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The Internet is full of content rated by users. One star
for a meal over here. Five stars for this book over there. We have come to
accept these ratings, assigned by people we don’t know and probably never will,
as a reasonably reliable gauge of whether or not something is good, bad and
most importantly worth our time. This practice actually seems to work quite
well in civilian life, but what about applying this practice within your
enterprise? Is this a good idea and if it is what are some of the best
practices being applied.  

This topic made an appearance on stage during our recent
IBF New York member meeting and a passionate discussion ensued. The following
is a summary of what was discussed and some key findings. Uses these learnings
in good health and, equally important, let us know what you think.


One consideration in applying user generated content
ratings in an enterprise environment is type of content. For the purpose of
this discussion we defined two: corporate communication and user generated content.
Corporate communications are those created, edited and published by a central
team. User generated content is exactly as the term implies with a key
difference being unstructured, unregulated and often unpredictable topics,
ideas and discussion threads. This delineation begs the question, “Are user
generated content ratings appropriate for corporate communications?” Take for
example, the corporate communication team posting an article about a recent
restructuring. Do we really want everyone’s ratings and how will these ratings
be used? Is this value added interaction or as one attendee suggested, “giving
people a voice without giving them a say.”

After much discussion, two schools of thought emerged. On
the one hand, these ratings are useful for getting an immediate response from
your user community showing how they feel about a particular topic. Using our
“restructuring” example, one could easily extrapolate from an extremely high
percentage of one star ratings that many employees are not warmly embracing the
resent restructuring and as a result, management should consider a more
detailed, personal communication to improve morale. On the other hand, using
the same example, wasn’t this sentiment already known before everyone fired off
his or her one star salutes and what exactly can we do about this situation? It’s
not like management is going to undo the restructure based on these ratings,
and even if they did, is this the way we want the company run? Besides what
does a low rating actually mean? Does one star mean that people did not agree
with the restructuring? Or does it refer to the fact that the article has poor
sentence structure and multiple spelling errors?

So which camp is right? They both are actually. Deciding
what is right for your organization is a matter of cultural alignment and
desired impact. Allowing your users to rate content sends the message that
management wants to know how they feel about a particular topic. These ratings
are also useful for uncovering some often counter intuitive findings about what
your users actually care about. A deluge of ratings assigned to an article
announcing your company’s green initiatives versus the dearth of ratings submitted
to the program rules of your company’s sales incentive program sends an
interesting message. The challenge is accurately identifying the message being
sent and responding in a recognized and appropriate fashion. All in attendance
agreed that the following three best practices are paramount in successfully
implementing user generated content ratings.

  • Make comments mandatory.

Requiring users to provide comments solves two
problems. For one, you now know what the rating means. A less obvious, but
equally important, side effect of requiring comments is that it encourages people
to think before they rate. Users are less likely to provide haphazard ratings
if they are required to comment on the number of stars they select. 

  • No anonymity allowed.

It was also suggested that a key to receiving
useful comments is requiring the identity of the author. People write
differently when their name is prominently tattooed above their prose. This
information also comes in handy when responding, which leads us to our next
best practice.

  • Visibly do something with the information you are gathering.

Keeping this communication
channel alive and well requires bi-directional care and feeding. People need to
see that their comments are being read and receiving a reasonable response,
with reasonable being the operative word. No one expects management to respond
to every comment, but continual silence on the other end of the line generally
causes users to disengage.

So are there any reasons for not implementing user generated
ratings? Of course, they are quite simply:

  • You are not interested in the information provided.
  • You are not prepared to invest the time and effort
    needed to respond.
  • This practice simply does not fit with your
    company’s culture.

If any of these statements resonate more strongly then the
preceding pro-rating arguments, user generated ratings may not be appropriate
for your company. However, be forewarned, the view from our room in New York
was quite clear. Information is expected to be free and bi-directionally
flowing… even in the enterprise.

About the author

Nancy Goebel - DWG's Managing Director for Member & Benchmarking ServicesNancy Goebel is DWG’s Managing Director for Member Services. In addition to heading up service delivery, she is responsible for member engagement, retention and growth. Nancy also sits on DWG’s Board of Directors.

Prior to joining the Digital Workplace Group, Nancy was a accomplished executive at JPMorgan Chase where she built and led a global team in desigining and implementing an award-winning intranet. She also led digital enablement and business re-engineering initiatives.

Outside work, Nancy is a wine maker, fundraiser, meditator, wife and mother of two.

Connect with Nancy on Twitter: @nancyatdwg or on Google +.


  1. An interesting discussion Andy. The issue seems to be whether what’s being rated is the quality of the article or the sentiment. Just as seminar feedback often separates ‘style’ from ‘content’ I’m wondering if anyone in the meeting had also tried this approach?

  2. Interesting idea Sam. The only suggestion along those lines was implementing commenting and requiring users to provide a comment explaining their rating. I think you are leading into another interesting discussion, which is “are standard 1-5 star generalized ratings the best approach? Or much like search, should a user be able to submit an ‘advanced’ rating? Curious to hear what others are doing…

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