This essay originally was published on March 30, 2023, with the email subject line "CT No. 161: Brewing content lemonade from negative feedback."

by David Gonzalez-Cameron

There's a South Park episode where Cartman tasks Butters with going through all of the things people are saying about him online, except Butters is only allowed to tell Cartman the positive comments—even though the majority are negative.

Kyle and Stan look on as Cartman wears a box over his head on South Park.
Don't be that guy.

Online businesses and content teams can fall into the same trap: if only focused on the good feedback, content strategies will be incomplete, spotlighting the cheerleaders and failing to address potential customers who approach digital content with a normal amount of skepticism.

Yes, the internet can be a sea of negativity and bot behavior, but it's also the only place where real customers can voice legitimate complaints about a product or brand. By evaluating the negative along with the positive, content marketers can understand audience preferences and behaviors holistically.

If you're like me or any of the other consumers out there driving $3 trillion in ecommerce spending, you probably saw a flashy ad, made an impulse purchase, and waited for your dopamine hit—I mean, package—to arrive at your doorstep. And depending on what you received, whether you were pleased or annoyed, you likely left a review.

When 3 out of 4 shoppers have left a review at least once and 9 out 10 shoppers read reviews before converting, the post-purchase experience becomes equally as important as driving conversions. At this point, you can find online reviews for absolutely everything, whether it's an esteemed century-old magazine (bad reviews for customer service!) or a bank that catered to startups until very recently (average reviews, no current events mentioned).

Seeking feedback is part of the ecommerce experience. Merchants, including creators, can launch review campaigns, reward reviews with loyalty points, and embed plugins on their website to ensure reviews are visible.

And customer feedback has become a precious commodity for content marketers. The lessons ecommerce vendors are learning from reviews apply to any online content business. It's time to listen to your customer feedback.

But where do you find customer feedback? How do you analyze it? And how do you apply it?

In my current role at an ecommerce returns company, I've explored all of the nooks and crannies where shoppers give brands feedback. So here's a compass for understanding the value of online chatter, so you can turn customer feedback into a content vehicle that inspires sales and attracts audiences.

This advice isn't just for physical products. Anything you sell online, whether it's subscriptions, courses or other virtual goods, are game for customer feedback. It's all about knowing where to look and how to use what you find in that review data.

Where to find customer feedback

Imagine knowing what audiences really think about your brand…what could you do with that information? The first step is understanding the best sources of customer feedback online. The sources below are primarily for ecommerce reviews, although content teams in many verticals can find analogous results with social listening and other methods for mining web data.

Product reviews

Want to know what buyers think of your products? The first place to look is in your product reviews. Not company reviews, which encompass your entire brand, but product reviews on individual SKUs (if you have them).

Tools like Yotpo and Google reviews enable ecommerce marketers to embed reviews on product description pages. Normally on a scale of 1–5, shoppers can leave feedback on their experiences.

Maybe it was a 5-star review and the experience was great. Or maybe it's a 1-star review and the person hated that product. Both reviews are useful.

Product reviews don't just apply to physical goods. They also apply to businesses that sell services, experiences, or paid content.

For example, a ski resort in Utah turned negative reviews into a positive ad campaign, owning their challenge and targeting a more advanced audience. Your niche product or content could do the same: Maybe your content isn't for beginners, and it's aimed at seasoned professionals. Lean into that. Focus your content on the intermediate and advanced practitioners.

Screenshot from Snowbird's website displaying a bad review.
Screenshot from Snowbird's website

Company reviews

Once you know what people think of your products, you’ll also want to know what they think of your brand more generally. Check out Google reviews or tools like Trustpilot.

For example, you may have seen ads for the shoe company Rothy’s. While on the surface, it looks like they’re doing great, if you head into Trustpilot, 73% of their reviews are 1-star.

Screenshot from showing a bad review about a Rothy's shoe order.
Screenshot from

Despite years of blanketing the internet with ads for the walkable, washable shoes of the future, Rothy's hasn't woven customer feedback into their content strategy. They haven't turned negative reviews into content ideas and haven't addressed the recurring themes that shoppers have been telling them: holes in shoes, bad customer service, and a bad return policy.

So what could Rothy's learn from those reviews and apply to their content?

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