Sunday, May 18, 2008

Elaboration Likelihood Model and Choice in Social Media

The Elaboration Likelihood Model can provide a framework for analyzing the most effective balance in the mix of social media you use for your communications. The best suited or least suited media for your communications depends on the individuals in the public to be influenced and the state of our communications with them. Since the receivers will be spread across a continuum of interest in your message, a mix of the media is appropriate, but what is the most appropriate mix.

Cacioppo and Petty define the primary relationships in persuasive communication as communication engagement and cognitive commitment. According to the model, the greater our communication engagement with the other party the more likely that party is to use what the model calls central route processing, which is to say a great deal of message related thinking. Media appropriate for in-depth thinking and evaluation of the message should be used in such a case.

When elaboration likelihood is high, topic-germane argument usually has the highest influence on the reactions to a recommendation. On the other hand, if communication engagement is low, what the model calls peripheral cues are best but only if they are crafted to allow the receiver to maintain a reasonable position without diligently thinking through the merits of the recommendation. In this case, more attention getting media that do not necessarily lend themselves to protracted analysis would be a better choice.

The 1986 date of the original work predates the wide-spread use of the Internet. However, a study at the University of Texas (see Cho) introduces a modified ELM that acknowledges key mediating variables. If they are considered, Cho concludes that ELM is adaptable to the Web. In addition to communication engagement and cognitive commitment, Cho also considers the correlation between the web site and category of communication, the attitude of a public towards a web site, and the attitude of a public towards web marketing communications. If we know enough about our publics, we can adapt ELM to the Web.

The social media I would place at the peripheral end of cognitive commitment, like sms ads, video short films and advergaming must have the message depth tested to see if the target public is ready to commit to processing it. On the other hand, the converse seems probable. When someone has reached the stage of seeking in-depth information about the topic, joining a blog, wiki or forum on the topic is a natural step.

Redmond Review has a comprehensive analysis, see Redmond Review Elaboration

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