Companies that empower consumers by involving them in important processes, such as product development, risk having social media campaigns targeted at the same audience backfire, according to the study.
Peer-to-peer marketing, like what is done on Facebook and Twitter, and consumer empowerment, such as how Mountain Dew let customers vote on new colors and flavors, may not be compatible, said the study's authors, Mehdi Mourali of the University of Calgary and Zhiyong Yang of the University of Texas, Arlington.
"Empowered consumers resist social influence by either discounting the opinions of others or deliberately expressing opinions that diverge from those of other consumers," the authors wrote in the study.
While previous research has assumed that empowered consumers either disregard the opinions of other consumers or dismiss them entirely when judging a product, the study's authors found that consumers who were made to feel emboldened didn't always just ignore the opinions of others. Instead, they deliberately expressed opposing views and resisted any attempts to influence them.
Since empowered customers will either ignore or rebel against any perceived attempt to sway their opinion one way or another, the researchers believe companies that do succeed in getting their consumers to feel invested in the brand's decision will have hard time implementing an equally successful social media campaign.
"Many companies have embraced the concept of consumer empowerment," the authors wrote in the study. "However, they should consider whether attempts to integrate social influence (word-of-mouth marketing, social network marketing, buzz marketing) might backfire with empowered consumers."
The study, "The Dual Role of Power in Resisting Social Influence,"was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research.