Sunday, June 22, 2008

Testimonials - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

What's the power of a testimonial? Does it depend on the product? Does it depend on who it comes from? Does it depend on where you find it? Does it depend on how it is delivered? These are all things I have been pondering as we decide to solicit testimonials from our residents. The testimonials we use need to be as powerful as possible and must be genuine.

In the apartment business the largest forum of testimonials is
. At this website anyone can create a post that rates a particular community in different categories and then allows for an open essay to praise or bash the property. After surveying our residents about what websites they use as resources when searching for a new apartment home, was one that seemed to pop up frequently as a write in for the "Other" option. After seeing that I dove back into to see what all the fuss is about. What I found is that people have a lot of passion about where they live. Whether they love it or hate it, they want to write about it, defend it, slam it, or just be heard. The only concern I have with this site is how honest and genuine it really is. It's easy to see when a property manager or leasing associate tries to post something positive or as a defense post against someone that has slammed the property. From the other side, I also can see how negative posts can be taken way out of context and can be exaggerated to the point where they are not very credible either. While many of the resident's surveyed indicated this website was a resource they used, my next question for them would be how much weight they gave to what they found.

This being said, I think what we are seeing on and many other online stores is that customers are sharing their opinion about products and this will continue to be the trend. People have a lot of passion about the products they own/rent and we can't ignore it. The way I see it, is that it's the responsibility of the marketers to insure there are more positive posts and testimonials out there than negatives. It's also our responsibility to make sure that our customers are more likely to find positive posts. Things can turn very ugly online if you make mistakes and don't make an effort to fix them. Before the Internet it was much easier to ignore bad word of mouth, but now that bad review lasts a lifetime. What are you doing to insure your product, brand, etc. has a positive position online?
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