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Brands beware! Even loyal customers distance themselves after socially unacceptable mentions of brand on social media

When consumers observe socially unacceptable brand mentions, such as profanity-laden tweets, they become motivated to distance themselves from the brand. This motivation to distance manifests on social media in heightened disengagement intentions (i.e., a desire to reduce posting) and even unfollowing the brand on social media.

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Researchers from University of Arkansas and Northeastern University published a Journal of Marketing article that examines social media disengagement—the psychological motivation to distance oneself from a brand on social media.

The study, forthcoming in Journal of Marketing, is titled “For Shame! Socially Unacceptable Brand Mentions on Social Media Motivate Consumer Disengagement” and is authored by Daniel Villanova and Ted Matherly.

Photo by Karsten Winegeart from Unsplash.com

Companies know that driving consumer engagement with their brands on social media is an important part of the modern marketing toolkit. They also know that it is easier to keep existing users than to acquire new ones. And while consumers can both increase their engagement with a brand or disengage, less is known about the drivers of disengagement.

This new Journal of Marketing article investigates social media disengagement, which is the manifestation on social media of the psychological motivation to distance oneself from a brand. Understanding social media disengagement is critical because it can undermine the reach of future marketing content. For example, when someone unfollows a brand on Twitter, that consumer is no longer directly reachable by the brand’s Twitter presence, nor are that consumer’s followers, who will no longer see the brand’s content via the consumer’s interactions.

Just as customer retention is understood to have drivers that are distinct from customer acquisition, the reasons why consumers engage with brands on social media may not completely overlap with why those same consumers disengage. The researchers study one potential driver of why consumers who are highly connected to a brand may choose to disengage from it: their observation of socially unacceptable mentions of the brand on social media. They propose these behaviors threaten the identity of highly connected consumers, leading to consequences for the brand.

The study finds that when consumers observe socially unacceptable brand mentions, such as profanity-laden tweets, they become motivated to distance themselves from the brand. This motivation to distance manifests on social media in heightened disengagement intentions (i.e., a desire to reduce posting) and even unfollowing the brand on social media.

The Dangers of Vicarious Shame

Socially unacceptable brand mentions do not affect all consumers equally. Villanova explains that “these problematic posts have a greater impact on people who are more connected to the brand. They threaten a part of these consumers’ identities and generate vicarious shame. Unlike guilt, which involves a personal sense of wrongdoing and a motivation to atone for the wrongdoing, shame leads to weakness and incompetence and a desire to withdraw and distance from the situation.”

Consumers who have integrated the brand into their concept of themselves are more likely to view other people’s socially unacceptable brand mentions as reflecting poorly on their shared brand-related identity. Whereas consumers with weaker self-brand connections can view socially unacceptable brand mentions and move on, consumers with stronger self-brand connections experience vicarious shame when seeing these behaviors, driving their desire to disengage from the brand.

One of the researchers’ studies looks at fans of ten Major League Baseball teams that competed in the 2018 postseason and finds that fans who were strongly connected to the brand were more likely to unfollow it in the face of socially unacceptable brand mentions on Twitter. Separately, in a lab experiment, they show that a more socially unacceptable tweet led fans of National Football League teams to feel a greater sense of shame, which drove their intentions to disengage from the brand on social media.

What Brands Can Do

Matherly says that “brands can take action to mitigate the risks of disengagement for highly connected consumers. For example, consumers who were strongly connected to various apparel brands saw a socially unacceptable Reddit post. With no additional information, the consumers indicated they wanted to disengage from the brand, but when they were told about the brand moderating and removing such posts, the desire to disengage was reduced, suggesting that active management of the brand’s social media environment is important.”

The study offers vital lessons for chief marketing officers:

  • Be proactive in mitigating the potential damage of social unacceptable content.
  • Actively moderate posts with socially unacceptable brand mentions to stop consumers who identify with the brand wanting to disengage from it.
  • Educate consumers by explaining why certain social media content was removed.
  • Help consumers become productive members of the community when these clarifications are provided.
  • Produce high quality content to crowd out socially unacceptable brand mentions.

Social media disengagement is costly to brands and is important for both researchers and practitioners to understand its drivers. While prior research suggests more highly connected consumers are able to maintain positive attitudes towards a brand when they are exposed to negative brand information, these results suggest that socially unacceptable brand mentions may lead to vicarious shame and subsequent disengagement. The insulating effects of strong brand relationships may not be as unequivocal as once thought.

Strategies

5 Tips for small business owners to help grow their business online

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity.

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Small businesses are embracing digitalization and catering to their customer needs through a variety of online channels. With new technologies emerging such as artificial intelligence, there is no time like the present to help your small business grow by taking advantage of the online world.

A GoDaddy 2023 global survey examined the status of small businesses including their ways to reach customers and survive in highly competitive markets. APAC countries surveyed, including Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, showed use of a business website, online store, ecommerce or a combination of them ranking at 57% of survey respondents. These results support having a strong online presence with multiple complementary channels can be vital for businesses to thrive and grow in today’s competitive digital environments.

With this in mind, GoDaddy shares five tips to help your small business grow with an online presence.

1. It starts with a domain name

When getting started, check availability of domain names for the desired name. A domain name can be considered a business’ piece of real estate and identity on the internet. It is a way for customers to easily find a business online.

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity. If the .com extension is not available, there are many new extensions available, such as: .shop; .co.; .photography; .tech, to name a few, for you to consider which can help define your business.  After choosing a domain name register it with a reliable hosting provider right away.

2. Build a website 

Websites help create visibility for small businesses and acts as a home base for your business on the internet, even if you have a brick-and-mortar store.  A website can help consumers easily find your business, learn about your product offerings and services, and contact you for more information.

A well-designed professional looking website can offer an engaging customer experience with the use of text along with photo images and video.  Having a website gives you control over the messaging about your business and can serve as a hub by linking with your social media channels.

3. Listen to your customers

The growth of your business is directly related to customer satisfaction. Listen to your customers and pay attention to the needs of your target market. Identify their problems and pain points. How can your offerings act as a solution? Is it possible to develop new products to help solve these problems?  Engage for customer feedback and keep an eye on customer behaviour changes and audience interests.

4. Develop a business support system

By developing a strong business support system, entrepreneurs can benefit from new ideas on ways to address a particular issue or ideas for growth. In addition to close family and friends, consider mentors and business coaches who can provide relevant insights into your business.

5. Review your business plan

Many entrepreneurs make a business plan at the beginning of their business journey, but do not take the time to revisit it from time-to-time. So, analysing aspects of that business plan like target audience and competitors, examining cash flows and what can make the business profitable, while also checking timelines to reach business goals is all equally essential to help ensure continued growth of your business.

For more information on how GoDaddy can help your small business: Domain Names, Websites, Hosting & Online Marketing Tools – GoDaddy PH.

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BizNews

Sticking with old technology can be a strategic move

As competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights.

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Technological innovation — especially disruptive innovation — is often heralded as the best strategy for a company. But new research published in Strategic Management Journal found that as competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights. While the rise of a discontinuous technology does pose a substitute threat to the old technology, it also further exposes niche segments where companies can gain a foothold with customers who favor the old technology.

The analysis by Xu Li, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, used archival data from the traditional Chinese medicine industry in China during the 1990s. In his interviews with managers in the field, he found that some chose not to innovate along with their competitors. In many cases, Li found these companies were performing well, if not sometimes better, by not making changes. Inspired by these conversations, Li chose to study under what conditions a firm may benefit from not innovating.

Li found some prior research on why companies would stick with older technology, but none explored why — during times of disruptive change in the market — sometimes firms are able to survive and even perform better within a small niche with old technology. What Li’s paper showed was that adhering to the old technology can, in some cases, be an effective strategy that ultimately improves firm performance.

The data showed a U-curve effect for traditional Chinese medicine firms that chose not to adopt new technology: The decline in performance began as a few competitors started launching a new technology, but later recovered and reached new heights as most competitors had adopted the new technology and exited the old technology market. But a lack of competition within the niche group of consumers who prefer older technology essentially gave these firms a monopoly within a smaller market as fewer competitors remained.

“Even though the new technology is often superior in terms of functionality, it doesn’t mean that every single customer or customer segment will be willing to move to the new technology,” Li says. “It’s important to understand what customers like about your product. We tend to assume that if a firm introduces something new, then customers must appreciate the new thing or the newness of the offering. But that’s not always true. The emergence of new technology can actually reveal people’s preference for something older.”

The research also refutes the idea that when the market is small, a company won’t perform better — but that depends on how many firms are still serving this niche. If only a few firms are left to serve this market, a company has far more power to charge higher prices among loyal customers with few other options.

“When you see a firm that is not actively innovating, we tend to believe the firm must be either incapable or is suffering — it’s always a bit of a negative tone,” Li says. “Sometimes staying with old technology might actually be a strategic choice, because by doing so it might also lead to better performance.”

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BizNews

Customers prefer text over video to provide service feedback

More people indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

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At a time when one viral video can damage a business, some companies are turning to their own commenting platforms rather than letting social media be the main outlet for customer feedback. Only one wrinkle: in this context, customers appear to prefer writing a message rather than leaving a video.

In a recent study, more participants indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

With more restaurants and hotels turning to AI to enhance their service, the findings indicate that methods that require “low self-disclosure” would work better, meaning ones that don’t require customers to provide very much identifiable information.

“Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share, but for general customers, it seems they feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure. This is probably because people still do not trust AI to that level,” said lead author Ruiying Cai, a researcher in Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

With a lot of hype around AI technology, many people have misperceptions about what it can do, Cai pointed out, perhaps believing it is capable of a lot more than simply recording a message.

The study participants reported being concerned about what would be done with their information in all the scenarios, but this was heightened with the option to leave a video.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, Cai and her colleagues presented different online scenarios to a total of 439 people. The participants were first asked to imagine a restaurant where they had either good or bad service. Then they reported how willing they were to give the server compliments, or complaints, with either text or video on an AI-enabled tablet.

The researchers found that the participants were more willing to give feedback using text, whether positive or negative.

The scenarios also had participants receiving a theoretical immediate or delayed reward to provide feedback, namely a 5% discount of their current meal or a future one. For complaints, the reward timing did not appear to make much difference, which the authors said was not surprising as people tend to be more highly motivated to complain than compliment.

For compliments, the researchers found an interesting connection: with more participants choosing the delayed reward over the immediate one. This may indicate that giving the compliment itself is its own reward as it makes the giver feel good, Cai said.

“It’s a good start to think about how to encourage customers to leave more compliments which could be very important for frontline employees. It could also be beneficial for the customers themselves,” she said.

Even complaints are important to encourage, Cai added. As her previous research suggests, restaurants and hotels should make it easier for customers to complain to them directly rather than go elsewhere to air their grievances.

“There have been episodes when customers were not afraid of posting angry videos on their own social media,” Cai said. “If restaurants and hotels can encourage customers to complain directly to them, then they may be able to recover and solve that service failure before it goes viral online.”

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