Why do extremely good or bad brand experiences drive consumers to flock to social media?

man looking up at social media like count

by Severina Cartright

Why do some emotions drawn from consumption experiences motivate consumers to leave feedback online but some do not? And how does feedback vary between different online platforms? Do different sites influence the type of feedback people post online? This blog post explores those questions examining the motivations behind people sharing eWOM (electronic word of mouth) and the impact of consumption emotion on their eWOM behaviours.

The Experiment

Research shows that consumption emotion has a strong impact on people sharing eWOM and to measure the part this plays in consumers’ cross-media eWOM, two scenario-based online experiments were established. The experiments were based on a fictitious hotel service encounter in Orlando. Four different vignettes described a three-star hotel and covered three aspects of the hotel service: the room/building, the equipment/furniture, and the services. These scenarios all differed in emotional valence and intensity in order to bring about either a positive or negative response. Respondents were asked to rate the intensity of their emotions, based on the scenarios that played out.

In the first study, variables such as satisfaction and intention to share eWOM on SNSs (social networking sites) and review sites were measured. In the second study, the effects of emotion regulation (including cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression) on eWOM-giving were investigated. These studies aimed to better define how consumption emotion and emotion regulation affects consumers’ eWOM-giving, and how this varies between SNSs and review sites.

Social Networking Sites vs Review Sites

These studies illustrated that the level of emotional intensity elicited by someone’s consumption experience (either positive or negative) dictates whether a certain threshold for sharing eWOM is surpassed, i.e. whether the consumer will actually share their experience online. When people do decide to share online feedback, differences arise between their eWOM behaviours on SNSs and review sites.

On SNSs people are less likely to share their uncensored thoughts and feedback, as it could contrast with the positive self-image they have curated online amongst their peers. Thus, a positivity bias emerges, as customers are more likely to share positive eWOM on SNSs; eWOM-giving for unsatisfactory experiences on SNSs is much lower than on review sites. Emotion regulation also plays a factor in eWOM-giving, particularly on SNSs, as it is expected to weaken the impact of emotional intensity on eWOM behaviour. Results show that the inhibiting effects of emotion regulation are stronger in SNSs compared to review sites.

In contrast, feedback posted to review sites is evidently unbiased. This is because the ‘online disinhibition effect’ (the lack of inhibition that users feel about expressing darker emotions) on review sites is stronger, so feedback is essentially based on facts and experience, with fewer social constraints to inhibit consumers. Thus, feedback is likely to be more negative on review sites, but ultimately more reliable, as consumers provide positive and negative feedback more equally on these platforms. On review sites, consumers’ feedback is often driven by an aim to restore justice or warn other potential consumers about a company. They are also, however, strongly driven to provide positive feedback to make helpful recommendations and support companies, based on the positive emotions their experience evoked.

What can be done during the service experience to mitigate negative eWOM?

Service providers must ensure that they pay careful attention to consumers’ emotions during service and in follow-up interactions. Creating experiences that will elicit positive emotions is important, which involves incentivising positive feedback through customer delight. Additionally, regulating any signs of negative emotions during a consumption episode to ensure they fall below the ‘sharing threshold’ of negative eWOM on SNSs and review sites is equally important. This can involve reaching out to apologise or offer financial compensation after a negative experience. Staff should also display high emotional intelligence and quick thinking, particularly for end-of-service episodes, to help handle recovery efforts in the event of a negative service experience. It’s in these last few minutes of service that a positive encounter could help the most!

If you would like to read the full study, click here.


About the Author

Dr. Severina Cartwright is a Lecturer in Marketing, the Global Opportunities Academic Lead for the University of Liverpool Management School and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is also Freeman of the City of London and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors.

This Thought Leadership blog is one of a series written by Marketors to provoke debate and help make marketing more relevant to businesses and society. If you would like to take part, please contact omaidhiwaizi@gmail.com