Online user reviews: People trust their own motives for posting … but not others’.

user reviewsOne of the most important uses of the web today is for people to seek out user reviews of products and services before they buy.

Research shows that people place a high value on these user reviews, and they are more likely to influence purchase decisions than brand advertising and other forms of promotion.

The famous 90-9-1 rule — of every 100 people, 1 creates content, 9 respond to created content and 90 simply are just lurkers — may no longer be accurate.  But even if the rule still holds, that still means quite a few people are engaging in the practice of posting customer reviews and comments.

For most people who post reviews, their reasons for doing so are positive, if the results from a recent YouGov survey of U.S. consumers are any guide.  The research was conducted in November 2014 among American respondents age 18 or older.

When asked why they post consumer reviews online, the survey respondents cited the following reasons:

  • To help other people make better purchase decisions: ~62% cited as a reason why they post
  • It’s polite to leave feedback: ~35% of respondents cited
  • It’s a way to share a positive experience: ~27%
  • To make sure good vendors get more business: ~25%
  • To warn others about a bad experience: ~13%
  • To expose bad vendors: ~12%

Interestingly, the older the age of reviewers, the more likely it is that they upload reviews for the reasons listed above:  Respondents age 55 or older cited all but one of the six reasons in greater percentages than the average for all age groups.

What about the flip side of the equation?  Do those who post feel that others are posting reviews for the same reason?

thumbs up and downThat’s where the picture gets a bit murkier.  It appears that those who post do so for positive reasons … but they don’t necessarily think others are posting for similarly positive purposes.

In fact, about two-thirds of the survey respondents felt that some reviews are written by people who haven’t actually purchased the product or service.

A large portion — 80% — think that businesses write positive online review about themselves.

And nearly 70% believe that businesses post negative feedback about competitors’ products.

So it’s interesting:  People see themselves participating in online ratings and reviews for the right reasons, yet they suspect that other posters may not be playing fairly — or maybe even gaming the system.

It’s an indication that while user reviews are welcomed in practice, there are also nagging doubts about the veracity of what people are reading.

Still, surveys find that many consumers cast those doubts to the side, and continue to read user reviews and be influenced by them.

What does e-mail engagement mean to consumers? Getting a discount.

e-mail engagement is all about providing discounts to customersIf you suspect that most people opt in to receive commercial e-mails so that they can receive discounts on the products want … you’re absolutely right.

The latest proof of this is in a survey of ~1,000 consumers conducted earlier this year by BlueHornet, a San Diego-based e-mail marketing services company.

That survey found that the percentage of consumers signing up to receive commercial e-mails in order to receive discounts is a whopping 95%.

So while marketers may want to believe that “engagement” with consumers is all about brand affinity and excitement … all that is much less important to them than simply getting a good deal on the product or service.

There will always be a desire for companies to nurture personalized, relevant conversations with customers via their e-mail communications.

After all, a highly engaged customer base that sees a brand as tops in its field … perhaps leader in innovation and technology … and above all, a brand that makes a true difference in the customer’s personal or business life.

All of these objectives represent Holy Grail of marketing. By all means, marketers can and should strive for this level of brand engagement – however hard to attain it may be.

But to make it a whole lot easier easier, offer a coupon or discount as well.  Preferably big.

Social Media: The Newest Addiction?

Social media:  The latest addiction?With the burgeoning popularity of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, some observers are beginning to wonder if a new type of addiction is now in our midst.

So-called “Internet addiction disorder” came to the fore in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with social scientists contending that some people were neglecting their interpersonal relationships, and instead were spending hours of time online every day.

Of course, since social media is about interrelationships, perhaps likening it to the solitary pursuit of web surfing might not be an apt comparison. But a recent study demonstrates that social media, too, appears to have addictive aspects.

The online consumer electronics shopping and review site Retrevo commissioned an independent study of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers distributed across age, income, gender and geography. Guess what? The study revealed that many people appear to be obsessed with their social media circles all throughout the day … and also checking in throughout night.

About half of the respondents reported that they check Facebook or Twitter feeds just before going to bed, during the night, or as soon as they wake up. Nearly one in five admitted checking in with these sites “any time I wake up” during the night.

It’s not a huge surprise to learn that owners of iPhones are more involved with social media; they use Facebook and Twitter more often and in more places.

Moreover, nearly one in five respondents actually view these two social sites as their most important sources for the news they consume, rather than Internet news sites, TV/cable programming, the radio or the daily newspaper.

As a truer measure of “addiction,” the study’s respondents were asked to estimate how long they could go without checking in on Facebook and Twitter. While about four in ten reported they could avoid checking in over “a long time,” a similar percentage indicated they could not make it any longer than five or six hours at a stretch without checking in on these sites. (The balance felt they would need to check in at least once a day.)

And how about tolerating electronic messages that interrupt their activities? Half of respondents under the age of 25 in the Retrevo study didn’t mind being interrupted during a meal. One-fourth don’t mind the interruption happening on the job or during a meeting. And a die-hard 10% don’t even mind an interruption during – you guessed it – lovemaking.

As for how respondents over age 25 answered these same questions, they’re only about half as tolerant, so it’s easy to see how the propensity for social media addiction might manifest itself more with the younger set.

Since the online social media revolution is a relatively new phenomenon, one might wonder if the attraction of social media bordering on addiction is just a passing fad in part because of its novelty.

That might be true. But it’s difficult to see exactly how behaviors and attitudes will change dramatically over time. After all, television viewing was extremely high when TVs first came out … and those numbers stayed high for decades thereafter. Social scientists started making rumbles about the phenomenon of TV addiction early on … leading some people to refer to television sets as the “idiot box” or “boob tube.”

And actually, with social media the temptation for “total immersion” is even stronger. After all, the TV viewing public was forced to watch whatever programming went out over the airwaves. But in social media, the content is whatever the participants choose it to be – and it’s interactive to boot.