The use of social media by various organizations has exploded in the last few years. The problem is that short text-based messages lack a human element the public desires.
With the arrival of new social media technology, numerous organizations are having a difficult time finding the most effective ways to manage these user interactions to maximize the positive experience for their customers. Now, University of Missouri researchers have discovered that using a personal human voice when communicating online results in much higher user satisfaction ratings than impersonal communication.
The human element is key when dealing with social media.
“There is great value in using a human voice when communicating and developing good relationships with the public,” Hyojung Park, a doctoral candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism, said. “Perceptions of relationships with an organization seem to be significantly more favorable when the organization’s social networking page has a human presence rather than an organizational presence. Levels of trust, commitment, and satisfaction from users all appear to be positively affected by the use of the human voice in social media.”
In the study, the researchers showed the participants mocked up social media websites for large, established for-profit and nonprofit organizations. The mock ups also came complete with user comments and direct responses from the organizations’ public relations representatives.
The user comments were of various tones, from positive to negative. Some of the social media sites had the name and picture of the organization representative alongside their messages, while other social media sites only had a presence that included no names or pictures.
The researchers saw that the participants had a much more positive attitude about the social media websites that had a conversational human voice. The websites that only had an organizational presence online were perceived to be much less favorable. The researchers also found that for-profit organizations had a greater chance of being perceived as using a conversational human voice than their nonprofit counterparts.
Park feels that using human voice on social media can produce important emotions within the community who receives the messages.
“Communicating in a human voice adds a sense of personal and sociable human contact to the interaction with the public,” Park said. “We have evidence that perceived conversational human voice may promote trust, satisfaction, and commitment in relationships between an organization and the public, which in turn results in favorable behavioral intentions toward an organization.”
Park says that human presence versus organizational presence is a new way for organizations to think about how they can take more advantage of interpersonal aspects of social media. She thinks that this study can be used as a fundamental building block for making a body of knowledge that can help experts and scholars understand how social media can be used for the management of relationships.
Park presented the study at the International Public Relations Research Conference this past March and won the top student paper award for her work. There’s no word on whether or not she accompanied her win with a tweet.