The Influence of Audience and Self-Construal on the Content of Online Reviews: An Abstract
Online reviews have obtained much attention in research during the last decade. Most studies focus on consumer characteristics (Zhu & Zhang, 2010), website reputation (Park & Lee, 2009a), valence (Chakravarty et al., 2010; Ho-Dac et al., 2013; Liu, 2006) or perceived helpfulness (Mudambi & Schuff, 2010; Purnawirawan et al., 2012) of online reviews but not on the content being shared in those reviews. As content influences product evaluations and purchase decisions (e.g. Kronrod & Danziger, 2013), we aim to close the gap by measuring the ratio of rational and emotional content depending on audience and self-construal. Our study distinguishes between online reviews shared with strangers (public online interactions) and friends (private online interactions). We report on questionnaires and experimental designs involving 122 consumers from Austria, 72 from the USA and 61 from Thailand. In Austria and Thailand, the interdependent self-construal significantly increases the ratio of negative emotions consumers share in private online interactions. Negative emotions are perceived as a signal for threat (Bless, 2000). As consumers with an interdependent self-construal are very sensitive towards other individuals (Cross et al., 2003), we suggest that Austrian and Thai consumers with a predominantly interdependent self-construal display more negative emotions as a warning signal. In the USA, the interdependent self-construal, on the contrary, has no influence on the ratio of negative emotions but on the ratio of emotional appeal such as emotional connection, emotional associations and emotional attachment in private online interactions. In offline settings, reporting negative emotions is not very common among US individuals (Kuppens et al., 2006). Apparently, this is also true for US consumers with an interdependent self-construal in the online environment. On the contrary, US consumers with an independent self-construal do share significantly more negative emotions within private online interactions. Apparently, an independent self-construal outperforms cultural expectations in the online environment, in so far that consumers rather emphasize negative emotions. Hence, the study offers new insights into online communication patterns about branded products in different country markets.