How Online Ratings Affect Your Judgment

A new study co-authored by an MIT professor suggests that you may be more influenced than you realize by the positive opinions other people express online. In other words, online ratings (more the positive than the negative kinds) affect your judgment. As a consumer, you should be aware of what they term the “herding” effect and be aware of how some marketers unethically manipulate online ratings to create “an exaggerated appearance of popularity.

“Our message is not that we should do away with crowd-based opinion aggregation,” Aral says. “Our point is that you need solid science under the hood trying to understand exactly how these mechanisms work in a broad population, what that means for the diffusion of opinion, and how can we design the systems to be fair, to have less incentives for manipulation and fraud, and be safe in aggregating opinions.”

Read the article at: mit.

I’ve seen this at work on many blogs. There is even a famous author who explained how he was able to sell lots of books by getting lots of blogs to give a positive review for his book. He got them to give those positively glowing reviews by promising a 100% referral fee for any books sold thru a link on these “reviews.” Though he did not make any money from the sales of the books thru those links (he made lots of money afterwards selling thru normal channels), he wrote off the lost revenue as the cost for marketing his book. If you do a search for his book (because you want to check up on all the exaggerated claims he makes), Google will return first, second and third result pages of blogs that all say glowing things about his book. You might then be tempted to believe all these bloggers can’t be lying and click on the purchase link. It’s unethical but he brags about it and even teaches others that this is the right way to earn money. So, if all “reviews” are glowing, be wary and don’t fall for the herding effect.