How The Rise of Social Media Recommendations Sparked A Transformative Moment
by Stacy DeBroff
We’ve all seen the Facebook post where a friend shares her delight with a new kitchen gadget, or tapped our social media network to ask for recommendations when buying a new flat screen TV. And we’ve turned to online reviews to get the scoop when starting to research new laptop models or easy-to-navigate baby strollers.
Do these posts simply reflect ongoing social chatter, or does the rise of social media reviews and recommendations point to an entirely new way of making purchasing decisions?
To get a deeper understanding of how online opinions, reviews, and recommendations have impacted consumer purchasing, Influence Central surveyed more than 400 women consumers for their views on social media usage, online behavior, and purchasing trends.
What we found revealed that we’re in the midst of a transformative moment in consumer behavior. Due to the dramatic growth and accessibility of social media channels, today’s consumers increasingly rely on the authentic insights and storytelling of trusted online influencers when they consider making a purchase. Moreover, this firsthand experience and perspective from online reviews and recommendations has transformed how consumers learn about, research, and make purchasing decisions for consumer products and services.
Here are five reasons behind this shift:
Consumers Connect With In-the-Know Influencers For Trusted Insights: Consumers today face a dizzying array of product options each time they contemplate a purchase. Everything from competing brands, to colors to styles to price points. Social media recommendations and reviews offer consumers a seamless way to get trusted, firsthand insights before they pull out their credit card. In fact, 96% of consumers say they’re likely to seek out opinions and recommendations from others before they buy a product, or try out a service, restaurant, or store, and 91% look beyond family and friends to tap social networks when they need a recommendation. Moreover, 72% of consumers connect with their social media community frequently, even to help with everyday purchasing decisions.
Social Media Connections Spark New Consumer Experiences: It used to be that our network of trusted advisors included primarily family members and close friends. Now the ease of communications offered by social media platforms ensures that we make connections far and wide. Today, 91% of consumers agree that “social media has dramatically increased the number of people I feel an ongoing connection to, literally expanding my active circle of friends.” In addition, more than 70% of consumers often share their own opinions, advice, and recommendations via social media. Ultimately, this expanded worldview offers up a new take on consumerism, introducing products, services, and retail establishments to consumers who never would have otherwise experienced them.
Savvy Consumers Skilled At Scoping Out Trustworthy Reviews: With e-Commerce reviews available and accessible for nearly every product imaginable, consumers have a significant amount of content to scroll through when seeking online recommendations. Yet consumers don’t see this as a deterrent, viewing themselves as more than up to the challenge. In fact, 93% of consumers describe themselves as skilled at determining which information to trust, and 88% say they are discerning when it comes to the credibility of online reviewers. So what do consumers do to ensure the information they collect proves trustworthy? They cite “looking for detailed reviews” and “searching only trusted sources” as their top two strategies.
Curation Rises Up To Combat Information Overload: With so much information available online, 93% of consumers say they seek out more types of information more often now that it’s easier to access. Specifics really matter to consumers. Increasingly, they look for ways to curate online information and search for reviews and recommendations that prove relevant to their own situation. Today, 80% of consumers say they often seek peer recommendations before making a purchase and when asked what’s most important in evaluating online recommendations, they cited “experience with products, services, and places” and “similarity to me in life stage and lifestyle.”
Authenticity Reigns Supreme When Evaluating Reviews: When consumers embark on their path-to-purchase, 86% use social media and websites to access recommendations they use to make purchasing decisions, and more and more prioritize authenticity. When asked what makes online recommendations particularly useful, the two top answers included reviewers who expressed “an objective point of view” and who consumers viewed as “honest, authentic, and verified.” In addition, consumers say the top two signals that they can trust an online recommendation include: 1) when the recommendation comes from someone who speaks from firsthand experience, and 2) when it comes from a verified user or purchaser.
Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends.