By Rieva Lesonsky
Is your small business getting reviews and recommendations from customers on social media? If not, you may need to take steps to encourage this type of social sharing. A new study from Bazaarvoice, reported by eMarketer, found that consumers of all ages are increasingly relying on recommendations and reviews—both from people they know and from strangers online—when making purchasing decisions.
Bazaarvoice studied how “user-generated content”—which includes reviews, recommendations, questions or comments—was used by consumers in deciding what products, services and brands to patronize. The study focused on two different age groups: Millennials (29 and under) and Baby Boomers, and looked at content on brand websites, social networking sites and third-party websites (such as Yelp!.com).
What differentiates Boomers from Millennials? Boomers (aged 47-65) were more likely to rely on people they knew for recommendations; 66 percent relied on this source. Millennials, however, rely pretty much equally on people they know (51 percent) and anonymous user-generated content (51 percent) when deciding what to buy. websites (51 percent) to influence their buying decisions.
Millennials were also more likely than Boomers to share their brand experiences online, both positive and negative. One-fourth preferred to share this type of information on third-party sites (such as CNET), but the biggest group (42 percent) said social networking sites like Facebook were their favorite place to share information about brands.
Although 17 percent of Boomers do share positive brand experiences via social media, and 21 percent share on third-party websites, the preferred method for Boomers was email (38 percent). In comparison, just 24 percent of Millennials used email to share purchasing experiences.
While there are some significant differences among the age groups, there are two major takeaways for your business:
1) Both age groups are becoming more comfortable with relying on other consumers’ input and advice when making purchases. As familiarity with social sites increases among all age groups, the age-old practice of “word-of-mouth” is only going to get more and more digital.
2) Both Millennials and Boomers trusted user-generated content significantly more than they trusted advertising or publicity. In fact, they trusted other users’ opinions even more than impartial news articles about brands.
If your business isn’t already encouraging this type of feedback from customers, this study is a clear sign that you need to start.
Image by Flickr user Owen Brown (Creative Commons)