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Wednesday, July 13 • 15:31 - 17:00
Is Negative Word-of-Mouth Contagious? Exploring Negative Word-of-Mouth Dynamics in Social Media Networks.

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributors:
  • Ting Yu, College of Economic Management, Nanchang University, China; Department of Information Management,Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan
  • Ying-Jia Huang, Department of Information Management, Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan
  • Joyce Lee, Department of Information Management, Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan
  • Chien-Lung Chan, Department of Information Management, Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan
  • K.Robert Lai, Department of Information Management, Innovation Center for Big Data and Digital Convergence, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan

Background: The power of social media is a double-edged sword. It, on the one hand, creates a possible contagious effect regarding electronic word-of-mouth (WOM) which can be easily spread and become well-known. On the other hand, individuals and organizations might be facing serious impacts caused by negative WOM (NWOM) and their reputations might become harmed as a consequence. Prior research has highlighted that NWOM can spread faster, has greater impact and is more influential than positive WOM (PWOM). It can lead to “negative bias” (e.g. Hornik, 2015) and explosive complaint behavior, termed an “online firestorm” (Pfeffer, Zorbach and Carley, 2014). 

Objective: Researchers from multiple disciplines have highlighted that it is important to make sense of and respond to NWOM so as to reduce potentially calamitous NWOM impacts. However, the following questions remain: can explosive NWOM become mild and the dissemination of NWOM slow down? If this is possible, what is the nature of the diffusion process of NWOM in which the negativity of contagion does not occur or is reduced? To study the phenomenon of NWOM-reduction, we adopt our theoretical lens from dynamic social impact theory (Nowak, 1990). This is used to study social influences by using a dynamic systems approach to explain the motives, emotions and behaviors that emerge among individuals trying to influence each other. From this theoretical perspective, we aim to gain better understandings of the dynamic context of NWOM and consequently, offer suggestions regarding how to reclaim a level of control for companies facing crises due to NWOM. 

Methods: This study focuses on the business domain. A major motivation for business organizations investing in NWOM-reduction is its potentiality calamitous impact on revenue (Williams and Buttle, 2014). In order to address the research aim, we conduct social network analysis using a qualitative approach (Hollstein, 2011) based on data collected from a very popular online discussion forum in Taiwan. Two discussion topics of interest are considered as cases of NWOM-reduction. One is entitled “Is the Toyota a safe car?” which generated 15,716 views and 766 replies. The other is “The Apple products are getting worse after the death of Jobs, aren’t they?” containing 71,877 views and 189 replies. 

Results: Although the headings for these two discussion topics appeared neutral, they quickly attracted many people complaining the products provided by the aforementioned brands and voicing similar gripes. The negative emotions were soon intensified. While the complaining messages were passed back and forth, we observed that a changing moment occurred: NWOM became mild and at the same time PWOM turned to be very powerful. By conducting social networking analysis, we noted that the degree of closeness amongst people who supported the negative opinions was reduced while that among the strong defenders of the products increased. The outcomes demonstrate a power game between the zealots and the others in that the “zealots’ effect” and “people on the sidelines” made a significant contribution to NWOM contagion-reduction. We offer these results as a new contribution to studies in this field. 

Future Work: This study continues to investigate NWOM-reduction with more case studies. With the development of fruitful research, we hope to share further discoveries within the conference.  

Wednesday July 13, 2016 15:31 - 17:00
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2

Attendees (15)