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CityGrid Media has released a study it conducted via research firm Harris Interactive that suggests people are more likely to “like” a local business than write a review as a way of expressing their approval of the service they received. However, good old-fashioned word of mouth (the analogue kind) still reigns supreme, with 75 percent indicating they would tell a friend as a way to support a local business.

“Surprisingly enough, Likes are trumping reviews when it comes to sharing feedback, but this does not translate to Facebook being the first and only place consumers turn when deciding to try someplace new,” says Kara Nortman, SVP Publishing at CityGrid, in the announcement of the research findings. “What this means for small-businesses on the web is that they should encourage likes, but also round our their marketing efforts to reach consumers across a variety of touchpoints.”

The study also supports the notion that consumers are consulting a growing number of sources before making a purchase decision. The CityGrid study found that 52 percent of consumers consulting more than two websites in the course of making a decision regarding a local business.

It’s really not that surprising that likes are more common than reviews. After all, reviews take work, “liking” something literally takes a second. What is interesting is the degree to which social media behaviors like “liking” have penetrating the daily habits of consumers as it relates to the small and local businesses they patronize.

The telephone survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that overall 20 percent of consumers “like” businesses to indicate support, compared with 13 percent who write reviews for the same purpose. The numbers vary considerably by age demographic, with 49 percent of those ages 18 to 24 liking businesses, compared with 40 percent of those under 35.

We were curious why CityGrid, a company with a rich database of consumer reviews, would tout data that showed the greater prevalence of “likes.” The study does make more sense in light of CityGrid’s acquisition of BuzzLabs, announced yesterday.

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