Collective Sensemaking and Location-Related Factors in the Context of a Brand-Related Online Rumor

  • Alton Yeow Kuan Chua, Anjan Pal, Dion Hoe-Lian Goh
  • January 2020, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-64452-9_25

Collective Sensemaking and Location-Related Factors in the Context of a Brand-Related Online Rumor

What is it about?

This paper examines collective sensemaking over the life cycle of an online rumor while considering two location-related factors: geographical proximity and cultural context. It has drawn data for a rumor case where a US-based customer claiming that Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) had served a fried rat. The rumor became viral on the Internet but was eventually debunked. The data included tweets across the three stages—parturition, diffusion, and control—of the rumor life cycle. Content analysis was employed followed by chi-square tests and binary logistic regression. Based on content analysis of 1,276 tweets, opinion-related posts were found to be prevalent at the onset of the rumor life cycle while information-related entries continued to swell through the stages. Tweets from both within as well as outside the US were evident in the early stages but they became localized before the rumor subsided. While there was a blurring of high and low cultural context in opinion-related tweets, information-related tweets reflected the communication of low-context culture as the process of collective sensemaking unfolded. The paper augments the rumor literature by exploring geographical proximity and cultural context in the process of collective sensemaking over the three stages of the rumor life cycle. It offers implications for practitioners to deal with online rumors.

Why is it important?

This paper offers implications for managers and social media administrators to deal with online rumors. For brands, which have a global presence, efforts to contain a rumor may involve transboundary considerations. Apart from having a good grasp of users’ sentiments and emotions associated with the rumor, relying on an independent, credible entity from the onset to fill any informational gap would also help douse the digital wildfire from spreading out of control.

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