Gratitude, a hidden treasure in social media?

Posted by | February 23, 2015 | Social CRM | No Comments

Since Social Media is here to stay a lot of companies are asking their selves: what is the added value of Social Media?

At Media Injection we are always looking for new valuable insights that can help our customers gain insights to improve their business. We already provide insights like sentiment, share of voice and we launched a formula to calculate the Media Value for Social Media.

At this moment we notice that the market is putting more and more resources on engaging with their fans and followers on social media. Customers are complaining and asking questions through social media more and more and people even check if a company is active on Social Media before they buy a product. But what is the added value of answering these questions? Is this a one-time investment or is it possible to create a longstanding relation with a person who had a complaint or a question and actually increase the amount of conversions coming from this person?

Together with Patrik Nowak (Faculty of Economics and Business , Groningen University) we came up with the idea to do a research on the value of a “thank you” (Gratitude) in social media. Patrik wrote his thesis on this subject and worked together with some of our clients, who provided the data to conduct the research. In this article we present you the results of this research. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you have any questions.

What’s a thank you worth in social media?

Accountability has been a key issue for marketing since the first day. Already a century ago pioneers like John Wanamaker, were certain that one half of their marketing spending was wasted; they just needed to find out which one (Hoffman and Novak, 2000). Today, seeing marketing budgets for new channels of social media and online advertising rising over $4,3 billion, this question seems to be more relevant than ever. However, one variable has been added to the hunt for accountability, the traceability inherent to the online environment.

Focusing on social media, new possibilities come into play regarding the examination of previously mostly conceptually investigated concepts. Gratitude, a concept that has long been underestimated in the field, but found to be critical in a successful relationship, in both a private and a business context, is the core of this research in order to explore its varying effects more closely.

Following reciprocal behavior makes gratitude particularly interesting for businesses that invest in and engage interactively with their customers on new social media channels. A crucial aspect of this concept, when looking at real-life data, isshutterstock_173731820 the fact that gratitude can actually be observed through clear expression. Focusing on the connection of behavior on a social media channel and the actual conversion, we expanded the field of gratitude research with a real-life case and simultaneously analyze the underexplored connection between social media and customer relationship management (SocialCRM) (Malthouse et al., 2013). This latter concept refers to the next leap forward regarding the accountability of marketing, potentially enabling businesses in the field to finally assess the return on marketing spending going into new marketing channels. Accordingly, the central research aim of this study is to investigate the moderation effects of customer behavior variables and the impact gratitude expression has on customer engagement on social media, as well as conversion behavior in a SocialCRM context.

In order to investigate this question, social media data of three participating companies has been gathered in a first step. All companies are using the social media management platform MIConnect from Media Injection. The export only focused on data generated through the social media platform Facebook because its conversation data had the greatest detail. After the identification of users expressing gratitude, the participating companies were asked to provide the respective sales data connected to the anonymized social media cases.

In the first step of the analysis, the effects of moderation variables, describing the behavioral characteristics of customers on the change in engagement on social media, are explored. In the second step, the connection between effects on social media and conversion is further investigated by taking the change in conversion behavior as the dependent variable.


Regarding the effect of the moderating customer behavior characteristic, the analysis does not confirm the hypothesis that assumes a positive effect of pre-gratitude interaction frequency on the degree of change in engagement around gratitude.
Equally, the positive expected effect of relationship quality could not be confirmed. However, the relationship duration, expected to positively effect the change in engagement on social media, could be confirmed. Thereby supporting conclusions made in previous researches in the field of gratitude, as well as relationships in general. This demonstrates that the longer the relationship duration is, the greater effect gratitude expressed has in a relationship between customer and company.

In the second step of the research, the assumed positive relation between change in engagement on social media and change in conversion behavior in CRM is confirmed. Another interesting finding regarding SocialCRM, is the negative correlation between number of interaction on social media and average purchase value of a customer. These findings add greatly to the discussions around the necessity of inclusion of behavioral measurement and advocate strongly for further investigation of SocialCRM and movement towards a customer valuation that go beyond the scope of purchase. Moreover, supporting descriptive findings have been included concerning the concept of window of opportunity, describing the short period of time after gratitude during which reciprocal behavior is observed in previous research.shutterstock_131578760

Concluding, we are confident that this study enhances the understanding of gratitude in general and has made a valuable contribution to the exploration of the connection between social media and customer relationship management. At the same time, it also generates questions for further investigations regarding potential network effects of gratitude on the one hand, or differences between cultures regarding gratitude on social media on the other. With this research, a first step has been made into a new direction, hopefully inspiring others to follow and deepen the knowledge generated in this study.


If you have any questions about this article or the results? Feel free to contact us for more information or post a comment below this blog.

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