Meredith Minute: Where can you find reviews you can trust?

How do you know where to turn to get trustworthy information about companies and products? Most Americans are increasingly less trusting of traditional advertising, yet are bombarded with company information on social media.  How do you really know which is more trustworthy?

The annual Edelman Trust Barometer study consistently finds that consumers are actually most trusting of “someone like us” when searching for information on products and services. That is, you usually trust what your friends, neighbors, and colleagues tell you about their experience with a product or service. Edelman finds that trust in traditional media, such as newspaper or TV advertising, runs around 64%, and trust in social media advertising is just slightly lower at 59%.

With so much information online, how can you know where to find reliable information?

1. Look for online sources that allow you to make comments on reviews.

Companies like Nordstrom and Amazon not only allow you to make comments about each purchase, but also allow people reading reviews to rate whether or not those reviews are helpful in deciding whether or not to make a purchase. This ensures that those reviews are constantly vetted by customers who are genuinely interested in those products.

2. Look for online sources where companies respond to customer comments, both good and bad.

Companies should always be “listening” on social media to see what their customers are saying about their products and services, both good and bad. You will know if a source is being monitored by the company if you see them respond to both positive and negative comments with either thanks or concrete steps they will take to repair any wrong. Some  companies respond to customer complaints on sites like Yelp or Twitter, asking customers to allow them to follow up and fix the problem that is mentioned. It is even better when you read a customer review that shares how their problem was successfully resolved.

3. Look for personal stories about products and services.

Because consumers trust “someone like us,” it is most helpful to know how that product or service was used in a more personal way, such as through a story. Facebook is one place where customers tell stories to their friends without even knowing that they are giving reviews. You can trust that when someone shares their experience with a brand on their own personal Facebook page, they are providing true information that you can rely on.

With so many review options available to you, it pays to spend a bit more time seeking out many reviews from multiple sources. This ensures that you are getting the most useful information so that you can make the best purchase decision possible.

Karen Mishra is an assistant professor in the Meredith College School of Business. She teaches business consulting and digital marketing. You can follow her @KarenMishra.

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Melyssa Allen

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