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Current Research Questions in Word of Mouth Communication

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Word of mouth (WOM) communication, long recognized as a highly influential source of information, has taken on new importance with the proliferation of online WOM. The rise of online forums and …

Word of mouth (WOM) communication, long recognized as a highly influential source of information, has taken on new importance with the proliferation of online WOM. The rise of online forums and communities has dramatically increased the scope of word of mouth marketing, allowing consumers greater access to information from subject matter experts and other key influentials who impact new purchases. Online WOM data have been widely used in the literature to examine topics such as the impact of WOM recommendations and reviews, brand community involvement, and product adoption. For all the valuable contributions made by WOM research, a lot of important questions still remain unexplored. One is delineating the preconditions for user engagement in WOM communication; another is exploring the role of WOM content and WOM context on the efficacy of WOM in general. And there is final area where research is needed, focusing on organizational capabilities firms need in order to foster the impact of WOM communication on purchasing behavior.

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  • 1. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Page 1 RESEARCH REPORT Current Research Questions in Word of Mouth Communication Next Corporate Communication Research Project: Word of Mouth Marketing Sept 24, 2013 By Alexander Rossmann
  • 2. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Page 2 Current Research Questions in Word of Mouth Communication Abstract Word of mouth (WOM) communication, long recognized as a highly influential source of information, has taken on new importance with the proliferation of online WOM. The rise of online forums and communities has dramatically increased the scope of word of mouth marketing, allowing consumers greater access to information from subject matter experts and other key influentials who impact new purchases. Online WOM data have been widely used in the literature to examine topics such as the impact of WOM recommendations and reviews, brand community involvement, and product adoption. For all the valuable contributions made by WOM research, a lot of important questions still remain unexplored. One is delineating the preconditions for user engagement in WOM communication; another is exploring the role of WOM content and WOM context on the efficacy of WOM in general. And there is final area where research is needed, focusing on organizational capabilities firms need in order to foster the impact of WOM communication on purchasing behavior. Keywords: Word of Mouth, Online Word of Mouth, Social Media, Brand Community, Content Marketing, User Engagement, Organizational Capabilities
  • 3. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Page 3 Introduction Word of mouth (WOM) communication, long recognized as a highly influential source of information, has taken on new importance with the proliferation of online WOM. The rise of online forums and communities has dramatically increased the scope of word of mouth marketing (Dwyer 2007; Kozinets et al. 2010), allowing consumers greater access to information from subject matter experts and other key influentials who impact new purchases (Rogers 2003). Online WOM data have been widely used in the literature (Kozinets 2002; Kozinets et al. 2010) to examine topics such as the impact of WOM recommendations and reviews (Liu 2006), brand community involvement (Muñiz and O’Guinn 2001), and product adoption (Algesheimer and Dholakia 2006; Thompson and Sinha 2008). Consumers may also use online environments to express their dissatisfaction with a brand or its products (e.g., Grégoire, Laufer, and Tripp 2010; Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004). For all the valuable contributions made by WOM research, a lot of important questions still remain unexplored. One is delineating the preconditions for user engagement in WOM communication; another is exploring the role of WOM content and WOM context on the efficacy of WOM in general. And there is final area where research is needed, focusing on organizational capabilities firms need in order to foster the impact of WOM communication on purchasing behavior. User engagement One relevant area for further research covers the general question why internet users engage in WOM behavior. Positive WOM can be considered as a specific kind of value co-creation. Thus, an engagement in WOM communication might create value for companies and users. Companies and their brands benefit from positive WOM in many ways. Such a communication driven by online users might impact purchasing behavior of the WOM recipients (Rogers 2003), customer involvement (Liu 2006), or new product adoption (Algesheimer and Dholakia 2006; Thompson and Sinha 2008). On the other hand online users might also benefit through their participation in WOM. Engaging in active WOM communication facilitates the online visibility of users, promotes their status, and impacts generally positive on their perception as a subject matter expert or thought leader. Therefore, scholars need to research the specific motives of users and viable strategies in order to stimulate positive WOM behavior. Summarized, papers in this research tack might concentrate on the following research questions: (1) Why are online users engaging in WOM behavior?, (2) Which type of value is created for corporations and users through online WOM?, (3) How can corporations stimulate WOM behavior in social networks?
  • 4. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Page 4 Content Another area of research affects the content of WOM communication. Organizations might drive WOM communication by rethinking their content strategy in social networks. To date, most corporations concentrate on their own products and other firm specific content or social ads. However, current research and practice provides no evidence for the efficacy of these content strategies. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between specific types of content. Subsequently, scholars need to evaluate how specific types of content impact on the willingness of online users to engage in WOM behavior. Finally, different types of content might also impact on the effect of a WOM communication on uninvolved recipients. This leads to several important research questions: (1) How might WOM communication in general be separated into different content types?, (2) How effective are different content types in order to stimulate WOM behavior?, (3) How impact different content types communicated by WOM on purchasing behavior? Context Besides the content of a specific communication thread, the context of online users might also influence the efficacy of WOM communication. Context is a broad description of the concrete situation of a single user. Thus, independent of the content of WOM it makes a clear difference if online users actually search for new products or services or use social networks primary for business or private purpose. Thus, multiple research questions arise if scholars focus on the specific context conditions of WOM communication. Organizational capabilities Finally, we know little about the specific capabilities organizations need to develop in order to be successful in WOM communication. Obviously, the stimulation and sustainable implementation of WOM communication leads to new requirements in terms of structure, processes, and culture. This is the case, because the theory and practice of WOM communication emphasizes an active part of the customer in the communication process. However, most marketing and communication departments still treat the customer as a passive object of corporate communication strategies. If the customer tends to take a more active role, corporations are forced to set up suitable resources and processes in order to deal with this engagement. Thus, it seems to be clear that a stronger interaction with the customer requires a set of new organizational capabilities.
  • 5. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Page 5 References Algesheimer, René and Utpal M. Dholakia (2006), “Do Customer Communities Pay Off?” Harvard Business Review, 84 (November), 26–30. Dwyer, Paul (2007), “Measuring the Value of Electronic Word of Mouth and its Impact in Customer Communities," Journal of Interactive Marketing, 21 (2), 63–79. Grégoire, Yany, Daniel Laufer, and Thomas T. Tripp (2010), “A Comprehensive Model of Customer Direct and Indirect Revenge: Understanding the Effects of Perceived Greed and Customer Power,” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38 (December), 738–758. Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten, Kevin P. Gwinner, Giafranco Walsh, and Dwayne D. Gremler (2004), “Electronic Word-of-Mouth via Consumer-Opinion Platforms: What Motivates Consumers to Articulate Themselves on the Internet,” Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18 (1), 38–52. Kozinets, Robert V., Kristine de Valck, Andrea C. Wojnicki, and Sarah J.S. Winer (2010), Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Online Communities,” Journal of Marketing, 74 (March), 71–89. ——— (2002), “The Field Behind the Screen: Using Netnography for Marketing Research in Online Communities,” Journal of Marketing Research, 39 (February), 61–72. Liu, Yong (2006), “Word of Mouth for Movies: Its Dynamics and Impact on Box Office Revenue,” Journal of Marketing, 70 (July), 74–89. Muñiz, Albert M. Jr. and Thomas C. O’Guinn (2001), “Brand Community,” Journal of Consumer Research, 27 (4), 412–432. Thompson, Scott A. and Rajiv K. Sinha (2008), “Brand Communities and New Product Adoption: The Influence and Limits of Oppositional Loyalty,” Journal of Marketing, 72 (October), 65–80.
  • 6. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Page 6 About us Alexander Rossmann is Professor for Marketing and Sales at Reutlingen University and Project Director at the Institute of Marketing, University of St. Gallen. Prior to this, he was for ten years Managing Director of a leading consultancy firm. His expertise covers relevant issues of social media research, digital business, and relationship marketing. Alexander holds a doctoral degree from the University of St.Gallen and a masters degree from the University of Tubingen and the State University of New York. He was born near Stuttgart and is married with three children. Next Corporate Communication is a partnership between research institutions and business partners in order to shape the digital transformation. We live in an era of disruptive change - a time when technology and society are evolving faster than the ability of many organizations to adapt. But digital business is part and parcel of today's modern corporation. Our mission is to conduct research that is both academically rigorous - but also relevant to business. Contact us for further information. Next Corporate Communication Research Center for Digital Business Prof. Dr. Alexander Rossmann Alteburgstrasse 150 72762 Reutlingen Germany Direct Contact Prof. Dr. Alexander Rossmann Phone: +49 172 711 20 60 Email: alexander.rossmann@reutlingen-university.de