What is eWOM or electronic word of mouth?
Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) is a form of buzz marketing and it can become viral if the message is persuasive or funny enough. In eWOM we focus on person-to-person contacts that happen on the internet. You may think this is new but in fact it's the oldest type of marketing we know. You come across something new, odd, funny or relevant and you tell your friends or the people you meet at the gym about your discovery.
Characteristics of traditional word of mouth are:
- It consists of interpersonal communication which sets it apart from mass communication such as advertising.
- It's about commercial content and commercial entities such as companies, products, services and brands.
- The communicators are non-commercially motivated so communication is perceived as unbiased, genuine and honest. What's different these days is that you can directly tell your friends via a multitude of different online mechanisms (Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare etc.), tell - or 'write' as it is these days - it once, reach more friends with a single effort, and reach more people some of whom you don't even know.
So to demystify the concept of electronic word of mouth: it's just word of mouth as we've always known it with two characteristics added:
- It uses the internet so information is passed on a written text, images or even movies.
- It can reach a multitude of people at the same time so it has a greater potential of becoming viral.
And it because of these differences that electronic word of mouth marketing is even more powerful than traditional word of mouth.
What makes electronic word of mouth marketing so powerful?
People like to share: Our need to share explains the success of consumer review sites, discussion forums and social media sites such as Twitter. There are several psychological explanations for this sharing behavior from the need to connect and belong, the need to help others and the need to be perceived as someone with the right connections and knowledge. One person reaches several others and each of them can share the message with their network of friends and so on. This explains the viral potential of eWOM.
People seek advice online: Whenever we plan to make a purchase we first want to get informed about the subject online. Online reviews are used as important information sources, shape consumer attitudes towards a product and influence sales.
People trust other people: We trust the opinion of a real person more than we trust advertising, news by the traditional media or information on a corporate website. This is called 'social proof'. Electronic Word of Mouth has a large effect on consumer buying decisions. And of course people can be positively influenced or negatively by this.
There is however one disadvantage of electronic word of mouth as compared to traditional word of mouth. In the case of eWOM is the receiver not always familiar with the sender of the information. Therefore eWOM is less trusted. On the internet everyone is a publisher and people we follow on Twitter or talk to in forums aren't the same as trusted friends. What's important is the status of the sender, their network, their tone of voice and their arguments. You can read more about this in our blogpost about digital influence.
Electronic Word of Mouth is more powerful, despite the disadvantage mentioned, because it reaches more people, it lives forever on the internet and can be monitored.
EWOM provides a window of opportunity for companies
(1) Monitor the buzz
Traditional word of mouth is for the most part invisible since it's oral person-to-person communication. However, since eWOM is written on the internet to be read by a multitude of people, companies can monitor and analyze word of mouth. This way you'll learn how potential clients and clients feel about your brand, your products, your competitors and/or your industry. People are talking about you (your brand, your products and/or your industry), but are you listening?
This screenshot here shows total amount of publications per week. You can segment based on several factors such as sentiment, mood state or happening to name a few and drill down to the original publications. This way you can find opposing viewpoints and people that hold strong opinions as for instance language intensity is associated with source trustworthiness [Jin Li, Journal of Advertising Research, March 2011].
(2) Enable the buzz
Enable sharing information about your company by implementing social sharing buttons as you'll find here on the top of each blog post.
(3) Start the buzz
Carry out a viral marketing campaign that is remarkable and designed to evoke a response. Electronic WOM can spread at unprecedented speed for much lower costs compared to traditional marketing methods. And of course you monitor and analyze the impact of this by monitoring the buzz.
(4) Influence the buzz
Be where your customers and potential customers are. This means you need to have a web presence and a presence in the social media. People expect that when they sent out a Tweet mentioning your name or Twitter handle, that you will respond. By responding in a timely accurate way you can improve your control. However you must realize that you cannot have total control over word of mouth. It's like walking a wheelbarrow filled with frogs. Sooner or later some of them will jump out.
This screenshot shows the Klout distribution of people that talk about a certain subject. You can find the most active users, see their Klout score and their relevant tweets. Immediately from BuzzTalk you can start following them in Twitter and reply to their Tweet.
How BuzzTalk helps
With BuzzTalk you can:
- Monitor the buzz to learn about brand image and brand awareness.
- Find out what is happening in your world and how the crowd is feeling and talking about these happenings.
- Analyze the buzz so you can assess the effectiveness of your advertisements.
- Find digital influencers that are relevant to your goal, follow them and start engaging them to turn them into brand advocates.
- Start building an online community and claim your expert position.