Social Networking and Consumerism

When investing in a new cell phone, camera or moderately expensive item, how many of you research online to find the best product? When searching, do you look at the products own homepage, or look for a site that has reviews? I know that I trust the opinions of customers much more than the opinion of the product (because they are only trying to make a profit off of me).

When I was looking for a new digital camera, I went to a host of sites, comparing different models and makes. Whenever I went to the homepage for an actual product, they made it sound like the best thing since sliced bread, but only when I saw reviews did I learn the faults with each camera. Though each product had an educational site, only when I considered the costumer reviews did I truly feel informed.

Though this looking at reviews may seem self evident, it is actually quite new. We now have a market that is run by the consumer rather than the producer. Social networking, or at least the availability of discussion online, allows this. Biased remarks and praises of the producer are not the only form of product knowledge anymore. Good advertising comes in the form of good reviews.  I think that society no longer trusts the ad made by the company (though they are still essential to marketing for awareness), but it is the response from the online society that makes or breaks a product’s success.

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2 Comments

  1. The prevalence of the customer review reminds me of another advertising endorsement–the celebrity endorsement. While it has been rather abused, the original idea is that the celebrity or expert in question would be knowledgeable concerning the product, because it’s important to their livelihood. Thus, a basketball player could be trusted to promote good sports sneakers. But the customer review turns down the expert/celebrity, and instead seeks the endorsement of an ordinary person. It makes sense–you want the experiences of someone who uses the product in their everyday life, as you’ll be doing.

    The interesting part is when the customer review itself alters as a result of exposure. In blogging culture, for example, you have people who have become celebrities essentially for being ordinary people,broadcasting the details of their lives to a large audience. Thus, you have figures such as Melinda Roberts, a blogger famous for her blog in the genre of what’s called a “mommy blog,” blogs based around the experience of being a mother. Roberts has reached the point of popularity where she is given free items from a company if she promotes them on her site, as with the trip in this example: http://main.melindaroberts.net/archives/holiday-travel-tips-for-extended-family-celebrations/
    She is, in other words, having it both ways. She claims her testimony is authentic, because she’s still a mom, taking her children on these vacations. But she also claims an expert, celebrity role, in soliciting these companies’ products to begin with, as she is telling these companies that she has an audience large enough to make her someone worth reckoning.

    Thus you have it, a new category for a new age: the celebrity consumer.

    MH

    • I was just thinking about celebrity endorsements when I saw this post and comment. I think today we can see more evidence of celebrities in marketing and consumption of culture, goods, and services. For example, I was thinking of Gwyneth Paltrow and her role as a celebrity outside of acting. Her website, http://www.goop.com, is the culmination of her ideas and ideals for all to read and share. She posts information on the latest trends and crazes for her readers. These are categorized into six sections: Make, Get, Be, Do, See, and Go. Any of these sections includes subtopics ranging from cooking, to travel, to makeup, to fashion, to lifestyle choices, to buying things for Christmas. The lists are seemingly endless and she emails subscribers weekly newsletters detailing this information. ‘Goop’ has also spread into social media as well with Facebook and Twitter updates.

      What makes Gwyneth Paltrow such an authority in our lives? For one, she is a wealthy and powerful woman with an equally wealthy and powerful husband in Coldplay’s Chris Martin. She is able to indulge in the latest and popular trends, phases, and crazes. Readers of her newsletter may see her as a shining example and by Making, Getting, Being, Doing, Seeing, and Going where and what Gwyneth Paltrow does, they may feel closer to her and hope to, one day, emulate her successes. This definitely takes away from the ‘ordinary person’ perspective/endorsement, but the power of the celebrity voice is hard to ignore.

      ‘Goop’ is an example that proves consumers want the experiences of someone using products they want to use; it also proves that consumers are influenced by a celebrity-produced consumer culture as well (her 30 322 Facebook fans can attest to this).


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