I've always been a Malcolm Gladwell fan. Partially because his books make you think, but not too hard because he simplifies, summarizes and references scientific research and case studies in a brilliant way. But partially because I've met him a few times and he's a genuinely kind, generous human being who happens to be pretty darn smart.
So I've been looking forward to his latest book, Outliers, about the nature of success and the factors that make becoming an "outlier" success possible and even likely.
I usually check out the reviews on Amazon.com. Sure, some of them might be plants from a publicist. But many are thoughtful and well-written, and they normally give me an idea of a book's strengths and weaknesses.
In the case of Outliers, I noticed the vast majority of ratings in the 4 and 5 range - so far, so good. But then I read the first review by a poster named "Nathan." Nathan had some big problems with Outliers, and he laid them out in devastating detail. I have to admit, Nathan's comments put a damper on my pent-up Gladwell purchase.
Why did Nathan influence me more than the majority who gave Outliers a 4 or 5 rating? Is his post, combined with a few other anti-Gladwell posts, the beginning of an anti-tipping point for Gladwell and a Blink backlash?
And how do online product or service reviews influence most of us?
It's been demonstrated frequently that online reviews have big influence on offline purchase. According to Comscore in a 2007 study, nearly one out of every four Internet users (24%) reported using online reviews prior to paying for a service delivered offline.
But what about reviews influence us? Certainly the percentage of positive-to-negative posts and ratings can build a case for or against a product. But sometimes its more than that. It can be the credibility of the poster demonstrated in the form of thoughtful writing and in-depth analysis. It can also be the placement of the review; which one did you read first? Not all reviews are created equal.
In today's marketplace, there are no secrets. But there are influentials who guide others on new ways of thinking, both positive and negative. It's even more critical to cultivate influentials who may be able to sway opinion and take the conversation in a different direction when something negative gets posted about your company or product.