The comments section on practically all social media / publication platforms is a pure goldmine. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve seen a highly viewed video (e.g., YouTube, TikTok) or post (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) without running to the comments section.
Now, what makes the comments section so powerful? Pure human ingenuity. The combination of allowing people to post their own comments and “like / heart / clap” other people’s comments creates what we can call “trending comments.”
We all know what a “trending post / video” is on Facebook or YouTube, but we haven’t focused much on top comments, or “trending comments.” They are typically found at the top of the comments section with a large number of likes. What is the context of these comments typically? It can range from a super funny comment to a sarcastic comment to a thoughtful, supportive comment, all of which hundreds or thousands of people can relate to, which is translated into the number of likes.
When I watch a video, I go to the comments section usually for one of two reasons:
- To compare my thoughts against others
If I watched a video and I had a question or remark on something that was said, I usually go straight to the comments section to see if other people had the same thought. There is a sense of validation when you see a comment with many likes on a topic that you had thought about as well.
2. To see other people’s thoughts
Many times I go to the comments section to see what other people had to say. I know when I do this, I am in store for some funny comments to thoughtful comments to hate comments as well. Any viral or highly viewed video is going to have hundreds to thousands of comments, but the “trending comments” are the ones I look at, not just because they are at the top, but because these are the comments that a large number of people support. In a sense, it is a great filter system to see where the real “value” lies.
Now what types of comments are usually “trending comments”? Well, they can be numerous different things, but here are a few that I wanted to highlight:
- A trend within the comments
Yes, there are trends everywhere, even within the comments section. One person may post an original comment and others may take their own spin on it, and before long, there are hundreds of comments all following a similar trend that everyone is finding relatable or funny. A prime example of this would be American rapper Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow music video. See below an excerpt of the top comments as of 05/17/20 on this video.
The trend within the comments section started as a result of many people feeling the song empowered them to break the rules and do whatever they wanted. As a result, the public went to the extreme and started a trend within the comments to put in scenarios of things that one would not traditionally do or is not possible to do to show the “empowerment” generated from the song. If you scan through the comments section of this video, there are hundreds of comments in a similar format ranging from a few likes to thousands. Once a trend starts in the comments section, it can definitely gain traction as seen in this video.
In many instances, people simply comment a quote or line from the video that stood out to them. Typically, the quote is relatively short (i.e., a sentence or two) pulled from an entire video or article, so if these comments with a short quote become “trending comments,” they must have a pretty relatable or funny quote. There are hundreds of examples of this, but see one below from the video recording of Dartmouth’s 2018 Commencement Address by Mindy Kaling.
The video itself is about 17 minutes long, and this quote is only 7 words. It amassed around 1.1K likes, and this clearly shows that a quote that many others found funny or relatable can definitely gain a lot of likes in the comments section.
3. Blatant Callout Referencing the Comments Section
When something occurs in a video that is highly shocking, controversial, or essentially anything that is going to lead people to leave comments, many people are going to “run to the comments section.” As a result, many times “trending comments” are simply comments that read something along the lines of “I ran to the comments section as soon as I heard …” or “Like if you came to the comments because …”
4. Pure support
In many instances, top comments are simply those that show a lot of support to the writer or producer of the content. This is traditionally more prevalent for videos / articles that have an emotional element to them. See to the left an example of the top comments on a TikTok video showing a child who just won his battle against cancer. Clearly, in this instance, all of the top comments are related to the excitement and joy people feel when watching this video, and as a result, these comments have amassed thousands of likes.
The comments section can be funny, sarcastic, and relatable, but at times, very negative and unsupportive as well. We’ve definitely seen instances where people leave negative or threatening comments on social media, but for the purpose of this article, I wanted to focus on why the comments section can be a gold mine.
Now, why do I think the comments section is a gold mine? The comments section has potential to be web scraped and leveraged for data once a scalable tool is created to interpret and analyze comments to generate useful insights. The comments section is useful because (1) it allows the public to create unique comments / content related to videos, and (2) poll the public to uncover the comments / content that are the most relatable or valuable as measured by the number of likes.
Why is this useful? Well, learning about consumer behavior in a data-driven manner is an extremely large and growing market opportunity. Companies spend millions of dollars to learn about consumer interests and opinions on different topics. This is typically gathered in more traditional ways (e.g., consumer surveys), but I think there is a potential to develop a tool to analyze unstructured text data, like the comments section, to derive consumer insights. The comments section is essentially a free, crowdsourced method to identify top and highly agreed upon content, and this must have some value / potential attributed to it. If not, I guess the comments section is still a blast to read.