Facebook has more than 1.23 billion active users. Most of them are not actually friends with each other and because they are not friends with each other, they feel pushy recommending products or services. They're fine hammering on politics and religion, but endorsing a car looks too corporate.
That's bad news for Facebook's business model, which has so far convinced advertisers they need to spend money. Facebook has tinkered with everything from forcing contributors to pay to have their posts seen by people on their list to pushing ads more aggressively based on everything from browser cookies to media use on the PCs of members.
So if not using the distance of the Internet, when will users express their opinions about products? In face-to-face social situations, where people rarely talk about religion and politics. People don't want to get adverse comments about their cereal choice but they probably feel like anyone with different religious or political views stopped following them long ago.
The scholars surveyed 407 participants in labs and face-to-face surveys to find out how they communicated about their favourite brands. They found that users are reluctant to endorse products on social media sites due to the perceived risk that they could embarrass themselves if their views are not endorsed or shared by others. In contrast, sharing information in face-to-face situations among a smaller group of people, usually family and friends, doesn't have the same social pressures, say the team.
The researchers say their findings are surprising, given the fact that social media platforms have made it easier for users to share information at a time and place that is most convenient for them, such as the comfort of their own homes. This should in theory make people more at ease about sharing their experiences and opinions, say the team.
The researchers also found that those who did share their opinions about their favourite products and services did so because it made them feel good about themselves and that it raised their self-esteem. They found that as the user's need for enhancing their self-esteem increases so does their willingness to share their views; Facebook is an effective way for these types of users to seek feedback and validation.
The researchers suggest that the findings of the report can be used by social media companies and marketers to take steps to ensure that consumers do not feel threatened by these online social risks. This includes providing opportunities for consumers to selectively share their opinions with members of their social network.
Dr. Andreas Eisingerich, co-author of the report from Imperial College Business School, said, "Social media websites such as Facebook have completely revolutionized the way we share information and communicate with each other. However, our report shows that when it comes to sharing recommendations on products and services on these sites, users tend to stay quiet. They would rather communicate via word of mouth because many users don't want to embarrass themselves online as work colleagues or acquaintances may not endorse or appreciate the same products that they do. Our report could influence how businesses spend advertising budgets on social media websites."