Social considerations in online word of mouth
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Word of mouth (WOM) – or information shared among consumers themselves – has long been regarded as one of the most influential information sources for consumers (Brown and Reingen 1987). Unlike offline word of mouth, which typically occurs among people who know each other, online word of mouth typically occurs among strangers who do not know, and are unlikely to ever know, one other. While it is reasonable to assume that social concerns, such as maintaining relationships, are likely to influence people’s offline word of mouth behavior among familiar others, it is unclear whether social concerns dictate people’s online word of mouth behavior. In my dissertation, I look at how social considerations – thoughts about other people – affect people’s online word of mouth behavior. In the second chapter of my dissertation, I examine how people’s choice of word of mouth topic online is influenced by social considerations. Specifically, I find that while people enjoy talking about controversial topics because the topics are intrinsically interesting, people often times avoid these topics because they fear social rejection by their conversation partner. In chapter three, I examine how reviewers’ desire to appear logical (vs. imaginative) during word of mouth transmission affects their memory for the experience. I find that attempting to be logical negatively affects reviewer’s memory and this is due to the logic mindset activating verbal instead of perceptual processes during subsequent recall. In other words, impression management goals (e.g., to present oneself as a rational person) during word of mouth communication may be detrimental for people’s memory . Chapter four examines how consumer evaluations of reviews are driven by consumer beliefs about why reviews are written. I find that, in general, consumers tend to discount positive reviews because they think positive reviews are written for reviewer-specific reason such a self-enhancement or signaling expertise. When temporal contiguity cues – words and phrases indicating that the review was written immediately after the consumption experience – are present, however, people tend to give more credence to positive reviews because these cues make consumers think that the product experience, rather than reviewer-specific goals, precipitated the writing of the review. Taken together, my dissertation shows that social considerations affect both the transmission of word of mouth and the reception of online word of mouth. More generally, my dissertation showcases how thoughts about others (e.g., will others be offended?) influence consumer behavior even in situations where present and future social interactions are unlikely to occur.