New research by Northeastern University indicates that messaging on owned media does not increase purchase intent, while earned social media has a notable effect.

The study, led by Koen Pauwels, analyzed the stock data, social media posts, and consumer mindset metrics for 45 brands over 270 days to measure brand awareness, purchase intent, customer satisfaction and stock performance.

On average, increasing a brand’s social media output on owned media by 10 percent saw a 7 percent increase in brand awareness, a 4 percent increase in customer satisfaction but a 3 percent decrease in purchase intent. The same percentage increase in earned social media led to jumps in all three categories: 12, 3, and 6 percent, respectively.

“Consumers look to their peers before making purchasing decisions, which is why earned social media is so valuable,” said Pauwels. “Both investors and consumers distrust companies who boast about themselves because it’s hard to know what weaknesses they’re trying to hide.”

Not all brands are created equal in this regard, however. Pauwel’s findings indicate that brands with superior reputation or credibility enjoy much more effective owned media than ones dealing with negative public perceptions, though did not offer hard figures in the report.

Northeastern’s research also found that purchase intent had a greater influence on a firm’s stock value than consumer satisfaction: while both increase stock market returns, only purchase intent was shown to decrease unsystematic risk, the risk tied exclusively to a particular stock and not the surrounding market.

These findings support the activities by conversational brands such as MoonPie and Wendy’s, and suggests that companies use owned media to increase their own perceived quality, rather than directly attempt to drive purchase decisions.