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Social Engagement: Proven Effect on Brand Attitude

Customer Engagement - Posted: Tuesday, 5 January, 2016 - 09:57

The best social media engagement strategy for your brand? Always respond to negative social media messages, but always give a personalized response. Studies found that strategic choices to positively affect consumers' brand attitude and purchase intention when they read a complaint on social media.

Online customer service for marketing purposes

We guess customer service departments won't explicitly notice the characteristics of social media messages every time they answer one. They will be primary focussed on fixing complaints and informing customers. Supporting the customers are of course the most important reason to converse with them, but not the only one. Consumers and prospects that read an online message with a negative sentiment about your brand, organisation or product, will negatively influence their brand attitude, brand choice and purchase intention**. While responding to those messages wipes out those negative effects. 

Choices in engagement strategy

In 2011, there wasn't a lot of previous research to base this statement on. Only the type of response got some attention. But choosing to deny guilt, apologise for problems, inform people or compensate them didn't have much effect on restoring reduced brand attitude or purchase intention. Differences in brand attitude after seeing a brand response on a complaint were caused by the platform and the chosen engagement strategy ***. Proactive engagement (responding to people who did not explicitly address the company) had a positive effect on some platforms (owned channels) and a negative effect on others. 

Research found that for Facebook as well, the platform type and the chosen strategy caused differences in brand attitude, because people appreciated the tone of voice differently. 

Personalisation works

Van Noort & Willemsen's study emphasises the need to appear open, unbiased and human. Other studies prove this to be the way for maintaining relationships. Personalisation should be the way.

An experiment comparing human voice (personalisation or no personalisation), platform type (brand vs consumer generated platform) and engagement strategy (proactive vs reactive) delivered like many scientific research complex results. Nevertheless, we can conclude three things

  1. Using personalisation in engagement will make it easy to reach an optimal effect in social media engagement. When responding as a brand to a negative Facebook message in a personal way, you can respond either proactively or reactively on both platform types and get the same effects on brand attitude or purchase intention. Choosing one engagement strategy costs less effort, thus make customer service faster ánd better. 
  2. Personalisation leads to more happy clients. Personal service causes more brand engagement, which leads your clients to choose your brand more often, and share positive social media messages about your brand. 
  3. Personalisation downsizes the damage social media messages can do to your brand image. Spectators will view your organisation as more open, human and attentive than when you respond with a generic message. This will improve the brand attitude of this group as well. 

How to personalize your message

Personalising your customer service responses isn't difficult:

  • Mention the first name of your clients and yours as well, instead of last names.
  • Greet the client in an informal way and introduce yourself.
  • Use 'I' instead of 'we' and 'me' instead of 'our company'. When responding in another language than English, use the informal version of you instead of the formal version ('jij' vs 'u'). 
  • When proactively responding to a client, explain how you found their message. (This is not personalisation per se, but explains why you respond to their message all of a sudden.)

Facebook versus blogs

Lastly, a comparison with another research produced interesting results. It pays off to respond to messages on Facebook more than on weblogs. For negative messages mentioning brands on Facebook, brand attitude will be higher than after seeing the same message on a weblog, whether or not they saw a customer service response. This higher evaluation is presumably so, because of the social processes and influence principles that are at work on social networksites. Facebook users are constantly engaged in building and maintaining relationships. With people but also with companies and brands. A company with an integrated social media marketing strategy can convert this elevated brand attitude in a higher purchase intention with proactive updates, responses and ads. 

Conclusion

Optimal social media engagement is not difficult! A change in tone of voice does wonders for your brand image. Most of the time it's the customers that believe in your product/service that are disappointed. Proactive online customer service and personalised responses are key in improving the customer value of unsatisfied customers and the consumers in their network. 

 **  Chevalier & Mayzlin, 2006; Chiou & Cheng, 2003; Lee & Song, 2010; Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012; Vermeulen & Seegers, 2009

*** published research of Van Noort & Willemsen (2012) about social media engagement on weblogs