Customers vs marketers: who has a bigger influence?


The rise in popularity of social networking sites has led to user generated content and word of mouth to become popular sources of information. Marketers have identified this trend as well and currently there is hardly any company that does not have their own Facebook page or Twitter account where marketers post content regularly and interact with the customers in name of the company. Both the user-generated content and marketer generated content are popular and everyday used tools, but what exactly is their impact on our purchasing behavior? In this research Goh et al. (2013) want to test this through the following research question:  how is consumer purchase behavior influenced by user-generated content and marketer generated content in social media brand communities and if and how do the communication modes matter?

To test the hypotheses, the researchers used a Facebook page of an apparel retail store named FFS that is based in China. This Facebook page was set up by the retailer so that they can interact with their customers, but also for customers to interact with each other. For the research, two types of content are important, namely UGC and MGC, which on Facebook takes the form of posts and comments. An important difference is made between direct and indirect comments and posts. The data for the research is then generated through a text mining tool where every post and comment is analyzed by coders.

The results of this research show how Facebook pages of companies do have an influence on the purchasing behavior of the users and when quantified, this influence would be good for $25 per user. When it comes to the difference between direct and indirect messages on the Facebook page, this research shows how MGC has a bigger influence through direct posts when it comes to persuasive messages. This would mean that marketers should focus more on replying to customers directly to reach a bigger influence on them. When it comes to UGC, the results of this research show how for both informative and persuasive messages, indirect communication has the biggest influence. This also shows how for MGC, persuasive communication seems to be most influential, while for the UGC both the informative and persuasive communication are influential on the users. The demand elasticity of both contents have also been estimated for both the informative and persuasive communication. For the MGC this elasticity is 0.004 for the persuasive communication. For UGC it was found that the elasticity is 0.180 for the persuasive communication and 0.006 for the informative communication. It can be seen that the elasticity is much higher for UGC and therefore we can conclude that UGC has a bigger influence on the purchasing behavior of users than MGC does.

But what do these results mean in practice? Well, firstly these results have showed how UGC is good for influence coming from both informative and persuasive messages, while MGC only showed good results for persuasive messaging. This means that when a company is focused on using marketers only to generate content online with the goal of increasing purchasing behavior of users, most likely will not succeed in their goal. On the other hand, relying on the users only to deliver marketing messages will not work either, since they need encouragement and guidance in it. This means that the best solution would be for the marketers and customers to work together in increasing the purchases. A good way to do this would be by providing users with enough space to interact with each other while at the same time making the marketers encourage the interaction and provide guidance. The results also showed how the direct approach works better for MGC, which can also be seen in reality since customers can see this as a personal approach and appreciate it more. Nowadays there are also many websites that are focused on the interaction of customers only, like Yelp, but when looking at these results they would benefit more by letting marketers interact with these customers too with for example, posting special offers or answering questions that customers have.

 

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Sources:
Goh, K.Y., Heng, C.S. and Lin, Z., 2013. ‘Social media brand community and consumer behavior: Quantifying the relative impact of user-and marketer-generated content’. Information Systems Research, 24(1), pp.88-107.

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