Study: Our friends are the best product reviewers

More people put more stock in the product opinions of those they know than in published reviews, according to a book by Forrester Research analysts.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
2 min read
The authors of Groundswell have determined that people most trust recommendations from friends, but they also put a lot of faith in reviews from anonymous commenters online. Forrester Research

It should come as no surprise that a vast majority of us trust our friends' recommendations about products or services, but according to a study, a strong majority also trust the product reviews of anonymous online commenters.

These are some of the findings of a study from the book Groundswell, by Forrester Research analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, highlighted in a post on the book's blog this week.

According to their study, 83 percent of respondents believe in friends' recommendations, a number higher than those who put stock in newspaper, magazine, or TV reviews (75 percent).

More surprising, perhaps, is that 60 percent of the respondents said they trust online reviews left by complete strangers on retailers' sites.

And why do people take the word of those they've never met?

"They don't--not as individuals," Bernoff wrote. "But they do in groups. Strangers are assumed not to have an ax to grind. If 100 people on eBags say a laptop bag is great, then it is great. If they say it's inferior, then it is inferior."


I'll say, however, that I personally don't buy into this theory. Mainly because when I go looking for online reviews by the masses, I never find them. Instead, I find postings on Yelp or other places where three people have left reviews, all of which have divergent opinions. That's not very helpful.

Of course, if there are 100 reviews of something, I will get behind the groupthink. The same is true on eBay, for example. If someone has a feedback rating of 8, I'll stay away, as will almost all buyers or sellers.

This is why it's harder to sell something on eBay when you don't have a high feedback rating. And this is certainly a function of the wisdom of the crowds, for better or worse.