Product Reviews: Using Social Media to Sift through the Good, The Bad and the Useful


Terra Higginson

featured contributor

Listen to an audio version of this article

The days of a snotty expert dryly pronouncing their final word over the quality and usability of just about anything are long gone. Influence has shifted and social media reigns king. Social media is here to stay and it has put product reviews in the hands of the people.

” the judgment of the common man is here to stay”

According to KISSmetrics, over 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase. With almost 63% of consumers indicating that they are more likely to purchase from a site that has product ratings and reviews, there is no longer any question that the judgment of the common man is here to stay. So, how can you weed through the product reviews and decide which ones matter?

1. Which Review Can You Trust?
Find a review that is trustworthy. Sites like Amazon have a ranking system, whereby the most liked reviews will go to the top. Review some of those at the top, read the comments made on the review. Check the profile of the person that wrote the review; evaluate their reviewing history. Decide if the review and reviewer themself is trustworthy. Evaluate the way the review was written. If sounds like an ad, then it probably is. If you are dubious, go to the next review or even the next product.

2. The Power of the Complaint
Beware of too many 5-star reviews. Read the complaints. The power of a review isn’t just in the quantity of stars it is given; it is also in the negative reviews given by those that gave the product the lowest rating. Valuable reviews are those that contain both positive and negative as well.

3. Seek Reviewers Similar to Yourself
Remember that not everyone is like you. Social media is faceless. This can be both good and bad. However, consider that the people giving the reviews might very well not be like you and, therefore, their opinions should be given less weight. Again, you can check the reviewers profile and get an idea of other things they have reviewed. Sites like Tripadvisor, give you to the option to filter reviews by families or couples or business people, allowing you to find reviewers similar to yourself.

4. Search Around
Check various purchasing and review websites. Check Twitter and Facebook and Google.

5. Seek Out the Most Powerful Reviews
Last, but not least, when I am really stuck trying to decide what to buy, I turn to my ability to question a wide network of social media friends by directly asking them to make a recommendation. Something like: “Please help! Which one is better: the Toyota Sienna or the Honda Odyssey?” This is a direct quote that a mom friend recently posted to her Facebook page. She got a number of valuable and honest opinions from an audience of people that are invested in her best interests.
The motto “Buyer Beware” still applies in this modern age, but these tips will help you use social media to sift through the good, the bad and the useful of product reviews.

What kind of rules do you follow when evaluating an online review?

Illustration by Allen Robert Branston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Terra Higginson

Terra Higginson

Digital and Social Media Strategy Consultant at GoalShouter
Digital strategist for GoalShouter and One Take - Caffeine addicted, chocoholic - Need 8 hours of sleep or my alter ego, Darth Vader, takes over


  1. emetelka says

    Fantastic post, Terra! Think you’re right on and those stats you posted prove it: buyers are looking for 3rd party validation more and more before they purchase.

    As we look at how reviews evolve in the future, sites should give buyers more control over the review content. You point out that buyers should seek reviewers similar to themselves. Sites can give buyers this power by pulling in social profiles and adding powerful filtering tools on the review section. I’d personally like to see Amazon add features like this so you can see ratings of segments of users and not just the aggregate consensus.

    My company G2 Crowd is a site for software reviews and we recently added functionality to filter reviews based on size of company and role in using the software. We believe in this trend you mentioned, Terra, and we want to give as much power as possible to potential buyers to see reviews by people who have a similar use case. That way, they can make the best decision for them – especially in a vertical like enterprise software where there are large price tags.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Current ye@r *