NEWS20 June 2014

Size of audience influences word of mouth behaviour

News North America

US — The size of audience affects the type of information shared by word of mouth, according to new research.

The study, published in the American Marketing Association (AMA)’s Journal of Marketing Research, described a series of experiments where researchers tested the effects of audience size on the content that participants shared. It was found that people communicating with large groups of people (broadcasting) displayed egocentric behaviour, preferring to ‘self-present’, and avoid sharing content that makes them look bad (such as a story about choosing a bad product).

In contrast, people who were communicating one-on-one (narrowcasting) tended to shift their attention to the message recipient, and would be more likely to share something that would be useful to the other person.

The results were taken to have implications for how companies can manage word-of-mouth, by presenting consumers with opportunities to narrowcast or broadcast on their webpages depending on the type of product they sell. The authors suggest that companies selling ‘useful’ products (e.g. healthcare) should provide opportunities to narrowcast, while companies selling products related to ‘self-presentation’ (e.g. designer clothes) should promote broadcasting.