What We Really Think: Annonymous Reviews vs. Personal Recommendations

Anyone can do research on milllennials. But what we’re actually thinking? For that, you’d need to ask one. In the “What We Really Think” posts, I compare what the market research says I do to what I actually do. How close or far-off are they?

First up, how do millennials weigh online reviews from strangers to friends’ recommendations? Let the research/life experience battle begin!

Everyone knows that social media influences millennials’ purchasing decisions, but did you know that they just as likely to be swayed by anonymous comments on a company website?   According to this eMarketer report, twentysomethings rely just as much on strangers on the internet as they do their friends and family when it comes to getting the scoop on a company. In fact, they actually favor anonymous comments on a company website slightly higher than their own friends and family. Ouch.

Here’s what the data says.

I know you like this restaurant Aunt Sara, but proudfoodie86 only gave it two stars so….maybe next time?

The Baazarvoice study defined user-generated content as “any on-site content created by internet users…[including]  reviews, comments, stories and questions”.  As you can see from the graph above, millennials were found to put much more stock in this type of content than consumers aged 47-65.

The data is up and the numbers are in… it’s time to ask a millennial!

Do  you rely on user-generated content as much or more than a friend’s recommendation?

Absolutely. Yes, yes and yes! This study is spot-on.

Here’s a real life example of how this study applies to my life. Last night, having absolutely nothing in my fridge, I decided to order Chinese take-out (insert stereotypical college joke here).  I called up my trendy foodie friend Amy to see if she knew any good places.  She recommended a little place called Sugar and Spice. The first thing I did after I got off the phone? Went to Yelp.com and checked it out.

In the comments section, I saw a trend from multiple people. With my friend, it was just her opinion.  After skimming the reviews, I decided to go for it and ate delicious drunken noodles for dinner.

Am I downplaying the role of Amy’s recommendation? I hope not. Without it, I wouldn’t have gotten to the Sugar and Spice page on Yelp.  The situation could have easily played itself in reverse (and has before). Say I was skimming restaurant pages on Yelp for good takeout. After finding a page with a few good reviews, I might call up a friend like Amy and see if she could confirm that it really was a tasty place to eat.

As far as friend recommendations vs. anonymous reviews, I’d say the two are about equal. I wouldn’t order takeout from a place Amy recommended that got slammed online.  On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t order from a place with great online reviews if my friend told me she had a bad experience.  Between the two of them, I’m making sure to get the best deal.

What’s the takeaway? If your customers are millennials, they are probably getting information about your product from outside sources, both through friends and strangers online.  Make sure to monitor your online reviews (both on your website and through third party websites, like Yelp) as well as your social media accounts to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

**Thanks a million to Bill Seaver from MicroExplosion Media for the great lead that led to this story. Check out his super informative blog here.

Thanks for reading! Lindsey Kirchoff

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2 thoughts on “What We Really Think: Annonymous Reviews vs. Personal Recommendations

  1. billseaver says:

    Keep up the great work Lindsey! Well done.

  2. [...] a abridged sample of her work on a topic that is discussed a great deal these days – the effectiveness of social media in [...]

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