10/02/08 4:00 AM PT
Customers are increasingly turning to each other, rather than a few experts, to gather information before making a purchase or signing a contract. The concept of crowdsourcing has worked well -- mostly -- for the field of knowledge management. How is it working for customer reviews?
Consumers looking for information about services, products, restaurants or destinations once had to rely on expert reviewers, who would make their site visits, conduct their research, and eventually release their findings to the masses. With the growth of user-generated content, however, everyone is now an expert, or at least an expert consumer. And the opinions of this new class of reviewers are only a mouse click away.
The companies mentioned in the full article, Yelp and AngiesList are cited for their extensive reviews and ratings of local businesses. Yet consumers are too busy - and too cynical - to believe reviews and ratings. Consumers DO listen to and trust their friends and neighbors, however.
Social media allows sharing of these trusted relationships between connected friends. This trust is the most critical component of the consumer buying decision. It is the richest possible vein of local advertising gold.
The next generation of social media will leverage relationships to connect consumers with the local businesses their friends trust. It would be a bonus if the process benefited not only consumers and businesses but the entire community as well.