New Consumer Study Shows Importance of Reviews and Recommendations

consumer reviewsFiguring out the public’s perspective on marketing techniques can be a useful tool for businesses and agencies. The results can also be at times difficult or disturbing. If the numbers don’t look good for a certain method, it can be easy to miss the bigger picture. A recent study from Forrester Research has provided an interesting perspective into consumer views of marketing methods.

Review and Recommendations Are King

As Natasha Lomas writes on TechCrunch, “traditional push marketing techniques (such as banner ads) are at rock bottom in the online world.” Meanwhile, the most trusted form of advertising and marketing for consumers is recommendations from friends and family, sitting at a 70% trust level in America.

Second to recommendations comes professional written reviews from trusted online sites like CNET and other broad and industry-specific review sites. Their trust level rests at 55% for Americans followed closely by consumer-written reviews on websites like Amazon and other large retailers online.

What About Social Media Marketing?

Where does social media stand in all of this? Surprisingly low on the trust level at 15%. Natasha reports that “US marketers ranked spending on the corporate website as more likely to result in “marketing success” than spending on social media sites such as Facebook.” An initial view of these low trust levels and the perception that spending on the corporate website provides more marketing value might be a mistake.

The crux of the trust issue is the fact that consumers know – more than ever – when they are being sold something. They are tired of that boring TV-based mentality towards marketing. They want more out of advertisers. When you see ads on social media or any digital source, there is no engagement and no connection between the brand and the consumer. It’s not much different from traditional push marketing and therein lies the problem with trust.

Branding Is Key

As Todd Wasserman on Mashable sums it up, “Forrester’s report advocates branded content.” Any business  or agency still marketing based on the “push” mentality needs to quickly catch up to modern times. Marketing is all about the “pull” now.

Getting your brand out there through social media and other platforms as well as connecting to your consumer is much more important than trying to sell a product to them. Internet users are not passive viewers; they are looking for what they want and they are looking for an experience or view out of a company that aligns with their interests.

Crafting your social media marketing on that concept will help you reach consumers in a way that ensures their trust doesn’t make them second-guess how you’re reaching them. Forrester describes branded content as content that provides “added consumer value such as entertainment or education.” The point isn’t to sell a specific product, it’s to build your brand and the relationship consumers have with your brand.

Nothing (Too) New Here

This fact is well known throughout the online marketing community, although there are many who don’t approach social media from this mindset. While this news story doesn’t say anything surprisingly new about online marketing to those in the know, it is nice to see numerical proof behind the focus on the importance of branding in digital marketing.

What’s one way you use social media to pull in the consumer as opposed to pushing your products? 

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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