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How Does What Your Customers Read Online Affect What They Purchase?

By: Kate Supino

 

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“Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising with 70 percent of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust this platform, an increase of 15 percent in four years,” a 2012 study conducted by Nielson reports. 

 
With so much consumer faith being put into online reviews, it pays to understand how your online reputation affects what—if anything—customers purchase from your company. 
 
Which online reviewers lack credibility?
 
Many times, reviewers themselves come under scrutiny from fellow reviewers. 
 
Amazon.com reviewers are known for calling out fake reviewers. It’s fairly simple on this site to track an online reviewer just by clicking on their user name. If there is a history of varying star ratings for different products, the reviewer’s comments are generally accepted as authentic. But if all the reviews are five stars and the comments are outrageously positive with no cons mentioned at all, chances are the Amazon community will catch on very quickly. Usually fake reviewers like these tuck their tails and creep away to the next unsuspecting website.
 
Which news sources carry the most weight regarding my company’s reputation?
 
Those who do considerable research before making online purchases are pretty sharp when it comes to picking up on falsehoods. If your company indulges in gimmicky advertisements couched in fake news articles, beware. You could be advertising nothing but the truth about your product, but the fact that you try to trick your customers won’t sit well with most of them. You may as well be hustling folks from the top of a soapbox at a traveling carnival. And most of those folks walk right on by.
 
Trusted news sources include respected large news agencies such as CNN and Fox News. They get some of their news from PR firms, so if you have a press release with a legitimate announcement, you could get picked up for a big news website. 
 
Local news stations, radio stations, and newspapers are also considered authentic journalistic news. That’s why you’ll often hear familiar disc jockeys on radio stations reading copy for their station’s advertisers. People trust their radio disc jockeys to tell them the truth (don’t ask me why). Because all these brick-and-mortar places have websites, your news will be uploaded to their online sites. 
 
Bottom line: Court the parents of the Internet; local newspapers, etc., still carry lots of credibility with buyers.
 
Why do online reviews count for so much?
 
One reason online reviews matter is because we trust others’ opinions when we can’t make up our own minds. Sometimes it helps to ask for another perspective, even when it’s just trying to decide what flavor ice cream cone to order. “What did you get?” we ask. “Do you think I’d like it?” It seems silly to ask these questions (unconsciously, of course) of strangers online. After all, they don’t know us or what kind of taste we have. 
 
In another way, it makes perfect sense for your potential customers to rely on online reviews. After all, they can’t feel and touch your product. The other reviewer has bought it, used it, and expressed their honest opinion without fear of judgment. That’s a powerful vote for trusting online reviews. And that’s why they work to move your product.
 
Does everything posted about my company affect my reputation?
 
Yes. When Yahoo.com hired ladies of a certain profession to perform at their annual Hack Day in Taiwan, the news got out and Yahoo issued a public apology. Now, whether that publicity hurts or helps Yahoo is debatable. But think carefully about what kind of online reputation you want your company to have. That Hack Day event was four years ago, and it’s still all over the Internet for anyone to read. 
 
Some of what is published about your company on the Internet is controllable; most of it is not. Your job is to do your best to deliver a quality product or service so potential critics will have less fodder.
Published: November 5, 2013
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