Last Friday, I grabbed a copy of B-to-B online to keep myself busy on the subway. Somewhere between 59th street and Grand Central, I got struck by a sentence in Paul Gillin's column, titled Sidewiki could spell trouble. As he discusses collaborative technologies that layer user comments over public (e.g., Google news) and personal news (e.g., gmail) Gillin states in a prophetic manner "Marketing messages will be less important than the audience's validation of those messages." So well said!
Today, it would behoove any consumer to go online before completing a major purchase and check what others' experiences have been. My words as a marketer are only as good as the positive comments and enthusiastic recommendations from my customers. Studies point to decline of trust in pushed messages and rise of trust in word of mouth.
I am going to venture that word of mouth and 'side comments' will be even more important for purchasing higher-priced items and making critical decisions. When the stakes are high, people will be more open to hear what others have to say. This will also require more systematic ways of sifting through the clutter and identifying those whose opinions matter.
When the sidewiki bubbles with comments, I'd like to see some sort of rating for commentators -- not only based on how many times they have commented, but also based on their experience and expertise.