How to understand Word-of-Mouth marketing in online communities?


Introduction
Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is also known as social media marketing and leads to an intentional influence of consumer-to-consumer communication. Many marketers and sociologists recognize the importance of WOM as it affects many purchase decisions. WOM marketing is continuously changing as the Internet becomes more powerful; the accessibility, reach and transparency have empowered marketers to monitor WOM as never before.

The transformation of WOM
The researchers provide three WOM models before they discuss the research questions. These models are used as basic knowledge and as conceptual models in the paper.

Markets change so marketing theories should change as well to accommodate them. A review of the development of WOM is given in below and consists of three models. All three models currently coexist, and each pertains to different circumstances.

Model A
This model assumes that WOM occurs naturally among customers when marketers bring a new product to the market and perform an effective product notification through promotions and advertisement.

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Model B
This model assumes that some consumers are viewed as opinion leaders. Marketers could target these opinion leaders to influence them with advertising and promotions. All the other consumers need to be influenced with advertising and promotions as well.

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Model C
This model assumes that marketers have become more interested in directly managing WOM through targeted one-to-one communication programs. Marketers see consumers as co-producers of the value and meaning of WOM as the communication is produced in consumer network. This influence is creative and even hard to resist.

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Research questions and findings
Three research questions are answered so that further understanding of the network coproduction model (model C) can be developed. The three questions are as follows; How do communities respond to community-oriented WOMM? What patterns do WOM communicator strategies assume? And Why do they assume these patterns? A blog-based campaign in six North American cities is used to answer the three research questions.

The findings indicate that differences are observed in the way the members of online communities respond to WOMM campaigns. The researchers introduce a new narrative model to show that a network of communication offers four different communication strategies; evaluation, embracing, endorsement and explanation. This is also shown in below. Each of them is influenced by character narrative, communication forum, communal norms, and the nature of the marketing promotion. Thus, WOM marketing does not simply increase marketing messages, but the messages are altered in the process of embedding them.

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Strengths
The main strength of this paper is that the researchers provide a standpoint for both theoretical and managerial implications. For the theoretical part, the researchers focused on the motivations to participate in the bold new world of network coproduction of WOM. These motivations are more complex, culturally embedded and influenced by communities with moral hazard. This research is more extensively compared with previous research that indicates that consumers engage in online communication because of altruism, reciprocity or to gain a higher status (Dichter et al., 1966).
The managerial part offers several practical suggestions for managers and marketers who employ WOM marketing techniques. The paper convinces managers and marketers to understand that WOM marketing techniques should be presented in a way that it is congruent with the ongoing character narratives, communication forums, norms and WOM environment and that their provided new narrative model should be considered.

Weaknesses
A downside of this article is that the gathered data consists of textual, online blogs. The interpretation and analyzing of the most important parts of these textual blogs takes a lot of time and effort. The researchers are completely dependent on the participants’ productivity and writing skills. I would suggest the researchers to use different studies as well (case study, interviews etc.), especially in combination with textual blog data.
The last note is that the limitations of this paper have not been discussed. I would suggest to include the limitations to make the paper more reliable.

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

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