Immediacy of Language Boosts the Value of Positive Online Reviews

October 31, 2013

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Immediacy of Language Boosts the Value of Positive Online Reviews

Research studies have shown that consumers value negative reviews more than positive reviews – at least when it comes to finding useful information that would be useful in making purchase decisions.

But what if the review was new? What if it talked about an experience from “this morning” or a “dinner I just got back from”? Would immediacy (and not just sentiment) make a difference at all in the way consumers absorb the information presented in online reviews?

(Check out: “Ethical Ways to Generate More Positive Reviews”)

These are questions that researcher Zoey Chen of Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business recently sought to address. Her study, entitled “Temporal Contiguity and Negativity Bias in the Impact of Online Word-of-Mouth,” examined over 65,000 online reviews on Yelp in order to determine if temporal cues – that is, if it seems like review-writing closely followed actual consumer experience – had an effect on how useful reviews were perceived.

The results showed that the immediacy of the language in which reviews were written boosted the value of positive reviews. What does this mean, exactly? It means that if you’re a business owner, one way to overcome the impact of negative reviews is to encourage your satisfied customers to include language that indicates that their reviews were written shortly after they consumed your product, experienced your service, or visited your business location.

So, words and phrases like “today,” “just got back,” and “recently” can add to the usefulness of reviews – especially the positive ones. They also mitigate the “negativity bias” that can often be associated with people who write positive reviews.

“(Positive reviewers’) motivation for writing might be self-enhancement, signaling their expertise,” said Chen, who co-authored the study with University of Connecticut School of Business professor Nicholas Lurie. “But negative reviews are generally seen as reflecting more about the product or service than the lifestyle choices of the writer. Therefore, they tend to be seen as more credible. (But) if people learn that you just went to an establishment and had a positive experience, they might think it’s more about the experience than the individual.”

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