New Nielsen research shows that 90% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends when researching a purchase. Very natural, of course. But the research also shows that 70% of them trust the on-line recommendations of complete strangers. I have a little more trouble with that one.
If I was considering a Toyota Prius, I might ask for an opinion from someone I saw driving one. But somehow, on line it’s just a little different. In person, I can use all kinds of input to help evaluate the credibility of the opinion. If an auto mechanic said the Prius was very reliable, I’d put some stock in that. But if a member of the Chinese gymnastics team told me it was roomy, well…maybe not so much.
But when I’m on line, I don’t know who is commenting. Maybe that bad review is from a disgruntled owner who never changed the oil, blew an engine, and blamed the car. And maybe that favorable review was posted by the owner of a Toyota dealership whose “opinions” are just another form of marketing. But I’ll let all that go–I suppose every piece of evidence adds to the body of knowledge. But here’s one I can’t let pass without comment. According to the research, that 70% figure is a bit higher than the percentage of consumers who said they would trust the opinions expressed in a newspaper article. Not an ad, mind you. An editorial piece. Gasp. That means they will take the word of an anonymous stranger over that of a trained journalist who researched a subject and presented an informed opinion, on behalf of a recognized entity – a newspaper with a reputation to protect.
This on-line community thing is great. But I think we’d better stop attaching instant credibility to everyone who shares it with us, simply because they do share it with us. These days, the spectrum of people you’ll encounter on the net is at least as broad as that of your local shopping mall. Or train station. Or football stadium. If you wouldn’t trust everyone there, don’t trust everyone here. At least, that’s my opinion. And since I’m an on-line stranger to most of you, I’m sure you’ll take that opinion to the bank.