Traditional word-of-mouth marketing required a network of locals who would vouch for products and services. Today that network exists online, but does electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) hold the same power to influence purchase decisions?
What Research Shows
According to one study, consumer purchase decisions are influenced by eWOM (Cheung, 2014). For this study, researches conducted a survey of 100 people using a partial least squares approach to validate the model, finding that eWOM in online communities can influence buying decisions when it is timely, holds comprehensive information, comes from a trustworthy source (i.e. a trusted blogger, website, administrator etc.) and is of quality.
A study by AC Nielsen (2007) found that most consumers think online opinions are as trustworthy as branded websites, and Rowley (2001) suggests that businesses should organize online communities rather than relying on other channels because they offer a trustworthy source of quality, timely information.
Why It Matters
As a digital entrepreneur, you have great power to influence buying decisions when you build a strong community where you and your tribe are considered trustworthy, and when you provide useful, timely information about a particular product or service.
The cool thing about communities (groups, forums, blogs, channels, discord etc.) is that they foster a certain group mentality, and promote the trust of leaders within the group. Therefore, any information a leader provides is automatically trustworthy.
In other words, when you have an established community, the key to influence with electronic word-of-mouth is the other two ingredients, timeliness, and high-quality information.
How This Works in Practice
Imagine a member of your Facebook Group asks for recommendations on mindset books and tags you (the admin) for suggestions.
Within the hour you respond (timely information) with your top three favorite mindset books and explain in detail why (quality info) those books are so good. At the end of your post, you share affiliate links to all three books in case the original poster (OP) wants to buy.
As a group member, the OP trusts you and believes that you’ve provided useful information (which I hope you have!). He decides to buy all three books and uses your affiliate link, which generates affiliate commissions for you.
The OP loves the books and shares them (more eWOM) when another member asks a similar question at a future date. The sharing member doesn’t have his own affiliate links, so he shares yours and you generate more affiliate commissions as a result.
Electronic Word-of-Mouth is just as powerful as localized, in-person word-of-mouth. However, the information must be timely, trustworthy, and above all, useful.
It is easier to foster these conditions when you use them in a group setting where you naturally have the membership’s trust. Therefore, it may be worth considering how you can form a group (built on value) if you hope to influence others through eWOM.
The question for you is, what kind of group can you build that will support you as a freelancer. Comment below!
AC Nielsen. (2007) Trust in advertising: A Global Nielsen Consumer Report. New York: Nielsen Media Research.
Cheung, R. (2014). The Influence of Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Information Adoption in Online Customer Communities. Global Economic Review, 43(1), 42–57. https://doi-org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rger20
Rowley, J. (2001) Remodelling marketing communications in an Internet environment, Internet Research, 11(3), pp. 203–212.