I am just sitting back in my hotel room and taking stock after day one of a great Social CRM Summit put on by Paul Greenberg and his group of CRM Experts at BPT partners here in DC. Now, apart from being essentially snowed in indefinitely, I am really glad I came.

We had some great discussion about everything from social media marketing and support to more traditional marketing automation goals. But one thing early on in the day sparked some thought on everyone’s minds. Paul noted that some key metrics in the Edelman Trust Barometer dropped over last year – indicating on the surface that people are trusting less people online.

The discussion varied over why this may be true or false. But the whole topic got me to thinking. To an person shopping, interacting and well, just living in an online world, is there a major difference between a “peer,” and an “influencer?” And which one of these garners more trust overall?

Peer is an odd term. You can work with people who some would deem your peers, but you might find them to be morons. Also, you may have direct reports that while beneath you on an org chart, make your work life livable and are the glue that keeps you together between meetings, reports, deadlines, more meetings, etc. You sometimes trust these people more than your peers or superiors.

Is it different online? When I go to buy something – am I REALLY looking for someone “like me?” Or am I looking for an “influencer” who has opinions I trust?

Paul Greenberg noted that in an increasingly complex and stratified online life – we trust some people for some things, and some people for others. For example, I might fancy myself an online influencer for CRM systems – but no one should listen to any product review I write on digital cameras (I think the only one I have ever bought is in the sub-5 megapixel range – to give an example why).

We are spending more and more time online, flipping between different networks and more and more of us are making online transactions that we would not have made online a few years ago. Who we trust to lead us in these new journeys varies today compared to who we might have trusted three years ago.

Add to this “weak links” or people on your Twitter list that are there for no other reason that to pad your online ego – and the circle of influence becomes more complex and rife with noise. But ultimately, in a recession, when confidence is low – the fact that we are conversing and continue growing an online commerce universe is a good thing.