Get an Ear on Consumer Conversations


There’s an old marketing saying that if someone has a bad experience with your brand, they will tell 20 people, but if someone has a good experience, they will likely only tell one (or sometimes, none at all!).

Thanks to social media and the sharing of information by consumers online, however, this is no longer the case. Consumers are likely to share everything—and with a lot more than 20 people. One comment or review can spread to several social sites and be seen by millions almost instantly.

Recent studies have found that seven out of ten consumers have gone online to visit social media websites, such as blogs, message boards and social networking sites, to find consumer information, and roughly half of those consumers use that information to make purchase decisions. If social media is where consumers are getting their information, brands should be making extraordinary efforts to be out there. Having a social presence will help your brand find out what consumers are saying about your products and whether your products are creating good, bad or ugly buzz. The online chatter about your brand may be just what your target audience is looking for to help them make their purchasing decisions.

Once out in the social media space, one way for your brand to tap into this social conversation is through the use of user reviews and ratings. Sharing opinions about what a brand has to offer through this kind of user- generated content is a popular and growing practice among social media users. In general, consumers relate to each other, and they trust each other’s opinions. As a result, user ratings and reviews play a very large role in consumer purchasing decisions.

Why should your brand engage with ratings and reviews? For starters …

  • Both provide value by increasing conversions on and offline.
  • Products with reviews often have lower exchange and return rates because users are aware of the pros and cons before they make their purchases.
  • Consumers are likely already rating, reviewing and sharing their thoughts on your products and on your brand.
  • Reviews can be continually reused as part of your marketing efforts.

Consumers of all kinds are often more than willing to voice their opinions and use the opinions of others in order to help each other decide what products or services to buy. First-time mothers offer a good example of the kind of consumers who find social media and user ratings especially appealing and trustworthy. A soon-to-be new mother spends a great deal of time online researching, reviewing and taking in the advice and experience of other moms. The information she comes across plays a significant role in her purchasing decisions and in determining the brand that will win her as a customer.

The same can also be said of consumers looking to buy a new car, invest their money, buy a computer, pick up a new cell phone or make any other significant purchase. These potential buyers are online researching all brands, no matter the industry, and social sites are making this information readily available. The means for gaining loyal customers are changing, and offering this kind of user-valued information is becoming an integral part of the more traditional sales process. In addition to bettering your brand’s chances at making a sale, there are other benefits to inviting and evaluating consumer ratings and reviews. One of the biggest is that they give a brand insight into how consumers really feel about the quality of the product or service. Knowing this information enables a brand to respond to its target audience by addressing customer opinions quickly. This insight also gives a brand the chance to react to negative feedback before it becomes a bigger problem. Given all the advantages of social media, the more ways a brand can tap into the power of interactive experiences, the better off it will be.

“The Impact of Social Media on Consumer Purchasing Behavior.” SPOTMARK: Conference, Exhibitions and Event Marketing. 28 Oct. 2009 <>.