“I don’t read product reviews on blogs, because they get that stuff for free!”
I see comments like that every once in a while on forums, chat groups and Facebook and I have to chuckle since I often publish product reviews on my mommy blog. These consumers consider themselves to be pretty savvy and would never get “suckered” by something as biased as a blogger’s review. Now, while I understand the natural skepticism behind assertions like this, I think it’s shortsighted to discount blog reviews altogether. Why? Because when a consumer is researching a product, it is in his or her best interest to get as much data as possible about that product. Limiting oneself to a single source of information (or very few sources) may result in a very poor understanding of the product overall.
Since the assumption here is that “if you pay for something, your review is going to be honest and helpful,” then I’m going to start by responding to that assertion. Just because you paid for something doesn’t guarantee your review is going to be useful, or even honest (and just because you received something for free doesn’t mean your review is going to be a complete fabrication, either). Take a look at these examples of online consumer reviews:
“Our daughter loves this book! So glad I made the purchase!”
“I will NOT be buying these socks again. Buyer beware!”
“This toy is just OK. Our son didn’t really like it a lot.”
“At $10 for a pack of 4, you can’t beat the price of these undershirts.”
“Lots of moms recommended this teether to me, but my daughter just wants to suck on her fingers.”
As a consumer, reviews like this really frustrate me because there’s not really any useful information. Simply saying you like or dislike something isn’t really helpful to others. Nor is warning people about a product without telling them why. Additionally, commenting on the price isn’t a review; it’s just stating something that’s obvious from the product listing.
See how paying for something doesn’t guarantee customers are going to leave helpful reviews? And now look at this example:
“Our microwave quit working after just 3 months. The light won’t even come on. What a piece of junk. DO NOT BUY from this unscrupulous company!”
I often come across reviews like this when researching electronics or gadgets. They are not just inaccurate (if the light isn’t coming on that doesn’t mean your microwave has quit working), but sometimes border on slander (how can you say the company is unscrupulous if you didn’t even give them a chance to service the product or honor their warranty?).
Like me, you probably skip over reviews like those above. It’s an automatic filtering process. Now, in the interest of fairness, couldn’t skeptics do the same for blog reviews? Let me explain. If you follow a blogger who does nothing but rave about every single product that he or she reviews, then your BS meter is probably justified in going off. Chances are, this blogger is so fearful of jeopardizing relationships with brands, and is so intent on keeping the freebies flowing, that he or she will not be honest about the negatives.
But if you think all review bloggers operate in that mode, then you just aren’t reading enough blog reviews!
I follow a lot of bloggers and appreciate how most of them are both honest and professional when sharing a product with their readers. Many use the helpful pro and con format to set out the advantages and disadvantages of a product. Their reviews are much more thorough than anything you’re likely to get online; they’ve dedicated an entire post to it, usually 300 words or more. Good review bloggers make sure to share important data that consumers often fail to mention: product specifications like exact measurements and fabric content, size ranges or capacity, and so forth. You’ll likely get a lot of great photos AND possibly even a special discount on the product that has been prearranged between the blogger and the brand. And the benefits don’t stop there: nearly every blogger can be easily contacted via email or through the comment section of their review post. If you have questions about the product they reviewed, they are usually more than happy to get you the answers you need. Some who have an ongoing relationship with a brand can even act as a sort of mediator between you and the brand. And finally, many bloggers receive products to review because they are experts in a certain market; their opinions are therefore highly valuable to both brands and potential customers. There’s a reason people like reading the reviews in Car and Driver magazine; those guys know a lot more than the average Joe and Joe wants to hear what “the experts” have to say!
Do you trust blog reviews?
Don’t forget to read Part 2 – Should You Trust a Blog Review? Learn To Spot Quality Blog Reviews