Facebook is changing how we talk about brands

Facebook and other communication channels are changing how people talk about products and brands.

Word-of-mouth tends to be spontaneous while the written word is more carefully expressed.

Jonah Berger and Raghuram Iyengar, from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in The Journal of Consumer Research:

“Whereas oral communication tends to be instantaneous (one person says something and then another responds almost immediately), written conversations tend to have longer gaps (consumers respond to e-mails, texts, or Facebook messages hours or days later).

Rather than saying whatever comes to mind, consumers can take the time to think about what to say or edit their communication until it is polished.”

Facebook’s written word takes over from word-of-mouth

Computers and handheld communications devices have completely changed how humans communicate. Rather than talking face-to-face or verbally on the telephone, we are using e-mails, tweeting, or bouncing messages around using Facebook and other social media.

As David Edelman wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “The internet has upended how consumers engage with brands.”

The authors explained how in one study, which asked participants to communicate with each other in writing rather than verbally, it was found that people discussed more interesting brands, such as Apple products.

Mundane goods, such as Windex are much more likely to be discussed face-to-face or verbally on the phone than in writing.

When we express ourselves in writing we have much more time to think about what we are going to say. We can edit and rephrase before clicking on “send”, “update” or “post”. We can even carry out a bit of research online to back up what we say.

The authors wrote “As a result, consumers mention more interesting products and brands (Google Glass rather than Colgate toothpaste) compared to oral communication.”

Berger and Iyengar concluded:

“Consumers have a natural tendency to talk about things that make them look good. But selecting the right thing to say requires time. In oral communication, consumers talk about whatever is top-of-mind (the weather), but written communication gives them the opportunity to select more interesting things to say.”

Human communication is tending towards non-verbal routes, such as Facebook Twitter, blogs and other online channels. Does this mean that businesses have to focus more on making “interesting products”? How can makers of mundane goods, such as dish soap, maintain or increase sales levels as the impact of word-of-mouth fades?