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Want to create a bigger eWOM effect on Facebook? Message type matters

As one of the most visited websites in the world, Facebook has become the most influential medium for business-to-consumer (B2C) communications. Almost every company is now on Facebook, where they build public pages for a brand or their business to engage their target customers.
When a Facebook user likes, shares or posts a comment on a company's update, the B2C message initiated by the company will then have a higher chance of being seen by the Facebook user's friends, thus creating a bigger electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) effect for the company's communication effort.
Then, because companies are free to post almost any content they like on Facebook, studies about customers' eWOM behavioral intentions as well as their actual eWOM responses toward different types of B2C messages on Facebook are expected to reveal meaningful insights. This research provide managers business intelligence for the development of effective marketing communication strategies.
Accordingly, I recently worked with a research team on a project where we analyzed consumers' eWOM responses as well as their eWOM behavioral intentions toward different types of B2C messages on Facebook. We have completed the project and published the results.

Consumers' eWOM responses toward different types of B2C messages on Facebook

In the first series, I mainly worked with Bei Yu, an associate professor at Syracuse University. We analyzed the web data that was accessible on selected companies' Facebook pages and reported the key findings in Cornell Hospitality QuarterlyWorldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes and Tourism and Hospitality Research.
For example:
  • As far as a message's media type is concerned, updates (text only) and messages with photos received more likes and comments than messages with a video or a hyperlink.
  • As far as a message's content is concerned, messages that promote a product/service/brand or the organization (i.e., sales/marketing messages), as compared to those that do not (i.e., conversational messages), received fewer likes or comments.
  • By observing the trends over time, messages with photos and messages with a video became the two more-often-adopted media types by companies. Over time, these two types of messages were also getting more attention from Facebook users than updates or messages with a hyperlink.
  • When looking deeper into a message's content, the following message types received more likes by Facebook users: messages of direct boasting, messages that highlight a service or a product, messages that call for a special action from the customers (e.g., asking customers to follow the company's Instagram or Twitter account), messages that seek customer feedback, messages that provide suggestions or advice to customers, and a simple update about an event or an incident.
  • Messages that seek customer feedback and messages that call for a special action from the customers received more comments.

eWOM responses toward B2C messages vs. eWOM responses toward a company that initiated the messages

In the second phase of this project, I worked with Zhenxing (Eddie) Mao, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona, and Yung-Kuei Huang, an assistant professor at National I-Lan University in Taiwan.
Rather than using the data downloaded from selected companies' Facebook pages, we adopted a survey method to examine message type's impact on consumers' eWOM behavioral intentions toward a message. More importantly, we also tested if there was a correlation between consumers' eWOM behavioral intentions toward a message and their eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the message.
We collected 169 usable questionnaires for analysis. The key findings were recently published in Tourism and Hospitality Research.
Facebook users had different eWOM behavioral intentions toward marketing messages as compared to conversational messages. Four message types were tested in this particular study:
  • messages that announce a campaign/promotion (M1)
  • messages of direct boasting (M2)
  • messages that highlight a service or a product (M3)
  • messages that call for an action (M4)
And here is what we found:
  • M1 evoked greater eWOM behavioral intentions toward a message than others.
  • M1 and M3 also evoked greater eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the messages than M2 and M4.
  • Facebook users' eWOM behavioral intentions toward a Faceboook message were positively related to their eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the message.
  • A marginal gender difference on eWOM behavioral intentions was also identified.

What are the industry implications?

Our analysis suggests that messages of different types would indeed have different impacts on consumers' eWOM reactions as well as their eWOM behavioral intentions. As a result, when companies initiate a conversation on Facebook, they are highly encouraged to draft the message based on the message type that would yield high eWOM effect, as revealed in the research findings.
Additionally, because consumers' positive eWOM behavioral intentions toward a Facebook message can also lead to their positive eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the message, organizations should continuously invest in engaging activities on Facebook that will trigger consumers' positive eWOM behaviors toward a B2C message.
What other recommendations will you make?
Note: This post is also available on Multibriefs.com

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