Sunday, February 07, 2010

The diminishing value of friend recommendations online

I came across the following article (by Michael Bush) on Advertising Age:
In Age of Friending, Consumers Trust Their Friends Less

Edelman Study Shows That Only 25% of People Find Peers Credible, Flying in Face of Social-Media Wisdom
Here's my response, mostly in agreement:

With an overabundance of people who believe (and are being led to believe by social media marketers) that their personal opinions matter greatly to everyone around them, it's no surprise that the signal-to-noise ratio surrounding personal recommendations has gotten lower. Not only do we have more friends than ever (because of social networking sites), a disproportionate number of them seem to think they are (or deserve to be) prominent influencers and tastemakers.

In response, some people appear to be relying more on aggregrate recommendations, leveraging the so-called "wisdom of the crowd" to determine what they're likely to enjoy, whether it's movies (via, restaurants (via, or books (via Such an approach, widely-adopted, has its own problematic consequences (to be discussed some other time).

An alternative approach is to rely on select individuals for one's recommendations, people whose opinions you really value, even if you don't necessarily agree with all of them. For me, I rely on the person who knows me best--my wife Carol, and even she gets me wrong from time to time, or isn't necessarily interested in evaluating all the things that pique my curiosity. For what it's worth, I still trust recommendations offered by my friends--like around 10 of them, a much smaller subset of the 400 or so friends I have on Facebook (nothing personal, folks).


  1. I completely agree. It seems that people are more likely to trust their friends about these decisions as opposed to random strangers. I wrote a blog post recently about a study I found on Kotaku about it- not surprisingly, people trust their friends over advertisements when it comes to choosing which video games to play.

  2. @Laureninpace - True, but I think that word-of-mouth recommendations are being treated with more skepticism lately for at least two reasons:

    1) there are just too many opinions out there from too many people, including "friends" (and we have to figure out who to trust, if anyone)

    2) word-of-mouth recommendations can be used/manipulated by savvy marketers

    There's nothing wrong, of course, in recommending a brand or product that you like. There are perfectly valid reasons for wanting the companies you like to succeed. That said, there are both good and bad ways to offer word-of-mouth recommendations that people around you will take seriously.

  3. You gotta update this blog more often. Lain wouldn't approve of you spending so little time logging info into the wired...

  4. I agree with you, I don't normally trust my 'friends' to know exactly what I like. As the more of them you have, the more of your time is split up amongst them, giving them less time to really get to know you in the first place.

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