As I mentioned in my first post of this series, titled “World wide web of instruction sets,” the world we live in today is dominated almost ubiquitously by the Internet and technology. Also known as Web 2.0, this digital landscape allows users to interact like never before – with friends, companies, and even strangers. In Jo Mackiewicz’s “Assertions of Expertise in Online Product Reviews,” this fact is distilled to the quote “people expect Web sites to allow them to interact with the site content and with other users” (2009, p. 3). This quote is the most fundamental lessons I have learned in my advertising classes – all business of today revolves around engagement and conversations with customers. One of the best ways to foster this interaction is through product reviews, Mackiewicz’s article focusing specifically on technical products.
Again, Web 2.0 is characterized by user-generated content and two-way conversations between users instead of one-way messages from companies to target markets. The Internet is full of people who want to read other consumer’s reviews, the key being credible consumer reviews. We want reviews to give us more information than the company does and that information must come from someone who knows what he/she is talking about. Mackiewicz’s article extensively defines ten essential elements that make a reviewer seem reliable and credible. To summarize, she defines credibility by the twofold requirements of trustworthiness and expertise. A reviewer’s trustworthiness is built by ethos, character, intentions/motivations, and knowledge. The other side to credibility’s definition is expertise of the reviewer; the rest of Mackiewicz’s research breaks down the assertions and evidence that make up expertise. Within assertion types, there are “assertions of product-specific experience, assertions of familiarity with related products, and assertions of relevant role” (Mackiewicz, 2009, p. 11). Two other strategies for appearing credible, which can be found within these assertions, are using jargon within reviews and becoming a Top Reviewer on sites. Additionally, and ironically, stating a lack of expertise can benefit credibility on the side of trustworthiness because the reviewer comes across as honest and identifies with the readers.
Related to this interconnected online reality of interactivity, reviews, and shopping, I will share an example of how my use of the Internet contributes to my purchasing habits. To be honest, I do not read reviews before I purchase every product. As many can agree, taking the time to read reviews before making a purchase is usually only beneficial for more expensive products. I will not fret over which notebooks I order, but I will agonize over which new Mac laptop to buy. A few weeks ago, I made the decision that I needed a new pair of running shoes. Typically, I buy Nike’s, but I went to New Balance’s site and found the perfect looking pair. Before dishing out $80, I scrolled to the reviews. These reviews helped me make my decision over any other pair of shoes, which shows how influential others’ opinions and expertise are on what we buy.
On an end note, Mackiewicz’s articulately summarizes the significance of product reviews in a way I had never considered: “This move toward technology-infused lives can create an impulse in people, including online reviewers, to improve those technologies in any way they can, such as by writing online reviews” (2009, p. 5). Reviewers enjoy participating in this genre of technical writing because online reviews help to improve product usage, online communication, and human productivity.