Word of Mouth Still Rules for Brand Advocacy
Even if consumers really like a product or service, they’re not likely to share those feelings on Facebook or Twitter, new research suggests.
Instead, social media users are more likely to express their opinions about products in face-to-face social situations, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Researchers said this is because most users usually have a wide range of friends or followers on social media sites, and may not feel as comfortable expressing their opinions to these connections as they would with their close family members and friends. This lack of close connection, as well as their vulnerability to adverse comments, often deters people from sharing their opinions about brands on social media sites, the researchers said.
Andreas Eisingerich, a researcher at the Imperial College Business School in London and a co-author of the study, said that social media websites such as Facebook have completely revolutionized the way consumers share information and communicate with one another.
“Our report shows that when it comes to sharing recommendations on products and services on these sites, users tend to stay quiet,” Eisingerich said. “They would rather communicate via word of mouth because many users don’t want to embarrass themselves online, as work colleagues or acquaintances may not endorse or appreciate the same products that they do.”
As part of the study, the researchers surveyed 407 participants in labs and face-to-face surveys to find out how they communicated about their favorite brands. They found that the participants were reluctant to endorse products on social media sites due to the perceived risk that they could embarrass themselves if their views were not endorsed or shared by others. On the flip side, sharing information in face-to-face situations among a smaller group of people, usually family and friends, doesn’t have the same social pressures, the researchers said.
The researchers also discovered that the study participants who did share their opinions about their favorite products and services did so because it made them feel good about themselves, and that it raised their self-esteem. They found that as users’ need to enhance their self-esteem increased, so did their willingness to share their views.
The study’s authors suggested that their findings could be used by social media companies and marketers to take steps to ensure that consumers don’t feel threatened by these online social risks. These steps include providing opportunities for consumers to selectively share their opinions with members of their social network.
“Our report could influence how businesses spend advertising budgets on social media websites,” Eisingerich said.
The study was co-authored by researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; the Leeds University Business School in the United Kingdom; the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California; and the University of Melbourne in Australia.
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