by: Matt Rhodes

We return to our series on getting insight from online communities with a look at how you can get insight from those members of your online community who may not want to begin posts or be regular commenters in public forums. We’ve looked already in the series at the information you can get from profiling data, discussions and the language people use online. Today we want to look at how you can get insights from ratings and votes.

It’s a commonly accepted fact within online communities that many of your community members and visitors will not want to initiate or publicly respond to public discussions. They are happy reading the content and are important as without all these readers, those who do contribute would have no reason to do so. This behaviour is encapsulated in the 90-9-1 rule: in any community of 100 people, 90 will be readers, 9 will edit and add to content and just 1 will initiate discussions or add new content. The best communities find ways to make the most of each of these types of people, recognising that different people behave in different ways and accommodating that.

Most online communities allow people to vote for or rate content - say that you like a certain post or rate a photo or other piece of content out of five. However, too often these tools are overlooked as sources of insight. This is a shame. For those 90 people out of every 100 who are unlikely to contribute to discussions publicly, votes and ratings are ways of letting them have their say. Making this easy to do and encouraging people to rate or vote for content will maximise the benefit you will get from it from an insight perspective.

Whilst such ratings and votings shouldn’t be thought of as representative of the community, they can capture the collective wisdom of the members. If you want to know how important a discussion is, looking at how many people voted for that thread, or at its average rating, is a way of helping you to understand the mass of opinion. If lots of people have voted for it, or rated it highly, then this is a great sign that it’s a discussion you should be reading and digesting.

In a more proactive sense, you can use voting and rating alongside comments as part of a process of co-creation. Getting people to comment on photos, articles, concepts or any piece of content will capture the opinions from a proportion of your community members. Encouraging them to vote too will allow more people to have a voice.

Voting and rating is often used as an engagement tool in online communities, but it can also be a source of valuable insight. See how people rate the different discussions, or the votes that different pieces of content get. You’ll learn something new.

Some more reading

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