Online reviews: Content vs. Reviewer
Word-of-mouth has always been very important. With the rise of the Internet online word-of-mouth is increasingly important nowadays. Everyone wants to know the opinion of their peer consumers and based on this information they will feel more secure to make the final decision in purchasing a product or a service. But how big is the effect of online reviews? Why is one review more reliable to a certain potential customer than another one? Do we rely on what people say or maybe more on who says what?
Forman, Ghose and Wiesenfeld (2008) have done some research about the role of the reviewer identity disclosure in online reviews. This research shows that consumers in general rate a review as more helpful if the review contains identity-descriptive information, which means more information about the reviewer such as their real name, hobbies, profile picture and where they come from. These reviews will even have the power to influence and increase online sales as well.
A notable fact here is that Forman et al. (2008) show that source information (identity-descriptive information) often appears to be more important than the actual content itself. If the source information matches a certain profile and the consumers can identify themselves with this (matching community norms), this review is more likely to be rated as an interesting and helpful review. Social identification makes people more secure about the review and it reduces uncertainty. Especially when there is an overload of information in reviews, source information appears to be a good way to process all the information and customers will use source characteristics as a heuristic device on which they base their final product decision. Common geography for example will also increase the feeling of similarity with other people and this will increase the positive relationship between disclosure of personal information of the reviewer and the sales of a product (Forman et al., 2008).
The results of this research surprise me in a way that in my opinion the Internet is full of fake accounts, unreliable information about people and imaginary identities (DailyInfographic, 2015). So why would we trust this personal information and base our decision on that? Why would we for example trust a review written by a person who comes from the same city more? Isn’t it really easy to just lie about the fact that you are from Rotterdam?
And what about the reviewers’ privacy? If you see the results of the research, it seems like a profitable business for online companies to ask more and more personal information from the reviewers. But how should the reviewer and consumer feel about that? A lot of different resources will warn you these days to just write everything down on the Internet. According to Forbes (2012) personal lives, businesses and careers can be affected in more ways than you think if you share too much information online. The intention can be innocent but the results can be worse than expected. Even some minor personal details, such as where you were born, can be enough for some people to manipulate you (ITProPortal, 2015).
Finally we can state that Forman et al. (2008) did some interesting research about online reviews and the role of a reviewer. Important to know for all kinds of businesses is that bad publicity is not always as devastating as we think. The opinion of a public community might be even more powerful than that.
– Daily Infographic. 2015. ‘How Many Of The Internet’s Users Are Fake’ http://www.dailyinfographic.com/how-many-of-the-internets-users-are-fake, last visited 13 September 2015.
– Forbes. 2012. ‘Sharing Too Much? It’ll Cost You’ http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/10/19/sharing-too-much-itll-cost-you/, last visited: 10 September 2015.
– Forman, C., A. Ghose, B. Wiesenfeld. 2008. ‘Examining the Relationship Between Reviews and Sales: The Role of Reviewer Identity Disclosure in Electronic Markets’, Information Systems Research, 19(3), 291-313.
– ItProPortal. 2015. ‘The surprising danger posting personal information online’ http://www.itproportal.com/2015/03/13/surprising-danger-posting-personal-information-online/, last visited 13 September 2015.
Author: Lizan Bakker