Written by Everyone’s a critic
By Paula Toole
During the pre-internet era, professional critics could make or break a new venture. A scathing review by a cantankerous critic could spell the end for a small business, particularly in the hospitality industry.
But the advent of powerful sites such as Tripadvisor, Yelp and even Twitter mean that this landscape has changed irrevocably. And that can only be a good thing for increasingly savvy consumers.
Last year, a study showed that 88 per cent of people trust online reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation, with 72 per cent of people stating that positive reviews made them trust a local business more.
Review sites are only set to grow in power. TripAdvisor reaches more than 315 million unique users a month, posting more than 200 million reviews and opinions from around the world. Yelp has 135 million unique users, and hosts over 71 million reviews on the site. Both sites now offer apps, meaning that customers can report their good or bad experiences on the move via their mobile devices.
By following our favourite bloggers and looking out for reviews on Facebook and Twitter, we can receive a carefully selected flow of trusted opinion just by tapping our screens.
So why would anyone turn to a stranger in a newspaper for guidance? Online reviews and recommendations have given consumers an amplified voice, so that the conversation increasingly goes both ways.
The rise of social media in particular means that brands now have to develop a distinct personality and engage in conversation with their followers, rather than delivering messages to them.
It is no longer adequate to simply talk to your customers – the most effective brands have to be seen to be listening to them too.