By on November 3, 2011

Like most corporate trends, the rush to social media is often little more than an opportunity for new consultants to sell common sense packaged in the buzzwords du jour. And though it’s easy to just laugh off the process as just another fad, it’s important to remember that common sense is in relatively short supply these days… if the only way to get it across is to punctuate it with words like “engagement” and “voice share,” so be it. And because social media is forcing companies to come to grips with every possible kind of feedback, the trend is actually helping validate the hard-hitting editorial approach that TTAC has long embraced. At Motor Trader’s social media conference, Richard Anson, CEO of the consumer review site Reevoo, explains the simple truth:

Social content will help drive sales so trust and transparency are vital; we all trust our peers more than any vendor or brand. Negative reviews are good for business. Retailing is all about transparency so perfection is not credible. Customers expect and want negative reviews and they give dealers a great opportunity to engage.

Hear, hear!

This is a lesson that the auto industry often struggles with, especially with in-house social media efforts like The Ford Story (now social.ford.com). But even within the larger automotive media scene, there’s a lack of appreciation for the constructive powers of negative reviews. Due to a long and pointless tradition in the automotive media of trying to objectively evaluate all vehicles on a single rating or “star system,” there’s a sense that negativity in a review implies that a car is not worth considering. In reality, if someone is going to own and live with a car, aren’t they going to be as interested in its flaws as its charms? Consumers aren’t stupid, and if they feel like they’re getting a whitewash from any one review outlet, they’ll look elsewhere. And thanks to the internet and “social media,” they’ve got lots of options.

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19 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: “Negative Reviews Are Good For Business” Edition...”


  • avatar
    Luke42

    Useful negative reviews can be very good for business. Amazon’s review system illustrates this nicely. I’ve bought products because of “helpful” critical reviews on Amazon, because the author was both insightful AND critical. Turned out I wasn’t looking for the same thing as the author, and I had a far better idea of what I was getting because of his/her criticism.

    The important thing is the quality of the review, not the author’s recommendation. “This product roxxxx!” is just as useless as “this product is teh suxo!r” — whereas “I won’t buy this vehicle because it makes a tradeoff between towing ability and ride quality that doesn’t match my lifestyle” is helpful and will sell the car to people who want to tow.

    The only time this could be bad for business is if you’ve built a business around selling stuff that people don’t need to them, and you’re trying desperately to keep them from figuring it out…

  • avatar
    Boff

    I guess this question needs to be asked: do bad (professional) reviews cost sales, let alone sink a new model launch?

  • avatar
    eastaboga

    Ed,

    I get the point about negative reviews, and agree wholeheartedly. Car & Driver basically made their reputation with a negative review of the Opel Kadett back in 1968.

    Not to highjack a thread, but I have to ask, as long as we’re talking about transparency, what in the hell is that ad all over the website today. I went to website for “Independent Women’s Voice”, and think I could not be accused of misrepresentation in pointing out that this appears to be a conservative, right-wing mouthpiece organization. I know you gotta keep the lights on, but spreading this misinformation and propaganda, even tangentially, doesn’t seem to gel with the TTAC mission.

    • 0 avatar

      Advertisements appearing here are not endorsed by the editorial team. TTAC maintains an inviolable wall between advertising and editorial. I have never met or spoken with anyone who has ever sold an ad for our site (to my knowledge). And in turn, nobody ever emails me asking me to change just one little thing in order to land or not upset an advertiser. The ad folks do their thing, we do our thing… and that is fundamental to the TTAC mission.

      • 0 avatar
        eastaboga

        Fair enough, if there’s a bright white line there then great, so be it. This kind of political vitriol regardless of where it originates on the political spectrum, though, can really turn a lot of people away from the site.

      • 0 avatar

        Ed, I don’t know if it’s a browser thing but since I’ve been doing a little research on the Jaguar XJ Portfolio, a lot of the ads I see a Jaguar ads. Maybe a coincidence or there’s some AI going on. A little creepy.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Ronnie Schreiber: Internet ad companies track your behavior on the web and use it to target ads to you. This is expected behavior, and, yes, a little creepy. If you don’t like it, there are a lot of technological countermeasures that I can point you to.

        The reason Edward Niedermeyer has never talked to the people who sell ads on the site is because a website like this one has a very impersonal relationship with the advertisers. TTAC (esentially)puts a chunk of HTML on the page, and Doubleclick, Google, or whoever displays whatever ads they feel like (based on keywords on the page, the other sites that the user has viewed that use the same advertising company, and any other information they can get their hands on) and writes TTAC a check. There’s almost no way they could talk about the ads, even if they wanted to. It hadn’t occurred to me exactly, how good this is for editorial freedom on the Internet until now.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Virus? Spyware? I don’t think I’ve seen the ad in question.

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      Are you referring to http://www.iwvoice.org ?

      Just took a cursory glance and it appears to a real web site that is advocating a main stream political view point.

      By “misinformation and propaganda”, you must mean anything that differs from your view point.

      You will find a lot of that in life.

      • 0 avatar
        eastaboga

        FleetofWheel,

        With all due respect, I think you’re missing the point. This is a car site, we’re all here because we’re car guys and gals. We can have a debate about the healthcare system, but is this really this place for it?

        The tone of your response is not lost on me, though, so I’ll just say “have a nice day” and leave it at that.

      • 0 avatar
        FleetofWheel

        The point is that the ads you see on TTAC could be anything from a diabetic supply ware house to Democratic Underground or an Everybody Loves Raymond blu ray disc set.

        The ad bundlers will run whatever they think will draw hits and or sales.

        The editors here are not involved with those ads.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the IWF was started by Kathy Young, a Soviet emigre and libertarian. Pretty good writer, too. I don’t always agree with her, but she’s pretty thoughtful and articulate.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Whenever I’m researching something I always read the negative reviews first.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I find the negatives to be more informative.

      If a feature is properly designed, it is usually transparent and unnoticed. Flaws, however, get in the way and are noticed every time.

      Also, most products being sold do their job reasonably well (otherwise, they wouldn’t on the market anymore). Thus, comparing products by what they do well yields less differentiation than comparing what they do poorly.

      This is a big reason that ‘boring’ cars with no stand-out features–but no glaring faults–sell so well.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I think that negative reviews that are fair are good. But many reviews from print and online publications take extremes with their reviews. Jack Baruth covered this recently with the Sebring/200 reviews from a particular writer. I think finding fair reviews are much harder these days.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I think the way it is these days on most products is that we expect a minimum standard of competance.

    In 2011 we expect stuff to work and not break down whether it’s a car or computer or camera.

    I would also think that people have some idea of what to expect… if you buy a Corvette you expect to have blistering speed, poor interior room and a bad Cobalt class fittings and poor fuel economy… so you need to see if you can live with the downsides while enjoying the upsides of which it has many.

    I agree with the above poster who says he looks at the negatives first.

    I love reviews that sums things up with the pros and cons. Look at the cons, see if you can live with them. Ignore the pros because you basically should know what they are depending on what kind of car you’re looking at.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      +1

      I need to know what to look out for to see if its a deal breaker. If I read a gushing review it immediately tells me that a total fan-boy wrote it or they are using PR copy.


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