Social Media: Get Used to It

For the past couple of years I have been preaching the gospel of user-generated content and reviews. I often encountered considerable skepticism from former colleagues on the likely evolution and extent of the phenomenon: “People will write reviews about restaurants, but not plumbers.”

In my “predictions” post, I said: “The culture of user participation and content creation across the Internet puts a final stake in the heart of remaining doubt among pundits or brand advertisers regarding the permanence of this phenomenon.”

A Yahoo-Harris poll (from October, 2006), which I’ve written about at SEL, essentially confirms that “the culture of participation” is here to stay. Here are the questions and the findings:

“Are you more likely to post a rating or review of a local business if it is a positive review, a negative review, or are you equally likely to post a positive or a negative review?”

  • Likely to post a review (net): 67%
  • Negative review: 9%
  • Positive review: 8%
  • Equally likely to post a positive or a negative review: 50%
  • I am not likely to post a review at all: 33%

“When it comes to deciding whether or not you will patronize a particular business, are you more likely to be influenced by a positive review, a negative review, or are you equally likely to be influenced by a positive or a negative review?”

  • Likely to be influenced (net): 79%
  • Positive review: 23%
  • Negative review: 9%
  • Equally likely to be influenced by a positive or a negative review: 47%
  • I am not likely to be influenced by a review at all: 21%

Despite the increasing popularity and pervasiveness of user-generated content, it’s still very difficult to get people to actively participate. Yahoo! has been at it for a long time and has now developed an impressive amount of user-generated content. Citysearch and AOL too, of course. And more recently Yelp and Judy’s Book have had success in creating community and gaining participation.

Google, for its part, aggregates reviews from others rather than soliciting them itself (although that may change eventually).

Among the IYP sites, SuperPages has a jump on the other providers. “We’ve been fairly successful but about 20% of users drive about 80% of the activity,” said SuperPages president Eric Chandler to me yesterday.

It’s not easy to get this content and it will be challenging for those “late to the party” to catch up. Better get started.


4 Responses to “Social Media: Get Used to It”

  1. Craig Smith Says:

    One positive data point / example supporting community involvement in categories outside of arts and entertainment is ServiceMagic has recorded hundreds of thousands of ratings & reviews on over 45k prescreened contractors nationwide. Corroborating the quantity point is the fact that these are all done in a closed loop environment where the consumer submitted a request and hired the home professional in order to rate them – there’s no fluff in the total ratings count figure b/c the site only posts legitimate ratings.

    It’s hard to make the case that community can’t be created around the service industry (plumbers) when there’s significant proof positive in the marketplace that it can and has in fact occured.

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