Monthly Archives: June 2014

Electronic-word-of-mouth​ is important for smaller out-of-the-way places

I recently returned from an amazing week-long yoga retreat in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. The retreat was organized and facilitated by my husband, who is a brilliant yoga teacher. (Of course I’m not biased or anything…) This was his fifth international retreat, but our first one in Guatemala. The location was spectacular! We practiced for 2 hours every morning in a tranquil space with THIS stunning view.

No wonder everyone loved it!

The retreat center (Villa Sumaya) is a beautiful family-run business, and the owner, Wendy, cares about every detail of the property. As one of the retreat participants said “It feels more like you’re staying in someone’s home than in a hotel.”

During the week, the staff asked us a couple of times to share our experiences there on TripAdvisor when we returned back home. Once again, I was struck by how much places like this rely on “electronic word of mouth” in sustaining their business. The only way to get to Villa Sumaya is a 20 minute boat ride across part of giant lake, so it’s not exactly a place that you’ll stumble upon accidentally. Online reviews seem to be really important source of information for spreading the word about how unique and special this “off the beaten path” place is.

Social media in the movie “Chef”

A couple of weeks ago, I went to go see Chef. I had read a review that described it as “food porn,” so I knew that it would be my kind of movie. It was pretty good (I mean, it’s no cinematic tour de force…but it IS a nice, light, entertaining way to spend 2 hours in a dark and seriously air-conditioned room). Plus the basic message was a pretty easy one to get on board with: Be true to yourself, follow your passion, and you will be rewarded with both professional and personal successes.

What I found most interesting about the film is the key role that social media plays in it. Social media (especially Twitter, but also Youtube, Facebook, Vine, and text messaging) is absolutely central to the narrative arc of the film. In fact, it’s hard to imagine this story working at all without all of these social media elements, which fuel both the film’s “complicating action” as well as its “resolution” (to use some terms from a very well-known sociolinguistic model of narrative structure.) And, hard as it may be to believe, Twitter actually gets more screen time than Scarlett Johansson!

There’s also a lot of metadiscursive “topicalizing” of social media. In other words, the characters TALK about social media throughout the film. Especially the main character, who comes across as though he’s been living in a bubble for the better part of this century, and is just learning about all this “internet stuff” for the very first time. This trope of the 40-something-technologically-out-of-touch-dad learning about the wondrous workings of social media from his pre-teen son did get a bit old for me after a while.

Nevertheless, it’s a cute little movie, and one that reflects how technologically-mediated our lives are at this point in time.

Do you have a favorite review?

I’ve noticed that over the last few months, right after I’ve given a presentation about online reviews, or when the topic of my research comes up in conversation, people have started sharing their favorite reviews with me. Now wait a minute, you might be thinking, there are people out there who actually have favorite reviews? Trust me, no one was more surprised (or excited!) to discover this than I was.

What this means, I believe, is that while some reviews are informative, others can be downright entertaining. And the REALLY talented review writers manage to both inform and entertain at the same time.

Here are just a few “personal faves” of Amazon reviews that people I know have shared with me in the last few months.

Roach Gel

Pam forwarded me this Roach Gel review, explaining that she loves the review because of the passion that this author put into writing it. She also finds the tone of this review to be totally hilarious. Apparently, lots of other people do too, according to the comments that appear below it. The slang expressions, the vernacular language used, and the pop culture references all work together to make it a pretty entertaining paragraph. (And, living in Florida, I know that insect issues can be very disturbing, so I, too, appreciate how this reviewer managed to turn an icky topic into a humorous text!)

Stone Coasters

Amanda, who shared the stone coasters review, loves it precisely because it’s the opposite of the previous review. The tone of this one is super formal, the main points of the author’s argument are clearly enumerated, and apparently, the author is someone who takes the quality of coaster surfaces very, very seriously. As she explained to me, she is amused by the paradox of this review: it offers such a careful description of what is quite possibly one of the most trivial products imaginable = coasters.

English Grammar for Dummies

Now this last one is obviously a parody. Not only is the content itself totally “over the top,” but if you look at the top of the page, you’ll see that the review has received nearly 6,000 helpfulness votes. 5,944 to be exact. (And let’s face it, while this book *might* have a wide reach, the other 5-star reviews have only received between 3-105 helpfulness votes. Hmmm, that’s a huge difference.)

In fact, the friend that forwarded this review to me via email (thanks Maria!) received it from another person who said that she had seen it on Facebook. This means that people are sharing their favorite reviews not only with me, but with other people, via social networking sites!

Btw, beyond what I’ve already mentioned about this review, it’s also worth pointing out that “Nikolai,” the author, has posted only this one review on Amazon, and has included no other identifying information in his profile. (These 2 characteristics are often given as indicators to look out for in potentially fake reviews.)

I have been fascinated by parody reviews for quite a while now, but that’s a topic for a-whole-nother post! Stay tuned…

In the meantime, if you happen to have a favorite review, please post it as a reply, or email it my way!