It’s a dynamic you’ve probably witnessed and one that is substantiated in recent studies: when conversations in online product forums start to skew negative, they tend to stay that way.
One potential solution: provide incentives for more casual customers to post reviews.
As online forums become more populated, "customers who are more positive and less involved tend to stick to the sidelines, while customers who are more involved and more critical take their place." That’s according to Wendy W. Moe, David A. Schweidel and Michael Trusov, writing in the Fall 2011 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. It’s those critical customers who steer the ratings environment.
One intriguing lesson for social media strategists is to encourage the less involved to post, say the authors. How? "If you’re trying to foster a positive tone, incentives for posting reviews should be provided to the more casual customers." (On the other hand, they write, do not give in to the temptation to post artificially positive reviews.)
The four lessons for managers who are listening to social media, according to the article: Don’t forget about the silent majority. Remember that social dynamics in the forum can influence who remains silent. Don’t overreact to negative feedback. And ignore the white noise. "A careful statistical analysis of ratings dynamics can help identify when a marketer should address an issue raised by a negative comment."
For more tips, see the full article, "What Influences Customers’ Online Comments."