Psychology of Online Comments: The Tyranny of the Vocal Minority

Image courtesy of Flickr user Carson Ting.

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."

46 Comments On: Psychology of Online Comments: The Tyranny of the Vocal Minority

  • Psychology of Blog Comments: The Tyranny of the Vocal Minority … | Social Fobi - Det Du Behöver Veta | October 21, 2011

    […] the original post: Psychology of Blog Comments: The Tyranny of the Vocal Minority … This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged carson, flickr, probably-witnessed, […]

  • swarupreadyk | January 28, 2012

    yeah.Never overreact for a negative comment.And Never remain silent too for a negative comment..Try to answer the member with a positive attitude saying that he could be wrong or sincerely apologize him if it is really mistake from our side.Always try to be a better Manager not by your degree but by your Attitude..

    Thanks and regards,
    swarup reddy,
    email: swarupreadyk@gmail.com
    website: http://www.allreviewz.com

  • john | March 22, 2012

    Good article. Never ceases to amaze me how people behave in commenting sections.

    I am doing a little research at the moment on the differences between commenting and Q&A platforms. Have you ever come across an article / report that covers the psychology behind commenting v’s Q&A platforms? Why people use them? What are their real motives? What are the differences?

    From the user behaviour on our Q&A platform for colleges, we see some very obvious differences. But I would like to see if this is supported by independent research.

    Any advice / recommendations:

    email: john@learnpipe.com
    web: http://www.learnpipe.com

    Thanks, John

  • kate | March 29, 2012

    Very interesting concept – most forums at the moment implicitly reward those who post the most, eg with post counts or classifications which get more “senior” as the post count rises. So, I guess you get a negative spiral where the vocal are encouraged and the quiet feel ever more excluded.

    That probably accounts for some of the extreme polarisation you often see, too – the more thoughtful section of the population are maybe just not getting represented!

    Kate
    RM Social Media Ltd

  • info | April 9, 2012

    We finally figured this out a couple months ago:
    –People love to voice the negative, but the minority voice the positive.

    It has to be encouraged, and the environment you create for them has to help it come out.

    Give incentives, awards or simply ask them. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get positive reviews by just asking 🙂

    – Dwayne
    Albany Oregon Real Estate Agent
    http://www.valleyoregonhomes.com/linn-county/albany-oregon-homes-and-real-estate/

  • Mary Ellen Wood | August 13, 2012

    Very good article,
    You are right about what you said regarding how forum users ride the flow when a negative comment was first posted. But I think it is unfair if the users or readers will leave a positive comments just because of incentives.

  • CJ Anderson | September 10, 2012

    Excellent article and topic.

    It’s so hard to corral the negative few without resorting to moderator/dictator mode or curbing interaction by turning off comments.

    In my experience, interacting with the negative nellys can help diffuse the situation and show the other readers that you are responsive and can handle constructive criticism well.

    – Cindy

  • Jeff Trammell | April 26, 2013

    It’s like I’ve heard in business, “A happy customer will tell their friends, an unhappy customer will tell everybody.” I think revenge is the most likely culprit of motivation of negative comment posters. Not sure if I agree with the articles notion that a negative comment will inspire others to do the same but what do I know. I think the writer of this article is probably a lot smarter than I am.

    Jeff

  • Ziko khan | May 6, 2013

    Psychology is a great way of learning and I am very happy to read about this.I always preferred to comment my opinion on psychology.

  • jaecrayton633 | June 19, 2013

    Negative comments should not take it lightly nor hard. Not all agrees on an idea. Just accept negative online comments and make it positive.

    Mike Jae Crayton

  • Luxury Bangkok Apartment | July 19, 2013

    But don’t you think both negative and positive comments open our sight wider?
    I think the negative comments also help us improve and it shows the commentator attitude toward the article.

  • Keith Dunham | October 4, 2013

    Yelp and many other websites are profiting off of negative comments and reviews. As the years go by and we start reviewing and commenting on everything such as waiters in restaraunts I believe that we will become more numb to the negative comments. Thanks for the great article.

    Keith Dunham

  • Blair Pettrey | November 29, 2013

    Oh how I wish , DESPERATELY, I had read this blog post prior to negative comments that transpired this summer… key advice, thank you for sharing!!

  • Joanna Clarks | January 9, 2014

    It seems like many people simply discharge their negativity online, particularly in comments. Sad but true.

    Joanna Clarks

  • Alex Babenkov | June 30, 2014

    I think the negative comments have purpose: namely, to stir up debate on important issues of our day, and solicit the views of others – who may disagree.

    Alex Babenkov

  • ASM Afsary | December 9, 2014

    Negative comments definitely have a purpose. All positive comments cannot verify the value of a topic. Therefore, I think we should welcome people let their thoughts, share in the comment section, as long as it’s proven to be valuable for conversation implement.

  • Heather Faires | November 29, 2015

    I’ve often struggled to avoid overreacting to those few negative online comments in spite of enormous positive comments I receive face to face. Thanks for the article.

  • Pat Filippelli | October 30, 2016

    Keep on writing, but also keep on working on your writing. While some of the wording is offensive, which surely is not helpful to get their point across, some of these comments actually ring true.

    Pat Filippelli Sales Representative

  • Adam Michalowicz | November 21, 2016

    Straight to the point; comments are always a difficult area to moderate without limiting the voices of your audience. The concept of an incentive to maintain civility is something of a novel concept, especially when you factor the Wild West that is social media as the predominant precedent for comment etiquette.

    Adam Michalowicz
    Digital Marketer

  • AFOUAJ Youssef | February 5, 2017

    As allways dealing with user comments, this topic is always headache, to moderate all comments become a time consuming, the best way for that is to be updated and interacting with audience .

  • zulay florez | February 10, 2017

    Very interesting post, I will be using it with my students.
    Tu Psicólogo en Bucaramanga
    Best regards.
    Zulay

  • Chad Sullivan | February 11, 2017

    I don’t see any issue with incentives for comments. It isn’t much different than running some type of promotion or discount for being a member of a club or something of that nature. The idea is to help generate interaction and have people that might normally sit on the sidelines, participate. I don’t know that there is any room for the “higher ground” when it comes to these types of needed interactions.

    Thanks
    C Sullivan

  • Priya Negi | October 25, 2017

    I think the negative comments also help us improve and it shows the commentator attitude toward the article. Priya.

  • Roy Roy | November 8, 2017

    Psychology is a great way of learning and I am very happy to read about this

  • Lina Khan | November 27, 2017

    I read the content. this content is very useful and informative for everyone. I hope you will post more and more content in the future.
    I have a blog, my blog name is How To That (https: // www. howtothat. com/) and its helps the people to learn everything do anything and go anywhere.

  • kiaweb hatami | December 8, 2017

    i think a good article is the best and we can have more comment

  • hung odd | January 15, 2018

    With online comments, people always think that they are zero to responsible for what they had written. But they are also unware that their comments can last long as the website.

  • arjun dmkt | January 20, 2018

    before i read this article, I thought comment is just a place for chatting. But this article give some awareness about comments and physiology behind it. For marketing analysis it will help more and more
    arjun,

  • Martin jake | February 1, 2018

    Great site. Lots of useful information here. Very interesting concept – most forums at the moment implicitly reward those who post the most, eg with post counts or classifications which get more “senior” as the post count rises. So, I guess you get a negative spiral where the vocal are encouraged and the quiet feel ever more excluded.
    Thank you

  • Sneha Shah | February 3, 2018

    Commenting over here is like meeting new peoples and finding the problem solution which means this platform help us a lot and this is what i was looking for.

    Thanks & Regard’s

  • Rina As | February 6, 2018

    A happy customer will tell their family and friends, an unhappy customer will tell everybody.
    Hardly somebody who had a flight will say -what a flight, bla bla bla. But imagine if the flight is delayed, etc The company can expect tweets, comments, even articles etc…
    Maybe we should all more say good words as well. Compliment and thank 😉
    Rina

  • Aziz Taşçı | February 13, 2018

    psychology is one of the most important events affecting human life. It is a matter that needs to be very careful. Sağlık

  • Tom Hardy | February 14, 2018

    Thanks for such a nice write -up. I am a regular reader of sloanreview.mit.edu. your post is extremely useful,. Keep up the good work.

    I am a part of Social Media Marketing Agency and I am sure this is a very good resource for our team.

  • przemek moskwa | February 21, 2018

    many people can not comment on articles. This is due to the fact that they lack the skill of critical thinking and drawing conclusions. I once read about it at http://perfect24hours.com and I am sure that if only people would learn to discuss skillfully, commenting would be great.

  • Vishesh Bansal | February 23, 2018

    I am doing a little research at the moment on the differences between commenting and Q&A platforms. Have you ever come across an article / report that covers the psychology behind commenting v’s Q&A platforms? Why people use them? What are their real motives? What are the differences?

  • Es duren | February 27, 2018

    if there is a negative comment we should be a manjer we can talk to the concerned to direct him to positive comments by talking directly to the person in order to understand what he meant from our words about these negative comments. that’s just lost in my opinion.

    thanks you

  • Laurence Chua | March 8, 2018

    Discussion groups and forum sites are great way to widen your understanding about a specific topic. It is an ideal platform to read informative content and to interact with people who are expert in the field. Unfortunately, more people on discussion groups are disregarding their manner when posting messages and talking with other members of the group which reduces the value of forum sites.

  • I Alam | March 12, 2018

    This is very nice post, keep posting this kind of post, I have shared this post my facebook account and requested to all reader to share this information to your friend circle in social media.
    Thansk. Alam

  • saeed mo | March 27, 2018

    thank you. I was very looking for this
    Can I share this with my Twitter, with the name of your site?

  • Sujeet Kumar | March 30, 2018

    I am currently doing a little research on the difference between comments and Q & A platforms. Have you ever come across an article/report that covers psychology behind commenting on VK Q & A platform? Why do people use them? What are their real intentions? What are the differences?

  • marketing article | April 7, 2018

    very interesting point. I never think about this. good analysis.. I loved it.

  • kedar nutan pradhan | April 9, 2018

    Straight to the point; comments are always a difficult area to moderate without limiting the voices of your audience. The concept of an incentive to maintain civility is something of a novel concept, especially when you factor the Wild West that is social media as the predominant precedent for comment etiquette.

  • kedar nutan pradhan | April 9, 2018

    psychology is one of the most important events affecting human life. It is a matter that needs to be very careful

  • Roman Jhonson | April 13, 2018

    There are many things to do online but I thing Psychology of online comments is the one of the best ever. We think if you are the one who thinks about Vocal Matrimony this site is the best choice For them because they are Right and this is for your help to know lots of things.

  • Suresh Kalyanasundaram | May 3, 2018

    Negative comments make articles less persuasive, shows a study by University of Duisburg-Essen. The researchers explored how journalistic articles from respectable news sites are perceived when posted as links on Facebook. The type of user comments and the number of likes that each post received were systematically varied. While negative comments were found to reduce the persuasive influence of the articles, positive comments had no strengthening effect. Moreover, the high number of likes received by some articles didn’t enhance their persuasive value for the readers, which indicates that comments are more impactful than mere quantitative support with one-click interactions.

  • sujan alam | June 3, 2018

    There are many people in the world. some are nice to see, Someone’s words are nice, some use beautifully. And I say, your writing is so beautiful.