Content, Trust, and the Power of InfluenceBy Andy Crestodina

I trust my friends. If they tell me something is good (or bad), I tend to believe them. The power of influence is very, very powerful.

Reviews, word-of-mouth, and social media content are all sources of information that affect buying decisions. Businesses also use content to attempt to sway decisions. But some content is more powerful than others.

Let’s take a look at some research that shows what we’re paying attention to, what we trust, who we trust, and how much it all matters.

Consumers Pay More Attention to Reviews

The weight we place on reviews in growing, not shrinking. There also is a sweet spot (between two and six) of reviews to be read before a person makes a buying decision.

In fact, 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

As well, in this weird world we live in where people build relationships with one another behind computer screens, we become friends, and then we trust their recommendations as much as someone we know in real life. That’s the real power of influence.

Buyers Smell Marketing a Mile Away

In a new study of buiness-to-business buyers conducted by CMO and NetLine, shows just how big the trust gap is between corporate content and peer recommendations.

Nearly half – 47 percent – of respondents said professional associations, online communities, and industry organizations are the most valuable sources of data when making buying decisions.

Compare that to corporate content. Only nine percent said they trust white papers.

According to Donovan Neale-May, director of the CMO Council, businesses that produce content have a problem.

Their content [tends to be] overly technical, product-centric, and self-serving

I trust my friends, but companies …not as much. When a business publishes blatantly self-promotional content, it’s obvious. And it’s a turn-off.

The Power of Influence

Reviews and social media content matters. But how much?

A new study from the Medill IMC Spiegel Institute measures the effect of negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) on buying behavior.

They studied a brand in the airline industry, which is a good place to find and measure the effectiveness of social content.

Not surprisingly, they found a nasty-gram posted in a social stream really does affect the buying behavior of those who see it.

The researchers explain:

Viewing NWOM had a negative effect on future purchases. Point accumulations, our proxy for purchase behavior, decreased by 12 percent and purchase frequency by five percent. NWOM viewers seem to absorb and internalize the online negativity and it affects their purchase behavior.

These posts do affect the behavior of people who read them, but not necessarily the behavior of those who complained.

Surprisingly, the person who posted the negative message is actually likely to spend more with that brand.

Point accumulation among negative posters increased by 41 percent. Purchase frequency increased by 108 percent. We believe this could either be a “venting” effect, posters get their anger off their chests or a “guilt” effect… because they know that their NWOM could negatively affect the company.

I guess social media is a good place to get things off your chest. Post, forgive, and forget.

Consider the Source

We are increasingly affected by feedback from other buyers. It makes sense. We trust people who aren’t selling to us.

As business marketers, we need to make sure we’re focused not just on content creation, but the things that affect the buying decision.

Do we:

  • Provide great service…and seek great reviews when possible?
  • Listen to the conversations in our industry?
  • Create a presence on the social networks where buyers are sharing information?
  • Build positive relationships with influencers…and work with them if they have a negative experience?
  • Work within a culture that allows us to respond to criticism before it reaches the social networks?
  • Reward feedback, apply best practices, and take criticism into the process?

The power of influence is far greater than just one person being unhappy. How will you prevent that from happening to your organization?

Note from Gini: I’m taking today and tomorrow off and Andy graciously offered to write in my stead. Thanks, Andy!

Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina is co-founder and strategic director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago, and the author of Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. You can find Andy Thursdays after work drinking a Milk Stout at the Long Room on Irving Park and Ashland.

View all posts by Andy Crestodina