NEW YORK: Consumers in North America are just as likely to trust online reviews about companies as they are personal recommendations, a survey has revealed.'s Local Consumer Review Survey 2013 found that 85% of North Americans had used online reviews to judge the quality of a local business, compared to 76% last year, reports Marketing Charts.

The survey highlighted the growing use of the internet to find local companies, with 95% of the panel having gone online to complete such a task this year, compared to 85% in 2012.

Two-thirds of the respondents who engaged in this activity needed to read fewer than six reviews, compared to 58% last year.

Meanwhile, favourable reviews made 73% of readers trust a company more, compared to 58% in the previous round of research.

However, experts warn that the hype surrounding brand buzz on social media is causing some marketers to pay too much attention to this channel compared with more traditional ways of imparting their messages.

Brad Fay and Steve Thomson, of the Keller Fay Group, argue that face-to-face discussion actually accounts for 75% of all conversations about brands, and that, in total, 90% of such communication happens in the offline world.

They also note that in the UK, some 56% of adults do not use social media, meaning conversations about brands online mainly occur between younger consumers.

Fay and Thomson conclude that social media should be considered a useful channel, but must be considered alongside more established marketing methods.

Data sourced from Marketing Charts; additional content by Warc staff