The more interactive your company is on Facebook and Twitter, the more likely customers are to shop with you, new research finds.
Businesses that regularly engage in conversations with consumers on social media are seen as more informative and influential, according to a study in the Journal of Promotion Management.
That perception leads customers to view the company's brand in a more favorable light, as well as increase their intentions to buy their products and services, said Holly Ott, one of the study's authors and a doctoral candidate at The Pennsylvania State University.
"The quality of the interactivity — its perceived informativeness — makes people develop stronger attitudes toward the brand of the company and, perhaps most importantly, enhances their purchase intention," Ott said in a statement.
For the study, researchers asked 131 participants to review a fictitious press release about a product launch that was distributed on Facebook. The participants were divided into three interactivity conditions representing high, medium and low numbers of communication between a company representative and customers.
After reviewing the posts, the participants answered questions that measured authority, product likeability, perceived informativeness, brand likeability, company responsiveness, purchase intentions and perceived contingency.
The study's authors discovered that the participants who were shown evidence of more interactions between the company and consumers were significantly more likely to consider the content as more informative. [See Related Story: Customers Want Answers on Social Media — Don't Leave Them Hanging ]
"More interactivity is generally seen to be advantageous for companies, but when customers find the material more informative, it makes a company's communications more effective and more influential," Ott said.
The researchers also tested participants' reactions when the person doing the online interacting was the company's chief executive officer or a trainee.
"We wondered if something as simple as a title would persuade the participants to think differently, in terms of how credible they thought the representative was, or how it would impact their overall perception of the product," Ott said. "Surprisingly, the participants didn't seem to be affected by the heuristics of authority."
Overall, the researchers found that evidence of interactivity is more important to consumers than the belief that a company is reputable and credible.
Based on the results, the study's authors suggest that even businesses that are already considered reputable within their industry should do more than just disseminate information through a one-way medium.
"If you want to increase a person's purchase intention, or make them feel more favorable to your company and product, interact with them," Ott said. "You want to make sure your releases are relevant and you want to make sure that your interactivity is accompanied by substantive, rich content."
The study was co-authored by Michael Vafeiadis, Sushma Kumble and T. Franklin Waddell, all doctoral candidates in mass communications at Penn State.