Wanna Be a Friend on Social Media?: Effect of Communication Style on Consumers

Wanna Be a Friend on Social Media?: Effect of Communication Style on Consumers

Ayşegül Sağkaya Güngör, Dursun Yener, Mertcan Taşçıoğlu
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJOM.2021070105
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As the volume of consumer-brand interactions is increasing in the social media setting, it becomes essential to understand how to foster relationships to create favorable attitudes towards the brand, stimulate sales, and enable consumers to forward the brand name to others. In this regard, this research focuses on the effect of communication style (formal vs. informal) that should be used for products that have different levels of self-expression (high vs. low) in social media communications. An experiment was conducted with 384 participants. The results indicated that consumers prefer informal communication regardless of the self-expression level of the product in social media. Investigating the interaction effects, the authors demonstrated that highly self-expressive products favorably stimulate word-of-mouth intention in case of formal communication. However, it is the informal communication that stimulates purchase and word-of-mouth intentions and brand attitudes when the product is low self-expressive in nature.
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Communication has always been among the most important needs of people. Throughout history, people tried to communicate with each other because of the necessity of being social creatures. Today, communication tools have improved and become accessible to everyone. However, with these developments, the life of today's people has become more and more complicated. Today's people are under intense communication bombardment, and an important part of this communication is through brands to consumers. Due to the intense communication, brand owners could not observe the expected effect in many messages. Businesses are looking for ways to highlight their messages by differentiating them from those of their competitors. This situation results in diversification in communication. One of the consequences of this diversification is the type of communication. Communication styles that can be expressed as formal and informal are used by brand owners in line with the expectations and demands of their target audiences.

Today, a significant part of communication takes place through social media. The number of users on social media is higher than the population of many countries. The communication language on social media differs from the everyday language that we chose either formal or informal depending on the conditions. The language in social media, however, is mostly informal. Businesses that speak the same language as their customers and try to be close to them also adopt this informal language. There are studies in the literature that examine the effects of language on consumer behavior (Kelleher, 2009; Crijns et al., 2017; Gretry et al., 2017; Barcelos et al., 2018; Johnen & Schnittka, 2019). With this study, however, we pursue a different approach by focusing on the consumer’s perception of the product as high vs. low self-expressive in nature. The most important driver for this study is the belief that consumers buy the products counting on their functional or symbolic benefits. And the language used for different types of products causes a difference in the consumers’ intentions and attitudes (Gretry et al. 2017) on social media. The communication language used in these vehicles should be an extension of consumers' lifestyles and even their personalities. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the effects of communication styles on social media based on the products that have different benefits for the consumers.

When determining the effect of communication styles, it will not be accurate to treat every product in the same way. Products are categorized in a wide variety of ways according to their many features. Furthermore, many consumers consider the products they buy as a means of gaining reputation and acceptance in the society they live in to express themselves. In this study, the product classification based on the self-expressiveness level of products, classified as high and low, was used.

In this study, sunglasses were chosen as a product expressing a high self, and pain reliever as a product expressing a low self. In this way, the effects of self-expressing products (Berger & Heath, 2007), which have symbolic rather than functional properties, on the decisions of consumers were tried to be determined. The selected social media of the experiment was Facebook which has the highest number of accounts, thus, still one of the most valuable for brands.

To sum up, to fill the research gap, the current study addresses the concept of product self-expressiveness in the context of brand communication on social media. To be more specific, three research questions were developed:

  • 1.

    Is there any difference between low vs. high self-expressive products in terms of brand attitude (BA), purchase intention (PI), and electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) in social media?

  • 2.

    Is there any difference between formal vs. informal brand communication in terms of BA, PI, and eWOM in social media?

  • 3.

    What is the effect of formal vs. informal communication style for the products that present low vs. high self-expressiveness on BA, PI, and eWOM in social media?”

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