What to say on social media and how: Effects of communication style and function on online customer engagement in China
Journal of Service Theory and Practice
Article publication date: 17 September 2019
Issue publication date: 29 November 2019
The purpose of this paper is to investigate how nonprofit service providers can better engage their customers through online communication. It identifies two communication styles and three communication functions, and examines their impact on customer commenting, customer liking and customer sharing.
Similar to Python for Facebook, a software package for the automatic retrieval of web page content was developed specifically for this study to extract data from the microblog Sina Weibo. Following the successful retrieval of 1,500 randomly selected messages from 34 universities in China, a two-level regression was performed using Mplus 7 to examine the association between the proposed relationships.
The findings reveal that messages with a friendly communication style increase both the number of comments and their positive tone; an authoritative style has no effect on customer engagement. The functions associated with message content (spreading information, building community or promoting action) influence customer liking and sharing. Building community tends to engage more customers than spreading information; promoting action often generates the least customer engagement in social media settings.
The study fills an important research gap in the service marketing literature as it pertains to nonprofit service organizations (i.e. universities) by identifying two types of online identities based on the communication style and the messages posted on social media. This study is the first to investigate the relationship between identity type and audience engagement, and to analyze the moderating factors of this relationship.
This study received support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71672200 and No. 71672058) and Key Research Project of Guangdong Province (No. 2016WZDXM001).
Wu, J., Chen, J., Chen, H., Dou, W. and Shao, D. (2019), "What to say on social media and how: Effects of communication style and function on online customer engagement in China", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 29 No. 5/6, pp. 691-707. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSTP-11-2018-0243
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