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.”