The Best Consumers Have Huge Egos

Or, how to learn from highly motivated consumers and perfect your product features.

Egoism is underrated, at least when it comes to product development. No one wants a self-absorbed product manager, but we should all hope for customers who put great value in their own opinions. In this age of online engagement, that self importance is a significant driver of online consumer content.  There is a potential for consumer content to be painful for brands, especially given its public nature. On the other hand, positive and negative reviews alike yield opportunities to adjust and perfect product features according to consumer sentiment.

Louder consumer voices can lead to better product development, even if they leave negative reviews.

When delivering products to the market, who do you really work for? Each brand has their ideal image that they want to project. The concern lies in how that ideal aligns with market desires. Consumers don’t always know exactly what they want, but they are quick to identify what they don’t like. Since we also tend to treat opinions as truths, we feel a need to express the impact of a product, especially if we feel we’ve been wronged. This goes further than the overarching brand sentiment, and really stresses the importance how product features are judged by users.

Beyond a sense of justice, we as consumers have come to expect things in return for our service to a company. How many times have we tweeted or retweeted for a chance to win a contest and receive credit with a brand? These opportunities, as well as elaborate customer loyalty programs, cultivate an engage customer – but also one who expects reciprocity. And ego is not the only cause for speaking up about brands. Many users feel they are doing their community a service by communicating their own derived value. There is a perceived moral obligation when describing the benefits and pitfalls of a particular product. Contributing to an online forum also fosters a sense of belonging to that community.

C.M.K. Cheung, M.K.O. Lee, What drives consumers to spread electronic word of mouth in online consumer-opinion platforms, Decis. Support Syst. (2012), doi:10.1016/j.dss.2012.01.015

C.M.K. Cheung, M.K.O. Lee, What drives consumers to spread electronic word of mouth in online consumer-opinion platforms, Decis. Support Syst. (2012), doi:10.1016/j.dss.2012.01.015

Regardless of the ultimate reason for creating content, brands would be remiss if they did not solicit feedback at every opportunity. Proactive consumers are nice, but some customers take a little push to open up about products. That’s why it’s become so important to not only encourage your customers to engage online, but to respond when they do. When assessing an unfamiliar brand or product, we assume that buyers will pay attention to the number of reviews, the average star rating, and the sentiment behind individual reviews. However, studies have indicated that there is an increasing dependence on whether a brand responds to the content as well. Considering how this might tie into the concept of ego-driven content creation, brands can benefit from acknowledging comments, whether they're positive or negative. This validates the content creator’s opinions and projects a more sympathetic brand image.

We should all hope for strong-willed customers with clear desires in hopes that they will provide insights into our products, both good and bad. Whether through loyalty programs or casual retweets, brands can help maintain their consumer base through simple online interactions that validate user opinions. These online interactions prompt the need for data analytics and give greater insight into the minds of consumers. Show appreciation for your users and they will generate a greater pool of market data than you could obtain without them.