Nuts & Bolts - CRM: Measuring the Impact of Rumors
As reasoning beings, humans need to understand the world around them. Add that to mankind's social nature, and people facing ambiguous or threatening situations tend to want to talk to each other. And that, more often than not, leads to rumors.
Now, Nicholas DiFonzo, Ph.D.—a psychology professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has spent the past 20 years researching the problem—has a formula that quantifies rumors and promises to help marketers and others reduce their negative effects.
An article on RIT's website, "Deciphering the Watercooler Effect," explains how DiFonzo's team is using years of data to measure how rumors spread. Using "Dynamic Social Impact Theory" to develop model parameters, the team finds that beliefs and attitudes are based on:
- Strength of influential sources— a rumor told by a friend or family member is more believable;
- Immediacy of influence—rumors often take hold in close-knit, homogeneous neighborhoods and communities; and
- The number of sources—the more people in a network who believe a rumor, the more likely one is to believe it.
The model built on this theory, the MBN-Dialogue Model of Rumor Transmission, simulates how a rumor moves through a group. Rumor spread is based on the motivations (M) for spreading the rumor, the strength of belief (B) in the rumor, and the novelty (N) or newness of the rumor.
DiFonzo provides these tips:
1. Develop trust with the clients/public. "[It] sounds cliché, but research shows that a little trust goes a long way toward inoculation against negative rumors. Trust involves keeping one's word and [having regular] timely communication."
2. Limit the uncertainty and anxiety associated with any changes by providing timely, clear, regular communiques.
3. Keep an "ear to the Internet ground" to detect rumors early. Use search alerts or agencies that constantly scour the Web for blogs and news about your company's products and services.
4. "Quickly confirm a true rumor," DiFonzo says. "Or, better yet, 'steal the thunder' from those who would benefit from its spread."
5. "Quickly rebut a false rumor; preferably using a neutral, trusted, third-party source," he concludes.
To learn more about DiFonzo's research, visit http://bit.ly/gZbajU