STUDY: User Reviews Are Even More Important Than You Thought

As leading proponents of “earned media”, we’ve all fretted about the value of user-generated content and the “brand advocates” who produce it. But new studies indicate that informal user reviews have even more power than we thought—especially when shared on social.

A Stanford Graduate School of Business researcher tells The New York Times that “the power of marketers is being undermined” by the trend.

This could be a good thing in some ways, though.

In past experiments, consumers presented with three cameras to purchase often chose the middle one due to what researchers called “the compromise effect”, opting to pay a little more for additional features but shying away from the most expensive model. Yet, when presented with the same sort of array after reading Amazon reviews of the products, more consumers migrated to the most expensive model due, presumably, to the positive word provided by other users.

In a separate study conducted by “advocacy activation company Social Media Link“, participants overwhelmingly chose Facebook as the network with the greatest influence over their buying decisions.

  • 86% unsurprisingly said reviews by family and friends were most influential, but…
  • 39% said blogger reviews lead to purchases

Also: star ratings and lists of features are far less important than personalized reviews.

  • Only 15% were swayed by the stars, while…
  • 40% said reviews that contain personal stories about how one uses a product in his or her life were most important

The final and perhaps least surprising finding: pay for play doesn’t carry too much weight.

  • 76% trust free blogger reviews, but…
  • The number drops to 45% when those bloggers got paid

In summary, it looks like traditional “earned media” reviews carry less and less weight in the social era.

Do our current strategies for retail clients reflect these findings?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.