By Emily Kuo, Expedition PR
A recent study by professors at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania entitled ‘Communication Channels and Word of Mouth: How the Medium Shapes the Message’ concluded that written communication leads to more interesting and thoughtful conversation about companies and brands. The authors, Jonah Berger and Raghuram Iyengar, conducted laboratory experiments and an analysis of almost 20,000 everyday conversations. According to study results, written communication leads people to mention more interesting products and brands, compared to oral communication. People have more time to think about what to say and thereby mention more interesting things. This is driven partly through their desire to portray themselves as a person with interesting thoughts among peers.
Here are three lessons that social media marketers can apply based on the study results.
- Create conversations: Use social media marketing channels as a conversation starter and motor. Don’t just tweet about your new products; Embed them into a larger context. For example, if you are selling beds, talk about sleeping habits. Use hashtags to track and continue conversation topics and ask people to share content via different channels, such as #sweetdreams.
- Time your social media messages: The authors believe that the timing of the conversation is an important factor in these conversations. Verbal communication is synchronous, while written communication is more asynchronous. Other studies also show when people use each channel. Use this data to connect with people at times where they are online.
- Consider the “cool factor”: Online peer pressure drives conversation topics. When study participants were told that they would be judged how cool they were based on the conversation, they brought up more interesting brands and products. This means, you need to offer clever – and thought-provoking – content for your social media conversations. Give them ‘food for thought” or entertainment that is worth sharing with their friends.
The study provides good insights for word of mouth marketers. However, as each social media channel has its own characteristics, future research is needed to analyze how marketers should best use each social media channels, and in which sequence, to start and drive conversations worth sharing. To read a summary of the study, click here.