Consumer sentiments pre, during and post public announcement: implications for corporate handling of social media
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The marketing landscape has gone through significant changes with the growing popularity of social media platforms. The role of the consumer in the marketing process has changed and social media has presented us with a new consumer, who is now actively sharing and expressing opinions to a large number of people. This trend has presented a number of challenges for practitioners and a new research area for researchers. For practitioners especially the main goal is to understand how to manage consumer comments online and impact consumer attitude towards the brand. This becomes of critical importance when there is a risk for consumer attitudes to turn negative. The objective of this research is to understand what consumers are saying on social media during the time of risk for the company, the time when company actions might impact consumer attitudes. For that reason consumer sentiments during an announcement period will be analysed and compared to pre and post announcement. Qualitative content analysis method was used to study consumer sentiments on social media. Analysis of 4,595 social media messages from Twitter, Facebook and blogs were evaluated and categorized. This study identified that the overall volume of consumer comments and negative sentiment comments increase for both positive and negative announcements during the announcement stage. Comments categorized as sarcastic humour and negative feedback or anger tend to be the most dangerous ones at all announcement stages because of their ability to attract the attention of other consumers who then become engaged in the conversation. This study identified that all consumer comments tend to fit one of four topics: emotional reaction, feedback, humour or comparisons and a consumer sentiments matrix was presented. A 15-item consumer sentiment categorical framework was developed for this research and the main themes within each category by announcement stage were presented. A two-dimension consumer typology based on consumers’ purchasing relationship and overall attitude towards the brand yielded four types of consumer: defender, attacker, retractor and interactor along with analysis of how each consumer types interacts with the company and each other. A social media decision making process map was presented to act as a strategy blueprint for practitioners. Theoretical and managerial implications for the main research findings were discussed. The main theoretical contribution is the integration of social media attitude concepts by using customer-centric model and developed frameworks. Major managerial contribution is the recommendations made to practitioners on handling consumer sentiments during the announcement and proven impact of social media strategy on financial indicators.