Get The People Talking


Introduction
As the internet and rise of online communities has changed the role and possibilities of word-of-mouth (WOM) for both companies and consumers, companies are increasingly looking into techniques to influence WOM. The reason is simple, happy customers are the best advertisers that you can have (Sernovitz, 2006). Kozinets et al. (2010) studies the current situation that marketers are facing and how to employ social media marketing methods in order to leverage online WOM.

Background
Word-of-Mouth (WOM) is a naturally occurring concept (Kozinets et al, 2010) that is defined as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product/company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions”.  WOM is a major part of online communities (Brown et al, 2007). The two types of online WOM are ratings and reviews which are both are important for marketers in order to leverage business value from WOM by practicing WOM marketing (WOMM) strategies.

WOMM is defined as the intentional influencing of C2C communications by professional marketing techniques (Kozinets et al, 2010). Understanding the underlying principles and motivations is essential for companies because it can enhance their understanding of customer needs, and consequently increase their sales. In order to contribute to this understanding, this article studies the response of communities on WOMM and the patterns that are assumed by WOMM communicator strategies.

Study
This study has chosen a qualitative approach in order to generate new, scientific propositions about the lived WOMM phenomenon. The unit of analysis is a blog-based campaign which promoted a new mobile phone which was send to the blogger. The bloggers were then not required to blog about the product, they could post both positive and negative comments, and the campaign was open for disclosure.

Elements that were influencing the expression of WOMM narratives were a combination of social, cultural, and psychological elements. A matrix was developed with the different patterns on WOM strategies. The patterns were expressed as a communal versus individual orientation, and implicit versus explicit commercial-cultural tension. This resulted in four strategies: Evaluation, Explanation, Embracing, and Endorsement.

Networked narratives

Figure 1: Network Elements influencing WOMM narratives (Kozinets et al, 2010)

Theoretical implications
This study finds that there are complex and culturally embedded motivations for participating in a WOMM network (Kozinets et al, 2010). The community response to WOMM narratives is a combination of the following factors:

  • Consistency with goals, context, and history or the character narrative and communications forum
  • Consideration for the commercial/communal tensions
  • Fit and relevance with regard to the community.

Managerial implications
The main point that is made by the article is that managers should not view WOM as a way of amplifying their message, but consider the alterations that will be made to their message by WOM. Furthermore, steps that should be taken by managers and marketers are:

  • Research the different character narratives and communication forums available
  • Understand and respect communal norms
  • Consider the characteristics of mandatory blogging, the possibility to post both positive and negative narratives, and the openness for disclosure
  • Develop WOM strategies (evaluation, explanation, embracing, and endorsement) that are congruent with the communicator character community norms

Discussion points
Two main limitations are mentioned by the article, opportunities still lie in the research within different marketing campaigns and contexts, and only one dimension on communal norms is used, the resistance/acceptance of commercial values, and this could be further implemented for different norms and values.

Furthermore, it would be interesting to do research on the effect of mandatory disclosure of WOMM-driven narratives on the blogger as well as the product ratings, as a way to be honest about the nature of the product review towards the community.

References

Brown, J., Broderick, A.J. and Lee, N., 2007. Word of mouth communication within online communities: Conceptualizing the online social network. Journal of interactive marketing, 21(3), pp. 2-20.

Kozinets, R.V., De Valck, K., Wojnicki, A.C. and Wilner, S.J., 2010. Networked narratives: Understanding word-of-mouth marketing in online communities. Journal of marketing, 74(2), pp. 71-89.

Sernovitz, A., 2006. Word of Mouth Marketing, How Smart Companies Get People Talking.

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