Have you ever caught yourself scrolling through the comments section of an online article? Have you based your decision on where to eat, go on vacation or where to apply for a job based on the anonymous online voices that fill up the review sections of websites? I myself have reviewed these comments and taken them into consideration before making a purchase, and in a more serious example relied on them when choosing a University because I wanted honest opinions from experienced students. Like me, I’m sure you’ve found some very helpful information or advice in these forums, as well as what appears to be irrelevant or random posts, and even serious arguments that aren’t exactly civil, never mind constructive. However, we are finding that within the right context these comments provide useful data in gauging how your brand is perceived online.
Comments sections on online media was originally intended to provide readers with the opportunity to discuss the subject in a constructive setting, allowing for discussions on the topic to be informative. Recently, many sites have implemented a system of approving comments after that have been submitted for review, others, have shut down the comments section entirely due to intense trolling that is clearly abusive. Trolling is defined as deliberately offensive or provocative online posts with the intent of eliciting an emotional response. From what we can tell, online trolling has developed partly because of the anonymity of users and a lack of consequences for violating terms and conditions within a site. This article by BBC News outlines several cases for phasing out the comments section.
For Orenda “we’ve identified the comments section as having value in understanding how a brand is perceived” even if a comment appears to be overly negative or off topic, it still has the potential to influence other readers and potential stakeholders. We have found that there is value in looking at both the actual online media content and the comments themselves because they provide organizations with the opportunity to develop a stronger understanding of the opinion of their key publics. Although, not professional criticism, the comments and reviews from seemingly “random” people offer a more authentic interpretation to the marketing and advertising associated with an organization’s online presence.
Here at Orenda, discussions surrounding this topic have lead to some very exciting plans to gather and study the behaviour of online commenting and trolling and how they impact brand and reputation. We are looking into the language patterns of online comments, and the possibility of incorporating personality analysis into our software service. We are working towards being able to provide you with insights into criticism that have yet to be measured.
To those who are not convinced of the value that online comments offer, I will offer a paraphrased quote from the work of Stokely Carmichael, who, inspired by the work of Bernard Shaw, said: “All criticism is an autobiography. Dig yourself.”