A little over a month ago, I posted a Facebook status update that read "iPhone 4G=AMAZING" (a careless naming error since the iPhone 4 is not on a 4G network), to which I received a wealth of comments, both on and offline. Some agreed with me, lamenting the fact that they had purchased an iPhone 3GS only a few weeks before. Others went so far as to disparage the iPhone as just a fad with inadequate battery life and reception problems.
The comment that invited the admiration of fellow Apple fans and sparked the ire of others more critical of the brand.
And while I had read about all the details of the phone from Apple's website, my friends' comments still held considerable sway over my future purchase decision. Companies like Apple claim to know their customers' needs--and iPhone sales prove that to a certain extent. But a consumer will naturally be wary of a company's self-promotional tactics. It is much easier to trust your close network of friends--other consumers who are in or have been in your shoes. While my friends may not have had the new product in their hands at the time, they had plenty of experience with the brand to share with me.
Maureen Lippe, CEO of communications agency Lippe Taylor, writes in PRWeek Insider how she considers consumers to be the "ultimate influencers" with the advent of digital channels and social media.
My less-than-140 character status update sparked a conversation—a conversation which was also available on the news feeds of my extended network of Facebook friends. Unlike a tech review, this short and casual back-and-forth about the iPhone helped me and undoubtedly influenced others in forming a comprehensive opinion about the brand and the product.
Maureen Lippe's thoughts on the power of online consumer networks are true. Most folk are looking for information they can relate to from people they can relate to. The age-old value of 'word of mouth' marketing still holds but now it's gone digital.