As consumers gain more outlets for expressing their views online, brands are becoming less concerned with reaching out to professional writers to spread the word about their products. But while getting a positive review from a professional writer may have much of a sales impact, negative consumer reviews are becoming increasingly problematic.

According to Brand Reputation, 84% of the consumers they surveyed are more likely to look for online product reviews than they were just a year ago. And those who have had a negative experience are five times as likely to tell their friends. Brands can do a lot to monitor this shift and arrange their resources accordingly.

Due to the rapid growth of social media and consumer sharing online, marketers are moving directly to consumers rather than trying to grab the attention of a reporter. Renee Wilson, managing director of Publicis Groupe's MS&L, tells AdAge:

"Consumers still get brand information but it's not filtered by a reporter at a traditional publication... Everyone is now looking at tapping the right communities or creating them."

Paper Cuts, a website that tracks layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers, found that nearly 30,000 reporters have left the new industry since 2008. That's part of why it's harder to get their attention. But also, professional opinions don't have the sway over consumers they once did.

This week, Adam L. Penenberg, author of social media and crowdsource focused book Viral Loop, writes in Fast Company about the death of professional book reviews:

"Book reviews don't sell books anymore. All they do is act as marketing fragments for publishers and authors to spin for promotion."

In his piece, Penenberg documented a negative New York Times review of his book that failed to note a huge conflict of interested. But he is more concerned with reviewers at Amazon than any reporter's critique:

"Cowan wasn’t reviewing the book. She was settling a score. And so do many of those littering book pages on Amazon with 1-star reviews. The difference is that these Amazon evildoers really do dampen book sales. Cowan’s ax job probably didn’t.”

Consumer reviews (often listed directly before online checkout), are growing in impact. And winning over Amazon or Barnes and Noble reviewers may be more important than getting to a professional review. According to Brand Reputation CEO Graeme Crossley:

"A customer that has a good experience will typically tell 3 to 5 people, but a customer who has a poor experience will tell more than 20. When this is trend occurs via the web, these numbers can rapidly multiply and could spell disaster for brands that don’t have strategies in place to combat online negative chatter."

Meghan Keane

Published 27 October, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (9)

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Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Surely "combatting negative chatter" is missing the point. A negative review is the opportunity for a dialogue with your customers, feedback into product development, a chance for a customer service WOW moment.

In the case of the reviews above, then if so many people are trying to pull a hatchet job, then thats a seperate issue. Trying to quell your customer's opinions is never a good idea - because you'll never improve. If you're retailing someone else's product, then a swathe of bad reviews surely would make you question why you're stocking it, and push you to perform a terminal baskets analysis or similar, because ultimately, the customer's experience of that product is reflected onto your brand.

A customer isn't stupid. They can see if the content of a review applies to them, or if it's clearly someone reviewing out of spite, or alternatively a fawning fan. You should put as much information (good and bad) in front of the customer as possible, and trust them to make a considered decision. If you're product, or service, is good, they'll buy it.

over 8 years ago



This subject was discussed last week on BBC Radio 2 consumer slot on Jeremy Vine Show. The presenter said he would read reviews on Trip Advisor before booking a hotel. If 4 reviews were positive and 1 review said don't go to this hotel it's dreadful, he said he would instantly avoid that hotel because it had a bad review. Jeremy Vine's conclusion was nobody would book a hotel with 1 bad review, irrespective of how many good reviews it had. Where it is a small business, an hotelier risks being put out of business serving the majority of customers who were pleased with his/her hotel once it has 1 bad review.

over 8 years ago

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

If people take the time to see the whole picture, then might realise that for many sectors, consumer sentiment is more positive than negative. Sure, it may well be the case that a disappointed customer is X times more likely to tell 3x as many people about their experience than a happy one, but our social media insight work across a wide range of sectors reveals that there is often considerably more positive sentiment to be leveraged than negatives to firefight. I'm not saying that responding to criticism isn't important, but that should just be one part of engagement.

I think Matthew puts some useful perspective on feedback ranger's argument about not booking a hotel because of 1/5 reviews being negative on Tripadvisor with

"A customer isn't stupid. They can see if the content of a review applies to them, or if it's clearly someone reviewing out of spite, or alternatively a fawning fan."

My point is, and this holds true especially in the lower category hotels, try to find a hotel without negative comment. Most people will make a choice taking into consideration those balanced reviews that mix praise and criticism and adding a large pinch of salt to those over the top gushings and embittered rants.

On a wider scale, organisations need to see the big picture across the myriad spaces for sharing mobilising opinion (that's more than Facebook and Twitter, folks!), accurately assess the influence of that opinion, channel it and take appropriate action on the positive as well as the negative.


over 8 years ago


Myriam Emile

I agree with Matthew : only considering bad reviews as a danger for your activity and not a chance to get to know your customers & improve your quality of service is, I think, being out of focus. Trying to pretend that the process of customer reviews is bad, disminishing the opportunity it represents & trying to avoid/suppress them is simply burying one's head in the sand.

We, at Zoover, try to make tourism professionnals aware of the web 2.0 and customer reviews challenge, and give them tools so they can start answering the reviews and be transparent about their relationship with the customer, with a special "hotel module" for accomodation owners that will be release in a few days.

Moreover, we verify each day on our sites that a large majority of opinions are positive or at least balanced, as Jonathan says. Only few are really totally negative, and I also believe that "the customer isn't stupid". Reviews are of course subjective, and customers make their mind according to the content of the review, the things that are highlighted and the general feeling : if they feel they have common vision & standards with the writer of the review, they will be more likely to believe it. If not, then they will not take it so much into account.

And for those who fear organized rants campaigns against them (from a minority of angry customers or even competitors), they must realize that most of the reviews websites have control processes to avoid "false" reviews and ensure that the global picture given by the collected reviews reflects the reality : the quality and authority of these websites simply depends on it !


over 8 years ago


Dara Fitzgerald

Some very good points made here, in both the original article and also the comments.

Personally, I see three key points here.

1. As Mathew says 'A negative review is the opportunity for a dialogue with your customers...'

Brands need to learn to open up more to the possibility of negative feedback. It's nice and safe to take onboard only positive feedback, but it's the constructive, negative feedback that is of real use to brands in terms of product development, customer care and brand engagement. In fact, the presence of some timely and thoughtful brand responses to negative user comments could have a stronger impact than simply having all positive comments showing in the first place.

2. Again it was Mathew who said 'A customer isn't stupid.'

For the most part, any genuinely interested consumer will take the time to read a reasonable quantity of reviews and make a judgement based on the overall sentiment and quality of the reviews. Nobody with a degree of common sense will pay much heed to 'I think it's rubbish'.

3. The final comment made previously that I feel needs to be noted by more brands, marketers and agencies was made by Jonathan:

'On a wider scale, organisations need to see the big picture across the myriad spaces for sharing mobilising opinion (that's more than Facebook and Twitter, folks!)'

OK so Facebook has 300m worldwide users and Twitter is the fashionable comms channel of today, but not every target audience spends it time on the big two. There are 100s of 1000s of specialist forums, blogs and community sites out there where your target audience could be talking about your brand right now. Social media and brand reputation managment strategies need to take this into account.

over 8 years ago


web development

Thanks fro the details.Online presence of brands has increased tremendously over the past year or so.So a brand while promoting itself will have to be very careful while posting details about it.Negative reviews are certainly not desirable.

over 8 years ago



Thanks fro the details

and i agree with all comment

over 8 years ago



2011 age of communication people using social media websites like twitter and facebook more and more , if someone leaves bad review there then companies will get some serious damage.

over 7 years ago


London Florist

Really interesting topic. I've just launched a new business and decided to do some research into branding and how to keep a good reputation. I think what can be gleaned is 1) companies should have their core focus on trying to provide the best possible product or service. Aside from malicious customers and competitors, most customers only complain if you've provided them with a bad service 2) try and engage with your customers whilst they are buying or have just bought from you. I've found a company called trust pilot which can help you to get feedback from your customers. 3) if you do receive a bad review, think of it as a way to learn. Try and contact that customer to find out why their experience was so bad, and how you can rectify the situation. 4) if all else fails, don't panic! I've never thought much about it, but just realised that I've never bought online without first looking up reviews about that company (for example, the company I hired to design my website). But what has been said above is true. Customers aren't stupid. If there are 49 good reviews and only a couple of bad ones, I will accept that companies occasionally make mistakes. It's only when a chunk of customers appear unhappy that I will walk away.

over 7 years ago

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