Contagious Negativity And The Dangers of Social Media

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Some people say there is no such thing as bad press. Even bad press, after all, gets people talking about your product or service. Now a study in the Journal of Consumer Research concludes that negativity is contagious.

"Consumer attitudes toward products and services are frequently influenced by others around them. Social networks, such as those found on Myspace and Facebook suggest that these influences will continue to be significant drivers of individual consumer attitudes as society becomes more inter-connected," explain Adam Duhachek, Shuoyang Zhang, and Shanker Krishnan (all of Indiana University). "Our research seeks to understand the conditions where group influence is strongest."

"This research has several interesting implications. First, given the strong influence of negative information, marketers may need to expend extra resources to counter-act the effects of negative word of mouth in online chatrooms, blogs and in offline media. Conversely, companies could damage the reputations of competitors by disseminating negative information online," the researchers explain. "Consumers should be aware that these social influence biases exist and are capable of significantly impacting their perceptions."

Unfortunately, many companies suffer from social media ostrich syndrome. They prefer to put their heads in the sand and hope no one says any bad things about them online. By choosing not to engage in the conversation, they are missing a chance for valuable feedback and the chance to convert some naysayers over to champions. Instead, they should be exploring social media.