Can you pin a dollar value on a positive tweet or Facebook like? According to a new report from social data platform ShareThis, the answer is an emphatic yes. Across all sharing platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, etc.), seeing a positive online share—a post on Facebook, for instance, by someone who loves Dove soap—corresponds to a 9.5 percent increase in purchase intent. On the flip side, encountering a negative online share or review—a post on Facebook by someone who absolutely hates Dove—can reduce a product’s desirability by as much as 11 percent.
How does that translate to the bottom line? ShareThis argues that when consumers see a positive share, recommendation, or review online, that information increases their willingness to pay a higher price for the endorsed product. ShareThis surveyed 6,000 people about their purchasing choices, asking about products in three price tiers: cars, consumer electronics, and groceries. Depending on the original sticker price of the item, they find that a positive share will lead their survey respondents to pay an extra $799 to $9,336 for a vehicle, an additional $22 to $34 for a mini-tablet, and another $0.24 to $1.54 for goods sold in a supermarket.
Within the world of online promotions, not all shares are created equal. Consumers value recommendations most when they come from close friends and family members. For pricier products like cars and tech products, they’ll also take into account professional reviews, like the kind in Consumer Reports. So long as the source is trusted and respected, though, we don’t seem to care too much if they’re voicing the opinion in-person or through social media. We’re less enthralled with online ratings and reviews that come from complete strangers.
None of this is particularly surprising. A vote of confidence from a good friend might be enough to convince you to check out a new cereal brand, but it probably takes a little more than that to sway your opinion on a major investment like a car. At the same time, the ShareThis data show that online shares aren’t something to write off, even with high-end products. Compared with consumer reviews and ratings, online shares stack up much better as a purchasing influencer.
Consumers, in other words, really are good advertisers for brands—even if they’re not trying to be. That is sure to make stores happy, but will be one more headache for regulators like the Federal Trade Commission, which has spent years trying to draw the line between genuine user endorsements of products and so-called misleading promotions from advertisers. And that was before we had a dollar value for those likes, tweets, and pins.