Today, almost every company is on Facebook, where they build public pages for a brand or their business to engage their target customers, making Facebook one of the most influential media for business-to-consumer (B2C) communications. As companies are developing effective B2C communication strategies on Facebook, it becomes important to understand what message(s) can get more attention from Facebook users.

    Accordingly, I worked with a research team on a project, where we analyzed Facebook users’ reactions toward different types of B2C messages, as well as their eWOM behavioral intentions toward four selective message types and their eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated those messages. The results were reported in four academic journals. The key findings include:

    Study I – published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

    • If messages were divided into four media types, messages with photos or updates (text only) received more “Likes” and comments than messages with a video or a hyperlink.
    • If messages were categorized into two message types – Sales/Marketing messages vs. Conversational messages (messages with which a company does not directly promote a product/service/brand or the organization), Conversational messages received more “Likes” and comments.

    Study II – published in Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

    • By comparing the Facebook messages initiated by 10 restaurant chains in the 4th quarter of 2010, 2012, and 2014, the results showed a substantial decrease of status updates by restaurants and a dramatic increase of photo updates, indicating companies were measuring and responding to Facebook users’ preferences.
    • Photo remained as the most “popular” media type, receiving most “Likes”, comments and “Shares” from Facebook users.
    • Video was not considered “popular” in 2010 but experienced a slight increase in usage by restaurants and slowly emerged in 2012 and 2014 as another “popular” media by Facebook users, which no longer had statistical difference with photo updates when number of comments and number of shares were measured.

    Study III – published in Tourism and Hospitality Research

    • Besides the two broad message types as reported in Study I, Sales/Marketing messages can be further classified into five sub-categories: Social Responsibility, Direct Boasting, Indirect Boasting, Product Highlight, and Campaign/Sales (please visit the original manuscript for the definition and example of each message type).
    • Likewise, Conversational messages can also be classified into four sub-categories: Call for Action, Provoke Feedback, Advice/Suggestions, and Updates.
    • With comparison, Conversational messages received more “Likes” and comments than Sales/Marketing messages, supporting the results of Study I.
    • With a more in-depth analysis, it is found Direct Boasting, Product Highlight, Call for Action, Provoke Feedback, Advice/Suggestions, and Updates received more “Likes” than other message types; Provoke Feedback and Call for Action received more comments.

    Study IV – published in Tourism and Hospitality Research

    • In this study, Facebook users were asked to rate their eWOM behavioral intentions toward four selective types of B2C message as well as their behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the message, whereas the previous three studies analyzed the data downloaded from a sample of hospitality companies’ Facebook pages.
    • In the end, 169 usable questionnaires were collected for analysis.
    • The four message types being tested in this study include: messages that announce a campaign/promotion (M1), messages of direct boasting (M2), messages that highlight a service or a product (M3), and messages that call for an action (M4).
    • The results revealed that M1 evoked greater eWOM behavioral intentions toward a message than others; M1 and M3 also evoked greater eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the messages than M2 and M4.
    • Facebook users’ eWOM behavioral intentions toward a Faceboook message were positively related to their eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the message.

    What are the industry implications?

    If companies want their B2C messages to be heard by as many Facebook users as possible, they may want to get more “Likes,” comments, and “Shares” for their Facebook messages. Now that we have known from four different studies that messages of different types would have different impacts on consumers’ eWOM reactions as well as their eWOM behavioral intentions, companies are advised to draft the B2C messages based on the message type that would yield a high eWOM effect according to the research findings highlighted above.

    Meanwhile, not only Facebook users’ preferences could change over time, Facebook could also make changes or add new functions to the platform from time to time. We hence highly encourage companies to monitor what message type(s) works particularly well on the Facebook pages they manage. It is also possible that certain types of messages would work better for one brand but not so for others due to different demographics of a brand’s Facebook followers.

    Lastly, because consumers’ positive eWOM behavioral intentions toward a Facebook message can also lead to positive eWOM behavioral intentions toward the company that initiated the message, organizations should continuously invest in engaging activities on Facebook that will trigger consumers’ positive eWOM behaviors toward a B2C message.

    1. Disclaimer: This research project was supported by Caesars Hospitality Research Grant Program, Caesars Hospitality Research Center at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA.

    Contact
    Linchi Kwok
    Associate Professor
    Send Email

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