by Josh Bernoff
For today's weekly data chart we'll look at a different kind of data for a change -- not a Social Technographics Profile but some attitudinal data that's highlighted in Groundswell. Today's question is: whom do you trust?
As you can see, 83% trust the word of a friend. But perhaps one of the more interesting points is that the number who trust consumer reviews by people they never met on a retailer's site (like eBags, the example in Groundswell) is 60%, only slightly lower than "a review by a known expert."
Why do people trust strangers?
They don't, not as individuals. But they do in groups. Strangers are assumed not to have an axe to grind. If 100 people on eBags say a laptop bag is great, then it is great. If they say it's inferior, then it is inferior. Regardless of what a so-called "expert" might say.
What does this mean for your brand?
It means that a focus on "influencers" is not enough. You never know who may be reviewing your product, or where. Influencers may touch a lot of people, but so do the masses of reviewers on Yelp, or Amazon.com, or TripAdvisor. And heaven forbid you get people talking about your brand on The Consumerist.
If most of your customers like you, the lesson is this: help them to talk. Install ratings and reviews on your site. Create a blog and let them respond. Give them online tools and energize them. And embrace the fan groups they form on social networks. Fan the flames.
What if your customers don't like you? Shutting them up is not an option. My only useful case study for this is Dell, which (1) started to seek out bloggers who were complaining and solved their problems to make them happier and (2) actually improved their customer service. That's expensive. But if you're in a cutthroat market it's required.
Frankly, I don't have a completely satisfactory answer, so I'm throwing it open to you. What should a company with a poor customer reputation do about social media? Join the discussion about it on our discussion board.