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Saving the World in Heels | Trust Is the New Black

25/04/2014 12:40 BST | Updated 25/06/2014 10:59 BST

What were you supposed to be doing when you started reading this column? Chances are, you had a to-do list and this wasn't on it.

Fortunately, if you're in the majority, you'll soon get on with the task in hand. However, according to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of Psychology in the USA, twenty per cent of American men and women are 'chronic procrastinators'. That is, they habitually put off tasks in all areas of their life. Ferrari is a leading researcher in the field of procrastination, and what is interesting about his work is that if his estimations are accurate beyond America, more of us are distracted to the degree that we live 'maladaptive lifestyles', than suffer from either phobias or depression, which we hear so much about.

I came across Joseph Ferrari's work through the American Psychological Association, when considering the impact that online social media has on our lives. With the immediacy of a Facebook post here, a tweet there and - somewhere along the way - an innocuous video of a cat chasing its tail, it would be easy to demonise online entertainment at our fingertips as idle distraction. However, Ferrari remains positive, telling an interviewer for the website: "Today's technology can help us not procrastinate if we use it wisely. We don't have to surf the web for hours on irrelevant tasks. We can get systems that time us out after ten minutes. We don't have to have a Blackberry with us at all times. Use technology as a tool, not as a means of delay."

For businesses, recognising the attention of a captive audience online has seen social media become "the fastest growing sector of the marketplace", according to a recent Bloomberg conference with David Williams, CEO and chairman of marketing firm Merkle. However, with Facebook very recently announcing a change to its algorithms which will make it harder for a brand's social media representatives to infiltrate users' news feeds (thanks to an average of 1,500 competing posts), the pressure is on for brand's to move away from sharing blogs and comical virals and to encourage consumers to speak independently about a company.

What can the consumer say? Of course, anything. Therein lies beauty, and danger. Williams believes it's only the brands that a social media user feels they have a positive relationship with that will continue to flourish through online output: The key to this is trust and it puts the consumer in a more powerful position than ever.

In a place where consumers starkly register their approval for a brand, without interference, the outcome is not simply an increase in sales, but social and environmental change. A click to indicate 'trust' could serve as recognition that a brand upholds the spirit of craftsmanship; ensures cancerous chemicals aren't being introduced to the air during the manufacturing process and pays its workers enough money to ensure they can feed their families.

We are heading towards a marketplace where it's not about what brands say, it's what they do.