Consumers looking for advice on a purchase trust the opinions of strangers nearly as much as they trust those of people they do know, new research shows.
While shoppers believe 90 percent of the reviews of products and services from family, friends and acquaintances, a study by SocialMediadd.com found that consumers trust the online reviews from 70 percent of strangers, too.
Shoppers increasingly are basing purchasing decisions on the opinions of others, with more than 60 percent of the consumers surveyed relying on user reviews before buying something.
At the same time, the study revealed a lesser reliance on traditional marketing endorsements. Of the shoppers surveyed, just 27 percent trust experts' opinions on products, only 14 percent believe advertisers and just 8 percent take into account a celebrity's stamp of approval.
The research also revealed insight into shoppers' social media habits, proving that consumers use social media both to solicit others' opinions and to engage with the brands they're purchasing.
Nearly 35 percent of the consumers surveyed use their social networks to air their feelings about a company, with more than a quarter logging on to express dissatisfaction.
The value of social media engagement has increased dramatically over the past six months, according to Brandon Gaille, CEO of SocialMediadd.com.
"A year ago, most businesses were using Facebook exclusively as a channel to push out content to their fans," Gaille said. "Today, the same businesses are now engaging every user that makes a comment or post on their Facebook page."
Knowing how damaging negative online reviews can be, SocialMediadd offers several tips for businesses for dealing with the criticism:
- Be aware — Monitor social media to discover potential problems early on.
- Don't ignore negative feedback — Neglect will only create more negative emotions. Act on complaints, answer questions and direct people to the appropriate channels, like support.
- Start early — When encountering negative feedback, engage as early as possible.
- Plan for a crisis – What can happen? How would you react? Even a rudimentary plan is better then no plan at all.
- Engage in personal dialogue – People are perfectly willing to cool down if they talk to a real person with a name.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.