Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ratings and Reviews to build trust and reputation online

Building engagement online, especially building the engagement of community members from a low involvement level is a challenge. Increased engagement will follow the increase in the trust of members and content and in-turn member reputation will increase with increased positive engagement.

First, however, members need to be given an easily identifiable way of increasing the trust in content they give and take from a community and a fun and rewarding way of building their reputation in an online environment.

One of the most straight forward ways to create engagement online is giving members an option to rate and review content online. This activity which can be either recognised or anonymous allows others to build a scale of trust with the content based on the values of the community.

But wait, you thought it was simple, well, it's not that simple. Here's a list of things to think about if you want to go down the rate and review path:

Rating scales

What scale will you choose for your ratings? The following scales are methods of rating content and events, the list progresses from simple to sophisticated.

Favourite/Digg/Thumbs eg. Eventful, Digg, Marketing Magazine
This is not so much a scale as a popularity rating, here customers can see how many other people rate the event.

Smilies eg. Jango
On a scale of three smilies, a customer can "not like", "like" or "love" a specific song.

Single five star eg. Crikey
Quality is reviewed on a single five-star scale, generally sufficient for items with single measurement, eg news items are rated for quality of content.

Multiple five star
eg. eBay
Quality is rated over multiple criteria, average is generally shown in a summary five star. Used when customer decision is based on multiple criteria.

Classes eg. Wikipedia
Used in Wikipedia to classify the quality of an article, teams of people review articles and agree on a level of quality based on a set of common measurements.

Rating AND Commenting/Reviewing

As well as varying scales from which to rate, there is question of arbitrary ratings or subjective comments and reviews. Some websites link the two together while other keep the two separate, examples being:

Rate and comment/review separate: YouTube, Crikey

Rate and comment/review together: Amazon, JS-Kit Review applet

Who can rate?

This, again is a variable in many different rating schemes. Roughly following the same lines as scales, the more technical the content becomes the more selective the list of reviewers/raters become.

Anyone - Generally occurs in blogs and some news sites and generally on the favourite/thumbs scale. This level of interaction encourages high volume rating of non-technical items.

Registered members - Highly used in communities such as YouTube, raters are required to sign-in to rate therefore encouraging continued community membership and higher engagement.

Purchasers only - Used in many online e-commerce stores such as Amazon and eBay, this method is particularly relevant for events, whereby many of the rating criteria can only be completed by those that attended.

Team/Editor Review - Not as authoritative as peer reviewed, the team/editor review is a rating given by an assigned professional reviewing the content. Examples include Lonleyplant.com's author pick.

Peer Reviewed
- Articles are reviewed by an agreed group of peers. Knowledge and consensus combine to ensure an article is given an agreed rating by experts in the field.

So that's a start! Who would have thought such a simple thing as rating and reviewing could have so many variables?

Remember that this is just one side of the coin. This post looks at building trust and reputation in the content. This is based on the general assumption that you trust the community members that provide the ratings and reviews.

To get more of an understanding on the flip-side of the coin, building trust and reputation in community members, have a read of my post on rewarding community members online. This will help you understand ways you can allow community members to build up their status within a community.


Kate Kendall said...

Thanks for the mention and great post!

Originally, we used to have a thumbs up and down rating, but we found that this wasn't a good mechanism for building community as someone could click on the thumbs down option and then leave, not saying why they didn't like it. It was also misleading as they might not have liked the article or they might not have liked an opinion or example expressed in the article. We decided to unlock the comments instead and allow anonymous people to comment. This created a more balanced and multifaceted discussion.

It's certainly an interesting topic!

Kate Kendall – Marketingmag.com.au

Alex of Melbourne said...

Thanks for the insight Kate. It's always great to hear how these things play out in real life.

Cheers, Alex.