Word-of-mouth (WOM) communication is defined as
“people-to-people oral, written, or electronic communications that relate to the
merits or experiences of purchasing or using products or services”.
(Kotler and Keller, 512)
In another definition by Nyilasy (2006), WOM is defined to be
“oral, person-to-person communication between a receiver and a communicator
whom the receiver perceives as non-commercial, concerning a brand, a product or a
In his definition, Nyilasy tells about non-commercial perception of the receiver which
differentiates WOM from traditional marketing techniques.
Rosen reports that some marketers studied WOM marketing based on two particular forms
namely, buzz and viral marketing. Buzz marketing creating publicity and generating
excitement, passes along new brand-related information via unexpected means (qtd. in
Kotler and Keller, 586). On the other hand, viral marketing motivates consumers to convey
company-developed information to others online according to Silverman and Rosen.
(qtd.in Kotler and Keller, 586) Thus, buzz marketing is different from viral marketing in
the source of information that is communicated.
WOM communications can be decomposed into three important parts. Firstly, WOM is an
interpersonal communication where the message is conveyed from a communicator to a
receiver. Second, WOM utilizes commercial information to be communicated. The
message is about commercial products or services. Third, the motivation of receiver is not
commercial, thus message is not perceived as a commercial one by the receiver. (Nyilasy,
With the improvements in the internet technology, new online services were launched and
consumers got the opportunity to participate actively on these media rather than being
passive readers on the internet. Sawhney and Kotler, in 2001, argued that the Internet
enabled consumers to come together in online communities making them share opinions
which lead to an “information democracy” in which the information is not manipulated by
the marketers. (qtd. in, Sussan, Gould, and Spolter, 2006)
Since then, consumers are able to express their own feelings and opinions about products
and services online. This new consumer group which is publishing and messaging about
commercial goods brings a different version of WOM which is called electronic word-ofmouth (eWOM).
Moreover, user demand for entertainment - focused content via cell phones is increasing
with the continuing development and adoption of mobile connectivity technologies. This
makes handsets a possible connected marketing channel. (Kirby, 2006)
User-generated contents (UGC) like blog posts, status updates, comments, tweets, shared
videos and user-generated texts on the internet are the major tools for consumers to express
their feeling and share their opinions online. Video sharing sites, online social networks,
blogs, and microblogs can be counted among the most commonly-used media for
2) OBJECTIVE THE STUDY
Online social media can be considered as an important channel for marketing
communications since it enables consumers to convey their opinions about products and
services. This study explores characteristics of communications affecting consumers’
usage pattern (impulsively or pre-planned) of and intention to purchase from online social
media. Trying to reply this question, we especially focused on their preferences with
respect to product/service, source characteristics and previous product experience, in order
to investigate whether those aspects have an impact on consumers’ choice to follow a
What are meant by product/service characteristics are types of those products/services that
are being the subjects of contents on any online social media. Products and services are
studied separately to determine the effect of characteristics on each one.
Source characteristics relate to the publisher of any content on the online social media.
Especially, effects of contents due to their source types such that anonymous posts, posts
from friends or brands, and etc. are discussed deeply in this study.
Consumer’s characteristics are demographic influencers like age, education, marital status,
sex, and etc. on customers’ choice to follow a certain online social media. Content
characteristics relate to how those contents reached to the consumers like direct messages,
indirect group messages, public broadcast and etc.
Customers’ intention to buy is another aspect that was studied in this research with respect
to source and product/service characteristics.
The findings of this study will guide to firms and future academic studies as it discusses
the implications for content makers and points out the most convenient categories of
products/services and source for which online social media should be employed.
Especially, firms can benefit from these findings, integrating the results of this study to
their online social media strategies. For marketers, understanding how influence of
contents of online social media on consumers’ intention of purchase and to follow a certain
media varies with product/service category and source type is particularly important for
planning marketing communications.
Since the internet has gone through an important transition in terms of how users produce
and share content interactively, communication channels evolve from traditional
networking platforms into completely new types of networking media. For example, textbased communication has been replaced by more enhanced media like 3D worlds.
(Tikkanen, Hietanen, Henttonen and Rokka, 2008).
As the internet technologies improved, interactive web sites and online services were
launched. Blogs, microblogs, online social networks, and video sharing sites are examples
of online social media that enable users to contribute in content creation and web
Blog (short for weblog) is a personal or collaborative web site - which is frequently
updated -in the form of a diarized journal composed of opinions, information and weblinks
that indicates personality and interests of the author. (Corcoran, Marsden, Zorbach,
Röthlingshöfer, 2006) Blogs are influential media that are usually considered as the official
web site of an opinion leader for a specific topic. Blog marketing has already proved itself
to be skilled tool, even though it is considered to be a relatively new concept to the
marketing literature. (Corcoran, Marsden, Zorbach, Röthlingshöfer, 2006)
Micro-blogging is defined as
“a new form of communication through which users can describe things of interest
and express attitudes that they are willing to share in short posts.”
(Jansen, Zhang, Sobel, and Chowdury, 2009)
Online social network is web site that hosts an online community.(e.g. Facebook,
LinkedIn, MySpace) In 1983, Rheingold stated that online community is defined to be
”formed when enough number of people carry on computer-mediated nonprivate
discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to develop what are
considered “social relationships” with other online participants.”
(Brown, Broderick, and Lee, 2007)
Video sharing sites are collaborative online services through which users can upload their
own videos and watch the ones posted by other users. (e.g. Youtube, Dailymotion)
Since new online services started to include people in their content generation processes,
consumers got the chance to express their opinions and ideas about anything, easier and
faster than it was before with traditional media. Those comments, posts, videos, tweets and
other user generated contents about products and services initiated electronic WOM
(eWOM) between consumers.
Nyilasy states that brand image has a moderating effect on the influence of word-of-mouth.
It is more difficult to influence people who have a prior impression about a brand. (2006)
Nevertheless, eWOM is found to be a joint function of receivers’ involvement in the
communication and the communicator’s credibility regarding the influence of word-ofmouth information on decision making and attitude formation. (Brown, Broderick, and
Bone argued that WOM affects product judgments, attitude formation, and decisions
making more than formal marketing communications do. (qtd. in Brown, Broderick, and
In 1966, Dichter stated four motivational categories of positive WOM which are product
involvement, self involvement, other involvement and message involvement and defined
product involvement as the situation when a customer has very strong feelings about a
product that builds up a pressure on him to do something about it. Thus, he recommends
the product to others to reduce the tension caused by the consumption experience. (qtd. in
Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, and Gremler, 2004) Product involvement can be considered as a
factor that motivates consumers to respond differently to the same message, give more
counter-arguments and use different message cues for evaluation. (Zaichowsky, 1986).
Thus, affecting consumers’ response, product involvement has an influence on eWOM in
terms of acceptance of the message.
Demographic variables are also important while studying the effects of online content on
customers’ intention to buy a specific product which is the subject of this content.
In 1999, Donthu and Garcia stated that more educated customers are innovators or early
adopters in the usage of the Internet.(qtd in Bhatnagar and Ghose, 2003) Consequently, one
would expect that education to have a significant effect on customers adoption online
In 1997, Kotler told that gender is one of the most commonly-used demographic variables
by marketers for segmentation. Afterwards, Gefen and Straub in 1997, and in 2000
Venkatesh and Morris argues that the Internet, e-mail etc. would be perceived as more
useful by men. (qtd in Bhatnagar and Ghose, 2003) Thus, we can expect that the gender
would have an influence on consumers’ behavior on online social media.
In order to evaluate consumers’ intention to purchase from and usage pattern of online
social media, a questionnaire was conducted. Descriptive research was chosen so that
characteristics of a certain segment of population can described rather than trying to state a
Questions were designed to inspect whether consumers’ purchase intention and usage
pattern (pre-planned or impulsively) varied according to product/service, source,
situational characteristics and previous experience with the product.
An online questionnaire was conducted among a convenience sample of 100 consumers
who may be either men or women. Within the questionnaire, participants were asked to
indicate their basic demographic information as well as questions related to behavioral
pattern on online social media. Only responses of those participants who are between 1835 years old were evaluated.
Respondents were initially asked to indicate the online social media they are visiting and
answer the remaining questions based on those online social media. To measure the effect
of product and service characteristics on consumers’ intention of purchase and usage
pattern, participants were asked to point out product and service categories that have
influence on usage in a pre-planned manner as well as purchase intention.
Besides, we focused on 26 different product categories and 24 different service categories.
To discuss source characteristics, five different types of contents with different sources are
determined such as anonymous contents, contents posted by friends, contents posted by
other people, contents posted by companies and contents in online advertisements.
According to survey results, consumers’ demographics and preference of products and
services that make them intend to purchase and follow the media are discussed.
Regarding the demographics of 100 participants, it is observed that 63% was female. 33%
of the respondents was between 18-25 years old, whereas 67% was between 26 -35. 71%
had undergrad degree while 29% had graduate and upper degrees.
Participants also indicated the industry that they are working in. 35% of the group works in
telecommunications sector while 34% works in finance. About 8 % of the population is
from technology –related areas whereas another 8 % -portion works in health sector and
4% of the respondents are students.
84% of the participants do not have any children. When we look at the monthly income of
the respondents, it is seen that 18% earned between 600 – 1.499 TL, 23% between 1.500 2.499 TL, 44% between 2.500 – 3.499 TL, 15% between 4.000 – 6.499 TL and finally 1%
earns between 6.500 – 9.999 TL.
As mentioned previously, survey participants indicated the online social media that they
visit. Facebook is the leading online social media with 93% of usage whereas 67% of the
respondents stated that they follow Ekşisözlük – which is an online user generated wiki
that facilitates social interactions among users. Other social media indicated were Youtube
with 65%, Wikipedia with 60%, blogs with 30% and Twitter with 29%.
According to survey results, people visit those online social media between 20:01 and
00:00 most frequently. This is followed by 18:01-20:00 and 14:01-18:00.
73% of the participants indicated that they visit online social media via mobile phones.
But, only 17% said that they access those media via mobile frequently.
In order to estimate how the source type influences consumers’ intention to purchase,
participants were asked to rate contents from different sources like friends, non-friends,
anonymous sources, companies and online advertisements. Friends turned out to be the
most influential sources in creating intention to purchase. Friends are followed by
companies, online advertisements, non-friends and anonymous sources.
When situational effects are investigated, it is observed that contents searched and found
by the consumer himself/herself are more important in creating purchase intention than
contents reaching to the consumer without any search attempt.
Another question that this study focuses on is whether the independent variables like
product, service, source, consumer and situational characteristics do have an effect on
whether the consumer uses online media impulsively or pre-planned. Survey respondents
were asked to indicate product types that lead to using a media in a pre-planned manner,
which means they are already interested in getting info about those products. The results
are as follows:
Book & Magazine
Following in a Preplanned Manner
House, Decoration, Garden
Following in a Preplanned Manner
Music, books and magazines, clothing, and movie are the most influential types of
products that lead to pre-planned following.
In another questions, participants were asked to indicate service types that lead to using
online media in a pre-planned manner. The results are as follows:
Airline e-ticket service
Online music services
GSM operator services
Online food order service
Online video sharing service
Following in a
Online Event Ticket Service
Bus e-ticket service
Online suction service
Online dating service
Following in a Preplanned Manner
E-shopping, vacation and airline e-ticket service, private shopping, restaurant and online
music services are the most influential types of services that lead to pre-planned usage.
Source type, is another factor that affects the usage pattern of online social media. Friends
are found to be the most important source that leads to usage in a pre-planned manner.
Other sources with respect to their importance according to the consumers are companies,
non-friends and anonymous sources.
Previous product experience like using the same product/service or another product/service
of the same company or similar product/services of a different company is another factor
that affects the intention to purchase. It is found that previous experience with the same
product/service reinforces the intention to purchase. This is followed by previous
experience with another product/service of the same company and the experience with a
similar product/service of a different company. In contrary, we did not observed any
relation between previous product experience and pre-planned following.
Being ensured with the results of survey, we come up with two models about the factors
affecting consumers’ intention to purchase and their pattern of following online social
Model depicting the factors affecting whether a media is followed in a pre-planned
Source and situational characteristics have an effect on whether the media is followed in a
Model depicting the factors affecting consumers’ intention to purchase:
In addition to previous model, previous experience with the product also has an effect on
the intention to purchase as well as source and situational characteristics.
We conducted this study to investigate the factors effecting consumers’ intention to
purchase from online social media as well as usage pattern in those media. To collect data
for our research, an online questionnaire was done among 100 respondents. Based on the
survey results, we came up with two models which are depicted to illustrate the factors
lying behind the purchase intention and usage pattern. Future researches can extend the
study by applying the questionnaire to a larger set of people and collect more data. To
investigate the effect of demographics, one would need a more detailed statistical analysis.
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