Consumers, Be Wary of Your Peers

In a recent study by Edelman, the credibility of peers was down 50%, dropping friends down below newspapers and radio, but slightly more than television.

Obviously, this is surprising as it runs counter to virtually everything we have come to believe about social networks, and their value to marketers – friends trust friends. We surf the web for peer reviews, we find out which of our Facebook friends have bought certain products or services…but according to Edelman, we still only “buy” peer advice a quarter of the time.

What that tells me is that at the end of the day customers are wary of just about all promoters in the absence of credibility. The study went on to contrast this with academics, who are trusted better than 60% of the time. Makes sense to me…we generally regard academics as objective, and without agendas. Compare that to government officials, who are trusted just 27% of the time.

Just as we view most politicians as having hidden agendas, we can see how a consumer would want to promote a product they’ve bought…who wants to admit they bought a lousy product? So insteady, pyschologically, we convince ourselves we made a wise buy by convincing others to buy it.

So marketers – as you go out and rally promoters around your brand, ask yourself how credible those endorsements are. I think this is a huge blow to social media advocates and should force marketers to re-assess how they are measuring success among social networks. It also reaffirms that no matter your following, there is no substitute for value creation and quality when it comes to customer needs.



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  1. #1 by David Hall on February 8, 2010 - 6:56 pm

    Great article thanks for sharing!

  2. #2 by Melissa on March 1, 2010 - 3:54 pm

    I’m actually one that would admit if I bought a lousy product. No shame there! I always thought people were more likely to talk about their negative experience….than positive? As far as surfing the web for reviews, I will say that I am sometimes skeptical about what I read and how much it factors into my decision. What’s relevant to one person might not be relevant to another….everyone has different needs. And sometimes people publish bad reviews because they didn’t read the instructions manual so they thought the product was “complicated”….should you really trust that review?

  3. #3 by Kris Kaneta on March 1, 2010 - 5:28 pm

    Hi Melissa! Thanks for the dialogue. I think you are right on all counts. People just respond in different ways. Some folks will admit they bought a lousy product, but others tend to sugar coat it or defend their purchase…or they’ll take delight in something very small. But I’m with you, I am pretty vocal when it comes to bad buys.

    Now as for web reviews, I have to admit that’s one of the first things I look at, and then I sort by negative reviews. I want to see what people have complained about most, to decide if that’s going to be a deal breaker for me and/or if it was probably just plain user error. That said, I don’t really put too much stock in the positive reviews, because most of the positive reviews I see are pretty vague and unsubstantiated (which goes back to my earlier point).

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