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Learn why consumers 'unfriend' businesses on social media

IANS  |  Washington 

A fascinating research into online social media business reveals how virtual business relationships might be sustained and promoted in a better way.

Establishing and maintaining relationships online is becoming ever more important in the expanding global knowledge economy.

But what happens to the relationship between business and consumer when a user 'unfriends'?

Researchers have found that there are many online and offline reasons why a person might 'unfriend' another party.

The team factored politics, religion, sex, bigotry, use of expletives, misdeeds, loss of trust, personality, incompatibilities, promotions, breakdown of offline relationships and many others as reasons for unfriending.

The researchers found that there are two broad reasons for unfriending: offline and online.

The offline reasons follow more traditional bonding social capital influences and are affected by all three friendship issues - interdependence, effort and value.

Online reasons are affected by both bonding and bridging social capital relationships, they explained.

It is important for organisations to use online social networking to learn how to reduce attrition, loss of 'friends' or 'followers'.

"They should also consider how employees might be frustrated by the volatile nature of online relationships," said Christopher Sibona and Steven Walczak from University of Colorado Denver.

"The use of Facebook, twitter and other social platforms while initially seen by the corporate world as an annoyance. Now, some companies have recognised its potential and adapted to it more efficiently than others," the researchers noted.

It is important for organisations to realise that digital natives that are their new and future employees expect social networking and social media to be a significant part of their employment and expect to have access as part of their job.

Businesses should avoid posting too frequently as this requires more effort on the part of the user and can be perceived as unacceptable behaviour, said the study published in the International Journal of the Business Environment.

They should ensure they are committed to relationships at the individual user level to make the social ties stronger.

The companies should also generally avoid controversial and taboo subjects as these often polarise followers.

"In terms of employees, management should ensure their staff have separate business and personal accounts and keep the two fairly separate," the researchers advised.

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First Published: Fri, February 21 2014. 13:08 IST