Study finds negativity prevalent for brands on Facebook

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Kristina: What is driving the ‘negativity’ of business page posts?
Mochen Yang, University of Minnesota Assistant Professor, INFORMS Member: One of the key drivers behind the prevalent “negativity” on Facebook business pages, we believe, is that customers perceive business pages as a new “customer service” channel. For example, they post complaints about quality and monetary issues of products and services, hoping that the firms can address them. Because unhappy customers in general are more likely to speak up than happy ones, we end up observing more negative user-generated posts than positive ones on these business pages. In addition, when a firm goes through certain crisis (e.g., during product recalls), social media platform such as Facebook is a popular place for customers to voice their concerns. This further adds to the negativity on business pages.
Kristina: How should brands engage with these negative posts?
Mochen: First of all, simply deleting or censoring negative posts is probably not an effective approach. During our study, we observe multiple cases where customers issued even more complaints after discovering that their initial negative posts were deleted. Second, brands should be strategic and thoughtful about (1) which negative posts to respond, (2) when to respond, and (3) how to respond. Our study wasn’t designed to directly answer to these questions, but other studies have provided some evidence. For instance, Ma et al. (2015) shows that responding to customer complaints on Twitter may in fact invite more complaints in the future. We believe more research is needed to generate comprehensive understanding of these issues.

Kristina: How can a brand recover from a negative post of this type?
Mochen: Strategically addressing negative posts on Facebook business pages not only can help a brand to recover from the potential harm of these posts, but may also bring significant benefits. Brands’ conversations with customers on Facebook business pages are public to all users on the pages. Therefore, if brands can do an effective job of addressing negative posts, it will be observed by other users, which will likely enhance the positive images of the brands. In general, we suggest that brands should use the public nature of their business pages to their advantages.
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Kristina Knight is a freelance writer based in Ohio, United States. She began her career in radio and television broadcasting, focusing her energies on health and business reporting. After six years in the industry, Kristina branched out on her own. Since 2001, her articles have appeared in Family Delegate, Credit Union Business, and with Threshold Media.