The ability for customers to rate and review a company’s products or services online is not a new concept- it’s been around for many years, but as the internet has evolved into what’s commonly referred to as Web 2.0, we’ve seen the popularity of sites with a heavy focus on digital photos and video became very popular in a very short timeframe, ie., YouTube.com and Flickr.com.

Why are photos and videos so popular? There are many reasons, but probably the most logical is that they tell a story in a way that written word simply cannot. The common saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true and a video can be as powerful as a thousand pictures since it combines sound as well.

We recently launched a new feature called Photo Review that provides reviewers the ability to include digital photos along with their written review. Just like ratings and reviews, we provide all of the moderation services for photos and the captions associated with them.  Here are some reasons we believe this new feature will have a major impact on the way people perceive and utilize reviews in the future:

1) Photos generate interest and curiosity – people are naturally drawn to pictures more so than written text. This fact of human nature helps explain why websites that allow digital photos that are user-generated (home made) are so popular. It is only natural that reviews that include photos will generate more interest and spark people’s curiosity above and beyond the written word.

Here’s a good example:

2 Headed Dog on Petco

This was the first photo uploaded with a review on Petco’s website. That’s right- it’s a two headed dog!  It may even be a real one. Now do you think this photo will generate some interest and curiosity from people that see it?  I’m betting it will dramatically increase the number of readers of this review for a dog crate.

2) Photos are valuable authentic user-generated content – When people read reviews, they are looking for information to help them make a purchase decision. By providing them not only written review text, but also authentic user-generated content in the form of pictures, they will have more information to help them make this decision.

3) Photo reviews increase community participation – If users discover a website that supports and encourages customers to upload their photos (authentic user generated content), they will be more likely to participate in the site’s community (back to my YouTube example), return more often to see their review with photos “in lights” and then repeat this behavior.

Here’s another example of a photo review from our client Burpee that demonstrates community participation:


While this picture of a hollyhock plant is not quite as interesting or controversial as the two headed dog photo, it is certainly more interesting than a text only review about hollyhock plants. I never knew hollyhock plants bloomed such vibrantly colored flowers! The value added to the review by having this picture associated with it is readily apparent.

In a future blog post, I will report back on the traffic generated by these two photo reviews. I suspect they will be very impressive when compared to similar reviews without photos. Do I think photo reviews will become the norm for all types of products and services? The answer is no, but for many of them the undeniable power of photos will generate more interest, drive more valuable user-generated content and result in greater community participation than ever before.

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