I recently posted this piece about communication. While working on it I thought about the fact that word of mouth is still the most trusted recommendation for a business, person, news item and even topic of conversation. I think we are taking the mouth out of the process. Is ‘word of web’ the new ‘word of mouth’? My friends and family are still my most trusted sources of information but there are questions that these people don’t have answers to. That’s when there is a breakdown in the word of mouth; and when I turn to the word of web. Let’s say that I want to buy a netbook but none of my word of mouth friends have any real experience them. A web search about netbooks will turn up a lot of articles and blogs but why should I trust any of the search results? I don’t know anything about the people who are giving their opinion. That’s when these three websites that I’ve recently found can come in handy.
By going to http://topsy.com/ I can search the approximately 2.5 billion Tweets for netbook or even the exact model that I’m thinking of buying. When the results of the search are in I know that what I’ve found is mentions and opinions from real people, most of whom have no agenda aside from sharing opinions. But of all of the opinions that I find which ones should I trust?
Maybe http://tweetlevel.edelman.com/ can help. TweetLevel will let me know a lot about the person who Tweeted “My 4C3R netbook is roxzorz! The best one that I’ve ever had.” by telling me about that Tweeter’s influence. I can see if that person is popular, how much other people trust him based on if a lot of his tweets are retweeted and how much he engages with is followers. – Maybe I don’t trust what a guy with 42 followers and 26 tweets who is following 2,287 people has to say. His opinions, like that salty processed meat, are probably best left in the can until the power’s out.
What if Topsy didn’t turn up any good results, or just not enough? I can go to http://www.twellow.com/ where I can search hashtags by category to find people who Tweet about computers or web books or just about anything else. Then I can do a TweetLevel search of a couple of folks that I find and ask them via @message. I’ll get an answer to my question from someone who I don’t know but I can feel pretty confident that if I did know him (or her) I’d trust the opinion.
Social media answering questions we didn’t even know were being asked. We will always trust our real world friends but we are putting a lot more confidence in what is available online. We can now really have, or at least eavestweet on, a conversation with large groups of people that we may have never truly met; but, for some reason, we trust.