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Reaction to “Micro-blogging as Online Word of Mouth Branding”

29 June 2009

In this article, students at Penn State University used Summize, Twitter’s search engine, to evaluate word of mouth sentiment towards brands by users of Twitter. The results show:

  • More than 60 percent of the aggregate weekly sentiments for the brands were positive; just over 22 percent were negative.
  • The rest were neutral or had no sentimental value.
  • 32 percent of the time there was no change from week to week, while 64 percent of the time there was a change in sentiment or a change to no tweets.

These results show that when people talk about brands on Twitter, they are mostly positive, but most people’s sentiment changes over time.

Therefore, as noted in the article, long-term and consistent word of mouth branding on Twitter may be difficult to achieve because of its fickle culture.

The statistic I found most interesting was that “More than 80 percent of the tweets that mentioned one of these brands expressed no sentiment.” What this means to me is that Twitter is still primarily a communication platform rather than a review platform. From a consumer perspective, that probably legitimizes word of mouth recommendations on Twitter because they are in the minority. This should also let companies know that while Twitter can be a place to influence brands, it may not be the end all, be all because people are only talking about brands 20 percent of the time!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. pritiu permalink
    29 June 2009 9:16 am

    As Paolo mentions above, one of the most striking statistics from “Micro-blogging as Online Word of Mouth Branding” is that 80% of the tweets exhibited no brand preference. However, of the analyzed tweets, 60% expressed positive sentiment and 22% were negative.

    Although the universe of sentiment-related tweets is relatively small, the brand implications may be significant. As stated in the research, the U-shaped relationship between customer satisfaction and the inclination to engage in WOM transfers means that tweets will generally fall into two distinct categories – extremely positive and extremely negative. This presents a unique opportunity for brand managers to utilize the enthusiasm of the supporters and to state their case to detractors.

    Also, over the 13-week period, brand sentiment changed 64% of the time. This means that brand managers have to be vigilant and continue to reinforce their message. It would be interesting to know if any of the reported changes in sentiment were caused by official brand activity on Twitter. Of the 30% that changed from negative to positive, did tweets from an official source cause the improvement?

    One potential downside to the research is that it only looks at active engagement on Twitter. For a single expression of negative sentiment, there may be 10, or even a 100, passive users reading the post and reforming their opinion of a brand. If 90% of Twitter users are passive followers, harnessing the hallowed 10% may be the key for brand managers.

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