During the last decade, the way consumers communicate has significantly changed. This change is facilitated by the World Wide Web as a platform whereby information is no longer produced by a small group of institutions. Instead, a rising number of consumers use the Web to express and disseminate their knowledge, experiences, and opinions about products and services. The transition from traditional broadcasting to "Web 2.0" has greatly expanded the opportunities for brands to use bidirectional communication.
Using over 250.000 tweets produced by brands and consumers during a 10 week research period, the effect of strategies as suggested by professional literature on a brand's influence on consumer tweets was investigated. As a social medium, Twitter is one of the 2.0 platforms which gained enormous popularity over the last years.
While a growing amount of people is interacting online, it is essential for brands to understand what strategies might be used to increase their influence over consumer word of mouth. It stresses the need for brands to develop an online presence on social media, thereby increasing the need for knowledge on influence. This study scientifically investigated strategies suggested by professional literature. The current study shows that brands' Twitter strategies positively influence consumer word of mouth. It highlights the importance of one to one communication and community participation. Moreover, it shows that following consumers primarily influences the followers indegree. Although the research has been executed on Twitter alone, its results may be applied universally across social media. The study confirms the effectiveness of conversing with consumers, bringing consumers together around a specific topic or brand, and listening to consumers. As such, its findings may be used to improve strategies for e.g. microblogging, social network sites and other social media.
The current study shows four indicators (follower indegree, mentions criterion, sentiment and retweet criterion) brands can use to measure their influence on consumer word of mouth. The results of this study assist marketers with quantifying influence on Twitter. It builds further on the knowledge of measuring online activities, and will help marketers reporting back to the management. Certain structural aspects of Twitter may seem medium specific. However, a first degree network, content replication, sentiment analysis and brand mentions expressing the conversational exchange all are medium to highly visible for other social media. Hence the results are characterized by a high external validity across social media.
The study puts reach into perspective. Although the first degree network is a highly valid measure of online influence, a strategic focus on direct reach has a minimal effect on the conversational exchange and even negatively impacts the other measures. The findings stress the fundamental relevance of conversational exchange for brands to increase online influence. For online brand management it is crucial to measure online conversations in order to keep track of a brand's online influence. Results of the current study impact online brand management in the sense that they help brands understanding, managing and monitoring consumer word of mouth across the social web. The study confirms the relevance of consumer word of mouth for online branding in this communication 2.0 era.
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