Do Consumers Trust Online Reviews and Social Media Influencers?

Published by John on

I love a good marketing trends report, and UM’s recent WaveX Remix Culture did not disappoint. Amid the report’s large take-aways about nostalgia, localism, and repurposing culture was something I find especially crucial in our current marketing environment: customer trust. How brands and retailers build and maintain their reputation is evolving and becoming more challenging.

In particular, the WaveX report included two data points that stuck out to me:

Fewer consumers trust what they hear from blogger / vloggers about products and services: (42% in 2019 vs. 46% in 2014)

Fewer consumers say are influenced by opinions shared online: (47% in 2019 vs. 55% in 2014)

This is remarkable because online customer reviews and influencer marketing are generally looked on as channels that add authenticity to a brand’s marketing messages. In our current era, however, trust in all forms of media has taken a beating. One need look no further than Amazon’s fight against paid product reviews, or Uber’s driver rating inflation to see there are real challenges for brands in this space. As UM’s data make clear, news and experience are moving the needle on consumers’ perceptions, apparently in the wrong direction.

It would be unrealistic to call this a cataclysmic change in attitudes or behavior (A wholesale shift away from using reviews or influencer content to make buying decisions is not underway). But when it comes to building trust and credibility for your brand, here are a few areas that could make an impact:

Leveraging Reviews as a Starting Point for Deeper Understanding

Online reviews provide value as a credibility-building tool with potential buyers, but also as a source of feedback for retailers and brands. Of course, one should be scanning reviews for complaints that can be resolved and system-wide issues that need to be addressed. But it often makes sense to go one level beyond that, to make sure the most valuable lessons are truly being learned.

For example, reviews for your product sometimes complain it lacks a certain feature. Is that a simple design issue that could be addressed in the next iteration? Or is it indicative of something larger? E.g. your customers have a use case in mind that you never envisioned, and perhaps there is an opportunity to reach a whole new user or provide a more complete suite of tools to do what they want to do. Looking beyond the surface, and finding the right ways to probe customers’ true pain points and needs is key.

Fine-Tuning Your Influencer Strategy for Your Key Audience

Trust in influencers overall may be declining, but that does mean that the right ones can’t connect with consumers. Tools such as BuzzSumo (with whom I have no endorsement relationship) and others can be helpful in this regard. As can well-designed survey research of your current or potential customers. Overall, influencers can be part of an overall content marketing strategy that includes elements such as paid social, press releases, professional reviews, and other forms of trust-building media.

If you would like to discuss these or other ways to help build an intelligent marketing strategy for your business, drop me a line.


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