Published at 26/04/2021

Electronic Word of Mouth 2 - Creation


This is the second post from the series about Electronic Word of Mouth(eWOM). This series of posts is based upon a review paper titled “Conceptualizing the electronic word-of-mouth process: What we know and need to know about eWOM creation, exposure, and evaluation” by Rosario et al. (2019).

  1. Introduction
  2. Creation
  3. Exposure
  4. Evaluation

Your customers sharing (positive) sentiments about your brand is the best marketing you can hope for. Often times, however, we seem to struggle to knowingly encourage this behaviour.

As it turns out, 88% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from people they know. This is another reason for you to get to find out how make people write about your products more.

If you have read my post about Fogg’s Behaviour Model, the three aspects of eWOM creation are going to sound all too familiar for you. The three components you want to look at are:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Opportunity

The hidden fourth component is the trigger. You need to trigger the behaviour for it to happen. You need a catalyst. First things first, however. Lets look at these three aspects, and answer the question - why do people create eWOM?

Motivations

Altruism

One could argue all people are good from nature. When we look at why people create eWOM, that’s one of the reasons. Some people just want to be helpful. Think about it - have you ever had an experience so good, you wanted to tell the world about it?

How to facilitate the process?
After a purchase, you may send an email to your customer asking to help others make a right decision by adding a comment. For example: “Somebody recently posted a question about a product you bought recently. Would you be able to help out? Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge, and helping a fellow customer out.” We know that, the more answered questions your products will have, the less likely it is they will be returned.

Social value from community interaction

If we looked at the early days of the internet, we would see a lot of Bulletin board systems, email lists & groups, and chat rooms. The motivation of people joining them was to become a part of the whole; to feel as if they belonged to a group. The need to belong to a group is a very basic need, which dates back to the earliest days of our species. Our current social media, are the descendants of them.

How to facilitate the process?
A good idea here is creating a brand-owned community. This would be a space, where your clients can freely express themselves. More importantly, a group where they would be able to feel as a part of something bigger. Make sure you have you and/or your employees there as normal members of the community - “John Doe” and not "John from Company Name".

Hedonic benefits - e.g. enjoyment and gratification

People like reading funny reviews - even if they are negative. Some of them, can even go viral (another example here)!

There are many more hedonic benefits, however. Another example - some people like to be opinion leaders - they take great pride and enjoyment from it.

How to facilitate the process?
This is a tough one, since creating fake reviews will hurt your brand. What you can do is to hire the authors of humorous reviews from the internet, and ask them to review your product.

Alternatively, (I highly discourage this behaviour), you may write such a review yourself.

As for opinion leaders, make sure to highlight their leadership. Reward them for their work with a badge, or a rating. For more about incentives go to the next point.

Monetary and non-monetary incentives

As it turns out, 85% of the top 1000 (whatever that means) reviewers on Amazon are encouraged to create reviews by e.g. getting free books. This is the better solution out of these two. We still are somewhat on the social norm spectrum (vs going to the market norms). Paying for reviews is a bad practice, and it’s one thing you do not want to do. Sure, you will get more opinions if you pay for them, but you will have a less loyal customer base, and they will be less likely to refer you to others. In the long term, it might even result in the more widespread negative eWOM!

How to facilitate the process
Again, social badges, helpfulness ratings, free samples, are good nudges. If you absolutely want to exchange money for opinions, do it in an indirect way, such as granting them some loyalty points.

Impression management and identity formation

This motivation applies only to products that you want to place in the higher tier. As for a real life situation: say you got yourself a limited edition watch. Most of the people, will then in this position share how much they love it. Another example. Say you got an invitation into a very exclusive app (say Clubhouse). Will you not share it with your friends?

People will want to be associated with exclusive products/experiences. That makes them feel better; they are then associated with the higher status.

How to facilitate the process
Of course, if you place your product for the wider audience, please skip this point.

Otherwise, make sure your products are exclusive enough. Be sure to make them look "wow". You may achieve this by making sure your product stands out, or by e.g. optimising the packaging. That’s the first thing that people will look at after a purchase.

“Venting”

The tendency to create eWOM is also there. Your product/service will not be universally liked - no matter how hard you try. That’s just life. We all had moments when we wanted to go to Yelp/Facebook/Google Maps and leave a nasty review because of our subpar experience. The irony of the situation is that often we are not even discouraged from such behaviour.

How to discourage people from sharing negative sentiments?
A good way is to redirect unsatisfied customers to your customer support, and satisfied clients to leave a review. For example, imagine you have a store. For a second, let’s leave environmental concerns aside. After each sale, you give clients a two-sided leaflet - with one side asking clients to rate your shop, and the other redirecting people to your support.

Not only will you get fewer negative opinions - you will get more positive comments. The best aspect of this solution is the possibility of turning dissatisfied clients into satisfied ones.

Opportunity

Second of all, users need an opportunity to create an opinion.

Access to device, internet, or platform

A lot of Your clients want to share pictures of your business. Think about it - how many times you or somebody you know shared a picture of from inside a cafe or a restaurant. Naturally, this behavior won’t happen if your customers won’t have their phones. While there is not much you can do about that, you can do something about internet access.

An often overlooked aspect is that sometimes, there is nowhere to share an opinion. This is especially true if you operate in a highly specialised industry.

How to facilitate the process?
Make sure that there is internet access at your physical location. Make sure connection is stable and reasonably fast. In case your customer does not bring his/hers phone, there is not much you can do.

In case there is not a platform where you clients could share their opinions, you have to create one. This could be in a form of a simple comment section, or designated part of your website.

Time, Availability - Posting Costs

Posting a simple comment might seem as something effortless. That’s not always the case, however.

Let’s take time as an example - even tough we have so much of it, we constantly say we have none. This also applies to your customers. When it comes to availability think about this - how easy is it to create a new comment/opinion. If you want comments to be shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc, then chances are it will be an easy task. If you want somebody to post on a more niche platform, then the behaviour might not occur.

Be mindful of brain capacity of your users as well. Filling out an extensive online survey will not work.

How to facilitate the process?
If you set up your own branded space, make sure your clients can easily log in and add a review. You may do so by autogenerating login credentials in an email receipt.

Another thought is to set up a space dedicated to “take a breather” in case of a physical location.

Format - text, rating, image, “like”

Different platforms have different requirements - on Twitter it’s impossible to share any longer text. On Facebook, you may only recommend a company or not. In each case, be super specific about what do you want exactly.

How to facilitate the process?
Be transparent and specific about what you ask for. Make sure you adapt to the platforms you send your clients to.

Ability

Knowledge and expertise

People with the best intentions and opportunities won’t spread the word about your business if they are not knowleadgable enough. It’s quite simple, yet overlooked. Imagine a scenario where on a day off you’re given space to share something about a product or a service. What are you going to write if you don’t know anything about it?

Complex products are especially likely to not receive much love - regardless of whether customers love them or not. They receive fewer opinions than their simpler competitors.

How to facilitate the process?
In marketing communications focus on brand awareness and familiarity. Another thing you could do is to offer detailed product descriptions that explain every aspect of your offering.

Skills

It could happen that your customers don’t know how to write good opinions. Some people struggle with storytelling, and/or writing explanations.

How to facilitate the process?
Offer simple guidelines. Explain what do people look for in reviews. You could think about asking everybody a set of the same question, or offer some sample questions that could get somebody started with their comment.

One extra component

The model outlined in work by Rosario et. al. is overlaps with the model described by BJ Fogg in his work. That’s why to be able to understand and control the process, there is one more aspect we need to cover.

Trigger

Say everything seems to be great - your users are motivated, have the required knowledge, and the ability to post. They still might not do it. The problem here, is that the behaviour has to be triggered - you have to ask your customers to do something.

Now be mindful, that the nudge has to be appropriate. There are three types of actions you can take:

Spark
You need to send a “spark” when your target ranks low on motivation. What you could do then, is send a communication which would inspire. In my experience, it’s generally the easiest to appeal to altrusim, and to the sense of belonging. Of course, please verify my claim with A/B testing.

Facilitator
This is required in the case of users that have high motivation, but not enough ability. What you need to do here is to either make your process easier, or convince your clients that the behaviour is effortless.

You may call ability simplicity - think whether desired behaviour is simple enough.

Signal
This is an ideal scenario for you. “Targets” are sufficiently motivated and able. Be gentle. A simple reminder will do.

Implications for marketers - what does this all mean for me?

First of all, analyse your current process. Be thourough, reach out to your clients - ask them for an interview, ask them to complete surveys. The combination of qualitative, and quantitative data is always the best. After the analysis, you want to look at any identified issues. It could be that your clients are not motivated. Could be they don’t find the opportunity. Could be you did not ask for the action at all.

Remember once again - even one missing component is enough for your eWOM marketing to fail. Be smart about it.

Additional Sources:

Chan, Y. Y. Y., & Ngai, E. W. T. (2011). Conceptualising electronic word of mouth activity. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 29(5), 488–516. doi:10.1108/02634501111153692