The Medium Shapes the Message: The Surprising Negative Spin of Close Friends’ Word-of-Mouth

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Many social media handbooks recommend targeting customers’ close connections and encouraging consumers to spread the word about their products and services among friends. But according to the findings of this research this strategy might not be the most effective way to build positive momentum. In fact, it might just do the opposite. The feelings of closeness that WOM senders experience toward their recipients determine what they share. Being close instills the desire to protect a recipient from having a bad experience. Therefore, communicating negative information, which highlights potential negative outcomes or attributes of a product, becomes more likely to be shared among close friends. In relations with loose acquaintances the motive to impress is more prevalent. Therefore, communicating positive information, which is more likely to shed a positive light on the WOM sender, is more likely to be shared in such instances. To encourage positive WOM for seeding campaigns, marketers should select the right platform and monitor closeness. Further, by framing the context of the campaign in the right way, they can also insure more positive WOM for a brand.

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  • Dubois David; Bonezzi Andrea; De Angelis Matteo (2016): “Sharing with Friends Versus Strangers: How Interpersonal Closeness Influences Word-of-Mouth Valence” Journal of Marketing Research Vol. 53 (5) pp. 712 - 727.

  • Dubois David; Rucker Derek D; Tormala Zakary L. (2011): “From Rumors to Facts and Facts to Rumors: The Role of Certainty Decay in Consumer Communications” Journal of Marketing Research Vol. 48 (6) pp. 1020 - 32.

  • Cheung Man Yee; Luo Chuan; Sia Choon Ling; Chen Huaping (2009): “Credibility of Electronic Word-of-Mouth: Informational and Normative Determinants of On-line Consumer Recommendations” International Journal of Electronic Commerce Vol. 13(4) pp. 9 - 38.

  • De Angelis Matteo; Bonezzi Andrea; Peluso Alessandro; Rucker Derek D.; Costabile Michele (2012): “On Braggarts and Gossips: A Self-Enhancement Account of Word-of-Mouth Generation and Transmission” Journal of Marketing Research Vol. 49 (4) pp 551 - 63.


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