What’s the scariest thing you can face? For decades, many people have cited the notion that public speaking is amongst the most fearsome activities of all. Indeed, in one study several years ago public speaking was the “number one” fear, but death came third on the list. However, the research that produced this amazing revelation is quite old now, so it is good to see that Chapman University from Orange, California, has just completed a major survey into what people worry about the most.

Public speaking is now fifth on the list of major fears. Three of the top five, however, are concerns about the Internet. The number one thing which people now worry about is having their identity stolen online. The other two significant Internet fears are being spied upon by companies and Government surveillance. Clearly, the biggest fear people have is “big brother”.

This is a significant study. It involved 1,500 people and has been analysed using a cross section of academic experts from different disciplines. Sure, people are frightened of disasters or walking home alone at night, but nowadays they are largely worried about the Internet and its impact on their lives.

For businesses this is an important finding. It means that you are more likely to be able to engage your visitors if you reassure them about privacy and security. These are “top of mind” issues for people and hence these are areas worth emphasising for online businesses.

It suggests you need clear policies about data collection – not the thousands of words you see on typical online agreements. It implies too that you need verified site status from digital certification bodies. Indeed, you should do anything and everything you can to reassure your visitors that they are not being spied upon or having information taken and sold.

With people clearly frightened by some aspects of the Internet, your online business is only going to truly succeed if you can allay those fears.


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