Customer testimonials and user reviews: Social media takes a time-honored marketing tactic … and puts it on steroids.

product and service ratingsThere’s no question that most people value hearing the opinions of others when deciding whether to purchase a new product.

But in the fast-evolving world of social media where there’s been an exponential increase in testimonials, ratings and recommendations about various products and services, what types of recommendations resonate most?

We may have some answers to that question in results from a recent survey sponsored by marketing firm Social Media Link, which was issued in October to all members within the company’s Smiley360 community brand activation program.

Dubbed the “Social Recommendation Index,” the 20-question online survey was answered by more than 10,300 respondents.

The survey isn’t exactly a true cross-section of American consumers in that the vast majority of the respondents were women.  Moreover, most respondents were between the ages of 25 and 45.  Still, the results are certainly worth a look.

For starters, three-fourths of the respondents stated that fewer than 10 reviews are all that they need to make a purchase decision.

Moreover, the most valuable reviews tend to be the ones that include personal stories, rather than a laundry list of product benefits.

By contrast, “star” ratings are the least influential type of review by far:  Only ~15% of respondents report that those ratings are the most important way to influencing their purchase decisions.

The degree of impact of a product review also depends on who’s doing the reviewing:

  • 86% cite reviews by friends and family members as having the  biggest impact
  • 39% are influenced by blogger reviews 
  • Only 11% report that celebrity reviews have the most impact

I’m not at all surprised about the paltry figure for celebrities.  Celebrity endorsements in general are far less influential than many marketers would like to admit – a topic I’ve blogged about in the past.

"It's OK.  Your cousin Merlin also likes the product!"
“It’s OK. Your cousin Merlin also likes the product!”

Considering that “friends and family” are the most influential reviewers, it also comes as little surprise that survey respondents view Facebook as the most trusted of all the major social platforms:

  • Facebook:  ~68% consider highly trustworthy
  • Pinterest:  ~56%
  • YouTube:  ~51%
  • Twitter:  ~41%

Commenting on the research conclusions, Social Media Link’s CEO Susan Frech stated this:  “The survey found that people don’t need hundreds of recommendations and reviews to entice purchase; it’s really about receiving a quality message from a trusted source.”

Click here to view an infographic summarizing the Social Recommendation Index key findings.

What about you?  Is your view different from what’s been reported in this study?  If so, please share your observations with other readers here.

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