Social media and consumer choice

Fred Bronner

University of Amsterdam

Robert de Hoog

University of Twente

Introduction

Social media are becoming very important for consumer decisions; as Casalo et al. (2011, p. 622) say, ‘this phenomenon is motivating deep changes in consumer behavior’, and as Yang et al. (2012, p. 371) indicate, ‘The development of online communities has reshaped consumers’ information-seeking and sharing behaviour.’ Information provided by suppliers of consumer goods is no longer the major factor influencing these decisions and is now quickly being equalled by widely available opinions and experiences from other consumers, labelled by Sigala (2011) as ‘prosumerism’. Major channels making this shift possible are different social media, like review sites, individual weblogs, Facebook accounts and Twitter messages. Research – see, for example, Park and Kim (2008) – has shown that information from these sources significantly influences consumer decisions. Not surprisingly, this shift has led to a considerable amount of theory and research addressing a wide variety of issues. Breazeale (2009) surveyed 125 papers dealing with electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM). The majority of these papers are characterised as being mainly empirical, to determine the facts about e-WOM. An example of such a paper is a study about the motivation of consumers to participate in e-WOM (Hennig-Thurau & Walsh 2003), while a study by Bickart and Schindler (2001) addresses the potential value for consumers of engaging in social media. Another strand focuses on the selection of an appropriate methodology for studying this phenomenon (see, for example, Ewing 2008). A minority of studies are led by theoretical viewpoints – for example, the one by Clemons et al. (2006) applying theories of hyperdifferentation and resonance marketing.