible through the p2p accountability.

“How we treat people and how we behave will ultimately drive our world,” continued Botsman in her speech.

Thanks to modern technology, it is easier than ever to share or follow one’s trustworthiness…or notoriety.

As Adam Spector, the CEO of Virtrue said in an article on Shareable,

“You are accountable now so act accordingly.”



**Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and Jeroen Van Oostrom /


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