Thursday, August 20, 2015

Should you trust recommendations from people you do not know?

Recommendations typically rate highly as a source of enquiries - but what actually is a recommendation and can it be trusted?

Trust is an important factor. So a recommendation from a friend whose judgement you trust would carry some authority, more so where they had personal experience of the product or service you were interested in. But even then you would probably evaluate their recommendation in the light of your knowledge or their expertise or experience in the subject. Your interpretation of their opinions might be different between prompted and unprompted  recommendation - for example if they were extolling the virtues of a new product they had bought they might be justifying the correctness of their own purchase decision not suggesting you buy one too. Whereas if you asked could they recommend a good plumber then their response would be based on personal experience - quality of work, promptness, value etc.

The thing is the recommendation is 'word of mouth' from a source you trust. Businesses often ask where you heard about them when you make an enquiry. But more likely it will be where did you read about them and the answer is on the Internet. One example of online recommendation is Trip Advisor where people volunteer their opinions of a hotel, often going into amazing detail about the rooms to avoid, the names of staff, quality of service ... on and on. You have to ask what sort of person has the inclination and time to write all this stuff and are their opinions likely to be similar to yours? Now many sites invite you to review products - a chance for a rant for disappointed purchasers. Generally by sorting through the dross you can form a view on the product or service you are looking to source.

 A more recent form of recommendation is the vlog  by video bloggers - vloggers. When looking at certain products it can be useful to look at a video of how they are set up. A typical example is the blogger who starts off by taking the product out of the box before showing you how easy it is to set up and use. You are left thinking if that guy can set it up then I  can do the same. Presenters talk like a friend or equal in this user generated content world. But some times these amateur product demonstrators sign off the vlog with a phrase such as 'catch you next time'. Oh - so they are serial product reviewers then. Where do they get all these products to review? Often it is from the manufacturer. And guess what? The more successful who have created a niche as 'experts' in a product sector, or built a personal following on YouTube are paid to do so by the manufacture. Nothing wrong in that, but the Advertising Standards Authority has now issued guidelines so that advertising vlogs can be identified as advertorial content.

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