Regular readers of this blog will know that I always talk about the importance of making your community website feedback friendly. If people are afraid to offer suggestions and feedback, your site is missing out on its most effective method of evolution: becoming exactly what its members want it to be.
Inviting and receiving feedback is not the end of it, though – you need to be able to understand your members’ feedback and realise just how indicative it is of the thoughts of the community as a whole.
All communities have vocal ‘leaders’
Every community includes those who like to make themselves heard and those who prefer to be a little quieter and only get involved when talk is of a subject that particularly interests them. Quite often, your quieter members are amongst your most valuable – they may not create content each and every day, but when they do contribute their posts are often of a very high quality.
Unfortunately it can be all too easy to overlook the quieter members of your community, or even forget they exist. I am often only reminded of the presence of particular members at the Just Chat message boards when I have read a post that was of such good quality I wanted to know who submitted it.
If you take the time to write down ten of your community’s members, I am pretty sure the only ones that would make it on your list would be those that are the loudest – they make themselves and their opinions known every single day. They are noticed and noticeable, and that is just the way they like it.
Consider the bigger picture
It can be all too easy to think that the opinions voiced by the more vocal members of your community are shared by other members. Very often though, you need to look at the bigger picture and consider the amount of members who aren’t voicing their thoughts.
When I make changes over at Just Chat I often receive a barrage of complaints – even when genuine improvements have been made. At first I thought that I must be totally disconnected from the community, as every single improvement I made was shot down by a number of very vocal members.
On reflection though, it was apparent that the people who complained were often the same members over and over again. You can never please all of the people all of the time – you can only aim to please the majority, and this is always my guiding philosophy when developing my websites. Unfortunately it can be easy to think that what the minority of your vocal users are saying is a reflection of what the entire community thinks.
It is easier to complain than offer praise
Most of your members will not see a need to comment or offer feedback about a feature or upgrade that they like. By nature, people are most vocal when they don’t like something. Always bear this in mind when you start to consider feedback from your members. If you have 1,000 members and ten are complaining, remember that 990 members are not!
Of course, you should still take any constructive criticism and feedback on-board; just because it may be the same old members complaining, it doesn’t mean that they will not have any valuable ideas for you to consider.
Stats don’t lie
If you are ever in doubt as to the real success of your website, there is one fool-proof way of being sure – your traffic statistics. Quite simply, stats don’t lie. If you introduce a new feature and see page views and traffic rise, then you are on the right track. If you can improve things further thanks to member feedback, then all the better.
Just remember that the member feedback you read may not be a reflection of the opinions of the entire community. Just because your vocal members shout the loudest, it doesn’t make them right. Just because they like to be heard, it doesn’t mean they speak for the entire community.
Never forget this when you are considering member feedback.