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I am working on a site revamp for a staffing company and they really wanted to use testimonials to highlight how successful they are in placing quality candidates. Though I do agree that quality testimonials do help in building trust, I am doubtful generic testimonials such as the examples given below really build trust

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Another example

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Though the above examples do mention that the person was from Microsoft and held a program manager/hiring manager position, since there is no name mentioned, I wonder how seriously such a testimonial would be taken.

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I have seen users respond positively to anonymous testimonials in user tests. They recognized that the testimonials could not be substantiated, but showed repeated interest. In fact, this was the content they engaged with most in our entire test, returning the the page several times. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 20 '12 at 11:44
    
Thats interesting, but considering staffing companies generally have a bad rep,I wonder how testimonials might work for or against them –  Mervin Johnsingh Aug 20 '12 at 11:46
    
Our test was with estate agents. They're usually regarded even worse. Really, though, I would take this to usability tests. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 20 '12 at 11:46
    
Point taken but were these testimonials scattered through out the site or just a specific testimonial page, I am beginning to wonder if a specific testimonial page would help –  Mervin Johnsingh Aug 20 '12 at 11:49
    
They were on a testimonials page, but mine was probably a very different context to yours. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 20 '12 at 12:27
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The stats seem to indicate yes, people trust anonymous reviews and testimonials. Some great stats about social commerce (which this sort of is) are at Power Reviews' Social Commerce Stats page.

Eighty-three percent of online shoppers said they are interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place. Manage Smarter - September 2009

From 12 statistics on Consumer Reviews

90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust unknown users, 27% trust experts, 14% trust advertising, 8% trust celebrities (Econsultancy, July 2009, Erik Qualman, Socialnomics)

In case that doesn't hit you like a bunch of bricks, I'll repeat; people reported trusting unknown users of a product more often than experts or, even worse celebrities. We like real people. I think part of this may be a result of so many "expert opinions" being integrated into advertising already though. You see an expert in an add and you know he's been paid.

Additionally here's some relevant tips on using testimonials in advertisements, which strongly encourages testimonials, noting:

1. Always use real testimonials instead of made-up ones. Even the most skilled copywriter can rarely make up a testimonial that can match the sincerity and credibility of genuine words of praise from a real customer or client.

If you ask a customer to give you a testimonial, and he or she says, "Sure, just write something and I'll sign it," politely reply: "Gee, I appreciate that, but would you mind just giving me your opinions of our product - in your own words?" Fabricated or self-authored testimonials (those written by the advertiser or their copywriter) usually sound phony; genuine testimonials invariably have the ring of truth.

It's really hard to fake sincerity after all, so real reviews tend to have that real sound that resonates with people in a way marketing copy, even great marketing copy, just can't.

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Interesting, so if you have a testimonial from a celebrity, it's better to not attribute it because people are more likely to trust unknown users? –  Peter Olson Aug 20 '12 at 17:48
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@PeterOlson depends on the product. For example Snooki's endorsement of a suntan lotion probably serves more as a warning than an endorsement. –  Ben Brocka Aug 20 '12 at 18:12
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I really think this depends on what the product is. People will always pay attention to a review/testimonial on something like Amazon. However, if it's a start-up company that has zero recognition where the testimonials are posted on their website, I believe people would be extremely skeptical about it. Especially without sources and evidence. –  Sean Nov 18 '13 at 8:25
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