In Reviews We Trust — or Not

Five starsLast week Nielsen released survey data reflecting consumer trust in various media types and channels. The data were collected in Q1 2013. The top five most trusted “media” according to the Nielsen survey were:

  1. Personal recommendations (word of mouth)
  2. Branded websites
  3. Consumer opinions posted online
  4. Editorial content (newspaper articles)
  5. TV ads

Earlier today I posted about a new survey (n=3,404 US adults) from Maritz Research that appears to directly contradict the Nielsen findings. This survey shows widespread skepticism about the credibility and accuracy of online reviews on prominent consumer sites.

Trust in review sites

What these data assert is that even among the most trusted sites (TripAdvisor, Zagat) a full 40% of consumers are skeptical about the accuracy and credibility of the information.

How can the Nielsen and Martiz data be reconciled or explained — if at all?

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2 Responses to “In Reviews We Trust — or Not”

  1. Bob Misita says at

    Greg – Great series of posts on this topic.  

    I believe the difference between the 2 sets of data is likely the result of survey question wording.  Nielsen asked “to what extent do you trust the form of advertising” while Maritz asked about the accuracy of the review content itself. Subtle, yes – but that is all it takes.

    My personal opinion is that the Nielsen survey asks the right question – how does Review and recommendation material compare with other forms of brand immersion material.  And in that regard – Reviews are the best you can get.  Are some review sites flawed – yes.  Is the industry still trying to find the best solutions – yes.  

    As the provider of a Localized Reputation Content Marketing tool – Nearby Now – we’re deeply involved in understanding these emerging trends on a daily basis.  We know from experience that consumers leave reviews less than 5% of the time, while more than 65% use them during their own personal product & service evaluations.  If the business requests feedback using a tool like ours they can get as much as 40%+ legitimate customer response, which helps them become better businesses – and helps generate more new customers – a win-win.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Bob: Agree that the “form of the question” matters and that may be the explanation of the discrepancy. Still the Maritz figures were high and somewhat surprising. Another interesting question would be how consumer perceptions of review credibility change with greater overall numbers: 1 – 10, 11 – 20 and so on.

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