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The social proof of positive comments

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The social proof of positive comments

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The importance of online reviews is pretty well documented, with a positive review substantially improving your business prospects.  A new study has looked at whether the comments we receive on blogs and articles has a similar impact.

The study, conducted by MIT researcher Sinan Aral, explored over 100,000 comments on a news aggregation site (such as Digg or Reddit), and found that the first comment left on an article has a considerable influence over the comments that follow.

He found that when a positive comment was left on an article, there was a 32% higher chance that the following comment would also be positive.  What’s more, a positive initial comment was also 25% more likely to result in an overall positive review of the article by all readers.

The researchers believe this is evidence of a kind of herding effect.  The 2nd reader of the article sees the positive feedback, and becomes more likely to follow suit, which in turn will influence the 3rd reader, and so on.

“This is the behavior that underlies ‘bubbles,’ whether in real estate or the stock market,” Aral said. “It inflates the value of things above their actual value in society.”

Purely positive

Interestingly, the same did not apply in a negative sense.  If the initial comment left was a negative one, whilst a small number followed suit with a similarly negative comment, even more people responded with positive ones.

“These online ratings are actually changing opinion in a biased way,” Aral said. “They are affecting people’s judgments, or perceptions on quality.”

So, if you want your blog to be well received, it seems getting a strong first comment is crucial.

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