The power of peer pressure …

An interesting article in today’s Financial Times about the politics of sellers and buyers rating transactions on eBay.

To summarise, eBay is shifting the balance of power to consumers on its auction site by removing the ability of sellers to leave feedback about buyers. Its reasoning is that if a buyer leaves negative feedback for a seller as a result of an unsatisfactory transaction, some unscrupulous sellers leave negative feedback against buyers as an act of revenge without any justification. This means that buyers are much more willing to leave positive feedback and often reluctant to leave negative feedback thus skewing the rating system and eroding its value … still with me! eBay has said that it will deal with poor performing buyers behind closed doors on behalf of unhappy sellers.

Two things struck me … firstly, what a shame – there’s always some jerk who has to ruin it for everyone else! But, more interestingly for me, is the sheer power of peer pressure as  demonstrated by comments in this article … it’s extraordinary how much value people put on preserving their on-line ‘reputations’ … for me, this is a really positive affirmation of the underlying principles of social media. When people care about how they are perceived on the web, crowd-sourced content can only be in rude health.

It also bodes very well for companies thinking of introducing user-generated content onto their intranets where anonymous participation is impossible. I have always maintained that, if you allow employees to publish freely on an intranet, they won’t go and publish defamatory, pointless, abusive content. Firstly, because they aren’t stupid and don’t want to get sacked gratuitously and secondly, because people genuinely care about what their colleagues think of them.

As ‘personal’ brands grow through individuals creating more content on the web, so individuals have more to lose … the direct result of which must be a decreased likelihood of people doing stupid things without thinking and potentially jeopardising their hard-earned reputations.

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