Company we-media is a new information dissemination channel which is developing quickly in the mobile internet environment. This communication channel weakens the impact of companies’ direct communication with their consumers but strengthens the mutual influence among consumers. Compared to information from company, consumers rely more on other consumers’ comments when making their decision. In such environment, companies need to consider how to facilitate the communication among consumers (e.g., how to choose information exposed to consumers; how to motivate consumers to share information with their peers). Since different consumers may have interest in different content, we explore the moderating effect of relationship norms on the relationship between we-media content and consumers’ intent to share.
To get some preliminary insights, we collected 20 companies’ micro-blog posts and coded them as either emotional posts or economic posts. The analysis of this secondary data showed that company’s fans (nonfans) shared more emotional (economic) posts.
We conducted two laboratory studies to further examine our hypothesis. In study 1, we used a 2 (Relationship norms: exchange vs. communal) × 3 (Economic information: no discount, 65% discount, 85% discount) between-subject design. Results indicated that participants in exchange (vs. communal) norm conditions were more willing to share economical information, and that this effect is driven by participants’ motivation to help company in return. In study 2, we examine the moderating role of relationship norm in the effect of emotional information on consumers’ sharing intention. A 2 (Relationship norms: exchange vs. communal) × 2 (Emotional information: product information, emotional information) between-subject design is used. As expected, the results showed that participants in communal (vs. exchange) norm condition were more motivated to get better social interaction with other consumers and hence more willing to share emotional information.
Our findings enrich literature about company’s communication in social media by focusing on consumers’ sharing behavior rather than purchases. First, this study provides a new perspective on company communication by differentiating the content into two types: economical information and emotional information. Second, present paper examined the impact of relationship norm in the domain of company communication by showing that consumers in different relationship norm might share different information. Third, we delineate the underlying mechanism of the interactive effect of information type and relationship norm by examining consumers’ sharing motivation. Besides theoretical contribution aforementioned, this study also provides useful implications for companies to utilize the social networks.