Amazon’s New Feature and the Old Guard

Amazon enables customer video reviews – congrats to my old team for a potentially very interesting new feature. I’ve yet to run into it in the wild but look forward to doing so.

I’ve pointed to the discussion board post for Amazon Reviewers (did you know they had a discussion board?), where the reaction from the existing reviewers is as expected: this is going to be terrible,  there’s no way I’ll ever do that, there’s no way this will ever work, and why did you do this instead of my feature.

This reaction happens each time the Amazon Community team announces a new, non-core-to-writing-text-reviews feature to the reviewers (and sometimes those features too…). Here’s the thread for tags, for example, and while the thread for customer images is gone, the content was the same.

This is a perfectly understandable reaction which points to some other lessons in community building:

1) Almost to a person, the reviewers are reviewers. They aren’t image creators or taggers or discussion board thread members or videologists, they’re reviewers. They also aren’t participating in the “ Community”, despite the attempt to think of them as such. They like writing critical commentary on products, and Amazon gives them a way to do it. Additionally, they like talking to each other about reviewing, and about Amazon, and about anything – their community is the reviewers, not Amazon. Expecting them to be excited over new features that software teams think of in the same “family” is likely to be disappointing.

2) Reviews came first, as did reviewers. They’re the Old Guard of the community. All this other stuff, that’s not reviews. Why is Amazon chasing shiny objects, they reason, before improving the things they care about?

This leaves community management in a tough spot. You have an active, consistent, honest sub-community of a larger “goal” that you believe matters to the future of the business – and they’re your only continually vocal community. (Amazon taggers don’t hang out together.) Do you please your largest and only visible customer group, noting that you’re missing innovations in the market (that might succeed or fail at Amazon), or do you ignore them and deal with the pain and the e-mails to the CEO?

This was a fun thing to worry about for two years, and I sometimes miss it.

(Note to self, made public so I do it: write about the surprising use of some Amazon community features.)

2 Responses to “Amazon’s New Feature and the Old Guard”

  1. Vroom!!vroom!!The most desirable posts! « ScottRu Says:

    […] ScottRu Why, that is a large blue banner, thank you for asking « Amazon’s New Feature and the Old Guard […]

  2. On Apple, Amazon, Reviewing, and Large Companies at ScottRu Says:

    […] I’ve mentioned before, I used to manage the Amazon customer reviews business, and so I know very well what the current […]

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