Creative Commons License photo credit: lisahumes

There are some who believe that the feedback that is offered on online communities, about their product, isn’t worth their attention because it’s only a small percentage of their customer base that may or may not be reflective of a larger majority.

The continuation of this belief is that business decisions shouldn’t be made based upon what is said in an online community or on the feedback being offered because these people are talking to themselves and simply participating an en echo chamber. (This ignores that online communities, and the people within them, can have a lot of influence beyond just their own community, but I’m going to skip past that as it’s not the point of this post).

Here’s the problem. This is the same as saying that you will ignore feedback. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or not – it is feedback. I believe that, if you decide to ignore the discussions that take place on online communities, about your products, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

The fact is, it’s going to happen either way. People are going to talk about your product regardless. If we accept that as fact, now what? How are you going to derive value from it? There is value in seeing what people are saying and, just as with any feedback, what people say has to be weighed against various factors.

There is no harm in considering feedback. In the right light, there is only upside. Considering feedback doesn’t mean doing everything people suggest. It means listening and considering how it might improve your product, testing (if appropriate) and making changes (if appropriate).  There is value in simple listening.

There is even greater value in engagement. Engagement, again, does not mean doing everything people say. It means letting people know that you are there and you are listening. That is building relationships and, I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, but if people have to pick between the product that has a representative they have a relationship with, and a product they do not – all things equal, they are generally going to opt for the relationship.

But, if you’re not actually listening, if you’re just pretend listening, acting like you care to build a fake relationship… well, then, you might get caught. And that’ll be even worse. So, if that is your goal, maybe you should just not bother engaging until you’re ready to give it a legitimate shot. Of all of the things you can do to build your sales, caring is a very affordable option. The question is if you’re ready to do it.

Bottom line: it is always the small percentage of people that care enough to offer feedback on your products. This was the case before the internet and that is the case now. That will never change. The question is: how do you handle that feedback? Ignore it at your own peril.

Thank you to Ryan Boyles for the inspiration for this post.