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Trust and safety metrics: How to measure digital trust of mobile apps

Perception and word-of-mouth are powerful influences over which products and services people trust with their money and information. When mobile apps and other digital products are constantly in the news for fraud attacks, data breaches, and failure to uphold data privacy, it makes it hard for users to want to download a new app or sign up for a new online community. 

How can users trust platforms to act in their best interests, and how can platforms reassure their users that their faith won’t be misplaced?

Why does trust and safety matter?

When car manufacturers put out a new model, it’s their responsibility to ensure that their product is safe, effective, and that they do all in their power to prevent drivers from hurting themselves or others. Trust and safety teams undertake these same responsibilities in the digital world. 

Building customer trust is part of the good-faith maintenance of an online community. Most developers and stakeholders want their apps to be safe and enjoyable as table stakes, but having a reliable and trustworthy app also leads to better user retention and conversion numbers. From a customer perspective, it’s a lot easier to enter credit card information or other sensitive data when a company makes it clear they’ve done their due diligence to protect it. 

Key TakeAways

  • Trust and safety metrics help gauge digital trust and can include things like public perception, user survey results, reported fraud incidents, and more 
  • A lack of digital trust can result in poor reputation and a diminished user base
  • Tracking T&S metrics can help businesses know when they need measures such as stronger authentication or more relevant policy 

Important metrics to consider 

Because of the subjective nature of some trust and safety processes, some metrics are more qualitative than others. For example, it’s hard to measure in numbers how appropriate a given content policy is for a social network’s demographic, but it’s still an important metric to track. Below are just a few key performance indicators that can act as valuable waypoints for building a trust and safety report. 

Policy relevance 

Having a feedback system between policy writers and content moderators can help policy writers address any blindspots in the community guidelines. Different demographics will require different priorities, and it’s helpful to moderators if the terms of service reflect the needs of the user base as closely as possible. 

For example, a forum-based online community might have more need for acceptable language guidelines than an online gaming app where direct user interaction is less common. Likewise, a platform aimed at adults will have different policy needs and priorities than one intended for teens and children. Policymakers can rely on user and moderator feedback as data points to help write the most relevant guidelines possible.

Public perception 

Though it’s hard to distill to a single number, public perception is one of the most important goalposts of trust and safety. Building trust with customers is valuable on its face, but it’s more helpful if third parties can also see the platform’s commitment to digital trust.

When public perception is positive, current users and third parties are more likely to recommend the app to new users. Conversely, the negative press that follows privacy violations or data breaches can be devastating. Customer reviews, satisfaction surveys, brand audits, and news media are just a few ways to get a pulse on public trust. 

Customer trust 

While customer surveys and feedback are useful, discerning customer trust often isn’t as simple as asking customers, “Do you trust our brand?” After all, if the answer is “no,” few people would want to admit that they use a service they actively distrust. Survey answers could also skew in either direction, as only customers that feel strongly might be compelled to respond. 

Building customer trust takes time and resources, so it’s only natural that brands want confirmation that their efforts are paying off. The best way to measure brand trust is to analyze multiple numbers in conjunction and over time. For instance, maybe a one-time survey isn’t very useful in determining digital trust. But, the same survey months apart can give an indication of progress. 

Any survey numbers should also be understood together with user retention numbers and engagement for a better understanding of how much users trust the platform to protect them.

Recurrence rate

On the content moderation side, social platforms must be wary of repeat offenders. Someone who repeatedly faces suspension or even account banning only to return with the exact same offenses might be an indicator that the user moderation system is breaking down somewhere. 

When this happens, trust and safety managers might consider implementing tools to stop bad actors from creating multiple “burner” accounts which can be used and discarded without fear of penalties. Combined location and device intelligence is one way to ensure the same banned users don’t find workarounds to reassess the platform and commit fraud or spread offensive user-generated content.

Fraud incidents 

Fraud detection and prevention go a long way in encouraging trust and safety. Keeping track of fraud reports, chargeback rates, and account takeover incidents and their outcomes can help the trust and safety operations manager identify weak points where more effective authentication could be helpful. 

For example, if an online platform experiences a high number of account takeover or ATO events, it may be in their best interest to implement multi-factor authentication or even go beyond MFA to something spoof-resistant like advanced location technology. Reducing fraud not only helps mitigate fraud losses but can also keep users from experiencing the stress of being defrauded on a platform. 

Benefits of investing in trust and safety 

Ultimately, trust and safety are all about making legitimate users feel good about using a platform. When users feel welcome, they stick around, engage with the community, and tell their friends. When users feel like they’re being harassed or taken advantage of, they’re more likely to leave and never look back. 

When it comes to building customer trust, what’s good for the customers is what’s good for the brand. For example, fraud prevention helps a company stop fraud losses, but it also reassures users that their transactions are secure. Similarly, content moderation not only helps user experience but also allows administrators to foster a community in line with their values. By measuring trust and safety metrics and identifying pain points, trust and safety professionals can help achieve the vision of a digitally trustworthy online community.