Study: Online reviews not necessarily to be taken at face value

July 18, 2013 at 8:40 PM
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ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 18 (UPI) -- Word-of-mouth and online product reviews may be less about sharing knowledge than you think, a University of Michigan business professor says.

Some frequent online posters may feel they have something to prove when their knowledge is in fact is deficient, marketing Professor David Wooten said.

"It's always been said that word-of-mouth communication, by and large, is something you can trust because there's no profit motive," Wooten said. "We're seeing there may be distortions in word-of-mouth that aren't related to a profit motive."

Understanding reviewers' intentions is increasingly important as 92 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from family and friends and 70 percent say they trust online consumer reviews, a UM release said Thursday.

Consumers trying to determine if a review is trustworthy should be on the lookout for longer reviews, language that might make them sound more intelligent, personal stories and a decidedly upbeat spin on the product, Wooten and co-researcher Grant Packard of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario said.

"They're more positive because choosing and using a great product reflects back on them as being a smart consumer," Packard said.

Wooten said reviewers could be trying to build themselves up through their postings.

"The products you buy and display say a lot about what you think you are," he said. "We're finding that the products you talk about and how you talk about them also say a lot about who you aspire to be."

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