Value Creation (vs Value Destruction) as an Unintended Consequence of Negative Comments on [Innocuous] Brand Social Media Posts

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Social media allows brands a place to reinforce their identities and build positive interactions with their customers. Despite all the benefits social media offers to brands, it is also is a place where consumers can post negative comments (unintended consequence #1) with the intention to cause harm (value-destruction). But could these value destruction attempts backfire, resulting in value-creation for the brand (unintended consequence #2)? Study 1 (qualitative online content analysis) uses 237 real consumer comments on brand posts to explore the initial unintended consequence—the phenomenon of consumers posting negative comments on innocuous brand posts and identifies four categorizations based on two distinct comment types (personal vs. brand) and tones (lecturing vs. mocking). Building on Study 1, Study 2a investigates how observing consumers view the four different comment categorizations identified in Study 1 and explores whether they vary in terms of their justification (i.e., justified vs. not). Study 2b identifies which categorizations impact observing consumers’ perceptions of a comment as “complaining” or “trolling”. Lastly, Study 3 utilizes an experiment to test unintended consequence #2—we find that “trolling” negative comments on innocuous brand posts can increase observing consumers’ likelihood to engage with the brand.

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Journal of Interactive Marketing