Millennials (defined by the study as ages 18 to 34) give more 1-star and 2-star reviews than any other generation, with those in Ireland being among the most critical. Gen Y contributes the most 3-star reviews.
The study also reveals a little more than that. Incidentally, however, boomers (defined by the study as ages 47-65) still contribute the majority of opinions — 45 percent of them online. Boomers are also slightly more positive. And so are parents, regardless of which generation they belong to.
Can generational disposition or other factors alter perception?
Maybe. And if it does, it might explain why some restaurant owners I know have asked me about Yelp. They say Yelp tends to be the most critical. According to Quantcast, the site also happens to skew toward millennials. Is there a correlation? Or are the stiffer reviews the result of the community?
It's a good question that marketers will have to take into account. In general, review communities tend to be all over the map in how they share opinions. If you visit iTunes, for example, you might notice movies have very little middle ground. Most ratings come in at 1 or 5.
Music is different. It generally skews positive. App ratings are also different. Among paid apps, 5-star reviews and 1-star reviews are generally written by people who still haven't learned to reset their iPads if the app keeps crashing. App reviews are largely unreliable.
Even more telling is that iTunes book reviews are frequently rated lower than those on Amazon, but without as much explanation. Goodreads tends to stack up more 5-star reviews than other book review sites.
This isn't necessarily new. Entertainment Weekly frequently publishes roundups of critics' movie reviews, along with online sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Even though it pulls from the same sources, Rotten Tomatoes tends to be more critical.
But what stands out for me even more is that there are always one or two reviewers who separate themselves from the pack. Sometimes it makes you wonder if they watched the same movie as the rest of them. And other times you realize that even professional reviewers have no comparable standard for measurement; a bias for particular studios, actors, and genres; and sometimes a desire to be noticed that affects their commentaries.
All reviews need to be vetted before they become meaningful measures.
Along with the study that suggests millennials are more critical, another bazaarvoice study suggests millennials are more likely to trust the opinions of strangers. In fact, more than half of them trust user-generated content and reviews more than friends and family and many won't complete a transaction before reading reviews.
For business, this means positive customer engagement is even more important. It means establishing better protocols to address erroneous criticism while vetting valid points and making changes. And it means that being a social business is more critical than most think.