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My Vacuum Sucks – The Art of Social Reviews

Opinions are good, right? Or should this read, opinions are good as long as you don’t share negative ones with anyone else publicly? Social network platforms are changing the way I look at opinions.

I learned my first social review lessons at a party when I was 16 years old. That was, well let’s say a few years ago, but I’m still reminded of it. I had developed a little thesis that you can share negative yet honest opinions in a positive, helpful spirit, and true friends will appreciate your viewpoint. I was wrong. So much for scientific research, my first null hypothesis was clearly rejected, followed by several days eating my lunch alone. (Note: at least all was not lost since I just recently re-connected via Facebook to the old troop including the host of that famous “Sweet 16” party). I quickly defaulted to “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it”.

Now that online platforms exist for all types of publicly identified ratings, rankings, comments and reviews, there’s a lot more art in the process – with aesthetic expressions and creative levels of participation, emotion and trust in the communication palette.
I’m a fan of social rating, ranking, user reviews, consumer reviews, etc. I consume and contribute. I am generally more motivated to share and contribute when my opinions are extreme – either I love something or there are problems with it. And I’m one of those naïve individuals who actually believe that real people’s comments are mostly real.
Which brings me to my vacuum cleaner. My current one was designed poorly (notice in the picture that the wand and handle aren’t attached… you can bet that I commented on that problem!) I want one that sucks. I don’t care too much about the type of vacuum cleaner; I care more about getting my floor clean. And weird but true, I care even more about not purchasing a bad product (ah, those who have visited my floor may already know this). I don’t want to waste shipping, packing, material resources, or money on a poor product. So I’ll spend at least 4 times the cost of the vacuum in the online social platform world, searching for a good product, reading reviews and in some cases even discussing the product with a stranger (yes a stranger, which would be different from a close person I know and trust). I can use online tools to do all of this quickly and easily.
Listen up here fellow marketers, I like this system and if for some reason I feel that you are abusing it trying to spam, amplify, or falsely promote stuff, I’m not going to… eat lunch with you.

Are the results I get from social reviews better than those I would get by listening to TV commercials, reading mail-order catalogs and asking the salesperson at the local store?
Resounding YES.

And the process is getting better and better. More people are participating, platforms are getting more sophisticated, and consumers are getting better at public reviewing. The balance between words painted by product experts and the tapestry of words from users is shifting in the right direction.

So here are some ideas I’d like to add to the social review artists palette:
1) thank those who give useful feedback since they are risking friend loss
2) be genuine when reviewing, big points for factual
3) be sensitive to the people and things behind the review (yes my dear Sweet 16 friends I did learn something)
4) be graceful when others express negative comments, especially those that are truly given in a spirit of improvement

Comments? What’s your style for expressing opinions publicly?

Categories: Online Marketing
  1. July 12, 2009 at 14:29

    Hello Ms Social Media, the Digital Activist,
    To tell you the truth, I really don’t know that much about vacuum cleaners. I can tell you, though, that yours is a pretty ‘swoopy’ model (what ever that means), but it appears to have ‘two piece itus’! I own a couple of vacuum cleaners myself and I think they “suck”, but that is only because I have to turn them on to do a job I’m not fond of. So much for the vacuum cleaner subject.
    Being an ‘Ol contankerous guy that I am, I don’t agree with much, let alone many people. But, I do agree with your four review ‘rules’. If you want to be able to improve your service or product, you need to get honest feedback about what you are doing. Unless you have been recently issued some wings and a halo (and you probably aren’t hanging around here any more), or, you are so delusional that you feel that your service or product is perfect and had asked for the feed back only to bolster your ego, you just may have a slight chance of getting some negative feed back/comments. But wait, isn’t that what you really need in order to improve AND correct the issues thus enabling you to retain your hard found and fought for clients??!! I guess it reminds me of what my Daddy used to say to me when I would ask him what he thought about some crazy idea I was trying to push past him: “Son, I’ll give you my opinion that you are asking for, but are you sure you’re ready and big enough to hear it?” Ron

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