While they have always had value when it came to public relations, marketing, and advertising, the Internet has managed to make testimonials more important than ever before. It seems like every website that is trying to conduct business – from the online equivalents of retail giants like Best Buy to the more niche cinemassive.com – has testimonials and customer reviews somewhere. These are primarily to try and get people to relax and recognize that other people have used the product before and have found it as good as the manufacturer’s word.
However, as businesses evolve – unless you’re the copyright industry, which has steadfastly refused to adapt and continues to act like a spoiled crybaby – and the Internet moves forward, the way testimonials are best used have changed.
The first thing to remember is that people can experience testimonial blindness. This is what happens when people become so exposed to them, seeing them on every website and every ad, that they lose all meaning. They’re just random quotes or bits of information to be ignored while looking for the important stuff. It’s kind of like drug tolerance, and it is entirely the business world’s fault – by shoving testimonials down the throat of every potential customer, they’ve rendered them apathetic. By no means are they irrelevant now, but they do lack the sheer impact that they once had.
Keeping the testimonials real has become crucial. People are now more suspicious than ever of whether or not these customer reviews are real or just planted by the business to drum up sales from the gullible. Make sure each of them is real, not carefully crafted to present the best possible image of the product or service. There is nothing more damaging to an online company’s credibility than people realizing they’re faking their reviews.
Remember that not all testimonials will be overwhelmingly positive. There are going to be times when the words that are on that page are critical of certain aspects, even if they’re in favor of the product overall. Take this as an opportunity to improve the product, rather than take them as attacks like some are prone to doing. If there is a reply mechanism in place on where the testimonials are, it might even be a good idea to reply and acknowledge the constructive criticism, along with crafting a non-generic, semi-personalized statement intended to assure people that, yes, it will be a consideration when the time comes to improve things.