Customers, Social Media and the Internet’s Silent Majority


A new article in MIT’s Sloan Management Review written by marketing professors Wendy W. Moe, David A. Schweidel and Michael Trusov sheds some light on how people use the internet to interact with products and with each other, specifically in terms of what spurs and defines social media comments. In recent research, the authors examined the comment ratings and sales of a popular unnamed company, studying 2,436 individuals writing about 200 products. They ask: “[H]ow accurately do these conversations represent the true underlying sentiment of a product’s customers?” Here’s what they found:

  • More involved customers will often skew their ratings downward to stand out from the crowd, and most customers will be influenced by comments that have already been made.
  • Forums with a “pre-existing consensus of opinion” garnered more positive customers.
  • Customers are likely to comment on products they have an extreme opinion about, one way or the other.
  • Comments tend to become more negative over time as the more involved, more critical customers begin to dominate the forum while their less involved counterparts stick to the sidelines.

The authors also emphasize the silent majority that exists online and caution retailers not to overreact to negative feedback and “ignore the white noise.”

Do these rules hold true for as well?

The authors of this study encourage the less involved customers to post more.  Do you hear that, Silent Majority?  Post away!

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  1. Joe Otten says:

    Yeah Freakonomics is OK I guess.

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  2. Howard Tayler says:

    I was going to say that I love following Freakonomics, but then I read Joe Otten’s post, and now I’m not so sure “love” is the right word.

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  3. Nick says:

    I have no opinion on the above article.

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  4. Esca says:

    I have no opinion, but I feel obliged to post.

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  5. Berhin says:

    I think the silent majority have a better use of their time.

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  6. Matthew Glidden says:

    I post to Freakanomics when a topic’s well-known enough to me that my opinion would carry weight in a personal conversation. Short of that, time doesn’t allow to read the article AND compost a comment AND return to check on other responses later.

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  7. David Jeffery says:

    I stay silent because I have nothing of worth to say. Not that that ethos has stopped me now…

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  8. DaveyNC says:

    Your thumbs up or down feature does more to both squelch unpopular opinions and shape the opinions into something that everyone will vote in favor of more than anything else you do on this site.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2