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How to get a handle on electronic word of mouth

Social & Digital

How to get a handle on electronic word of mouth


Electronic word of mouth marketing, or eWOM as we have come to call it, is akin to having a moody uncle who showers you with compliments and praise one day only to throw a brick through your front window the next.

That was possibly not the most accurate way to describe the constant chattering cycle that chirps day in and day out within the various social media platforms now being utilised by companies and brands, but what we do know is that people like to talk on the internet, some anonymously and some very publicly.

It is how you respond, or don’t respond, to the constant chit-chat and critiquing (or if you’re really lucky, complimenting) of your brand that will determine whether you will be awarded with a social media trophy, or softly beaten with a wooden spoon for your eWOM efforts.

A study published in academic journal, Marketing Letters, has dug a little deeper, researching the process of negative and positive eWOM generation by investigating how motivational factors interact with service consumption experience to influence consumers’ intentions to post reviews in new media platforms.

Marketers need to understand how to manage both negative and positive eWOM, as well as how individual consumer’s focus can be modified to effectively control and influence what people are saying about them on the internet. The first step is looking at whether a person’s consumption is motivated by promotion or prevention, and the subsequent contribution to collective dissonance, a condition triggered by existing eWOM contents in a communication environment.

An interesting result of the research was the role of existing reviews in creating and managing positive eWOM. The study found that consumers are more likely to share their positive experiences when there are inconsistent reviews posted on a community site. Thus, service providers and community managers need not fear or degrade negative reviews of their products or services.

In fact, managers should be careful in manipulating or encouraging positive reviews. Encouraging positive eWOM for their products or services with professional reviewers or provide incentives to consumers to post a positive review can backfire. The study shows that many positive reviews could encourage consumers with negative experiences to share negative eWOM.

The study also found marketers can ask a consumer who has had a negative experience to rationally explain why she thinks the negative event occurred. If the consumer rationally ‘explains’ their experience, the customers feelings are likely to become less negative they will hopefully share their change is feelings with others.

When responding to a service failure, the report found marketers could use promotion-oriented actions to minimise the likelihood of negative eWOM. Previous studies also revealed that a person’s regulatory focus can shift depending on the context characteristics so appropriate methods of addressing failures in service could modify contexts to induce such changes.

Creating a promotion focus in a consumer’s mind, such as providing free coupons redeemable for the next maintenance service or for special food and events at the restaurant, was also found to be an effective way of managing service failure in addition to focusing on preventive communication such as apologising to customers for any negative events.

Positive eWOM is more likely to be generated on (individual) new media platforms when consumers are ‘promotion’ focused. A marketer might want to remain alert to this possibility and respond to the positive posting, thereby reinforcing the observation of the customer and potentially increasing the likelihood of repeat positive posts by the same customer.


Reference: ‘Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) generation in new media platforms: The role of regulatory focus and collective dissonance’. Researchers:  Dongwoo Shin & Ji Hee Song & Abhijit Biswas. University of Seoul, Korea and Wayne State University, Detroit, USA. Journal: Marketing Letters. Accessed 9 July 2013.


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