None of this is new, of course. Although it is nice to understand more precisely why it can work.
The researchers concluded that the subjects weren’t simply trying to conform to the norm, but had genuinely changed their opinion of the photos. They weren’t just saying the photo that they had earlier ranked lower was more attractive, they really believed it was!
This is one more indication of how third party information can change not just the perception but the experience of your brand or product.
...it pays to let customers see ratings, rankings, expert opinions, and other credible testimony to the quality of the product or brand. ...customers will enjoy the product more and actually believe it to be better.
The part that I've always found fascinating is not that 'real' recommendations work but that 'fake' ones do as well. For instance, many sites look for seals to affix to site to show well some third party 'respects' them (or at least the fee that they paid). You know the ones I mean: Encryption Seals, i.e. VeriSign; Privacy Seals, i.e. TRUSTe; Security Seals, i.e. McAfee Secure; Verification Seals, i.e. Better Business Bureau.
Want to know a dirty little secret? Some such as the BBB have consumer recognition value BUT simply creating your own site specific seal that links to a descriptive page - on that same site - saying what it means/covers actually works about as well as paying for a third party version. Yes, verifying yourself works about as well and it is much less expensive.
One can influence the tenor of reviews by seeding/encouraging several good to excellent reviews to demonstrate an apparent baseline consensus for the following public. However, the most important value of seeding is that you have removed the pressure of being 'first'; replacing it with the pleasure of being part of an existing group or conversation.
Huge caution: never ever lie, neither directly nor by omission. If the only way to write a good review or describe a seal is to be dishonest it is far better to just not bother.
The placebo and sheeple effects. Gotta love them.