Online word of mouth: A process model of online word of mouth

Ann Christina Sørensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Word of mouth is a powerful communication tool, because it influences peoples’ buying behaviours. New technology allows word of mouth to occur in an online environment, and it has been given a whole new importance. Online word of mouth is able to reach considerably larger numbers of people and it is possible for companies to observe consumer‐to‐consumer conversations. At the same time as consumers are increasingly using the Internet and social media tools, many companies are interested in harnessing the power of online word of mouth communication. However, many companies do not know how to act in an online environment, where they have less control over the information available about them. This thesis addresses how companies can utilise online word of mouth successfully. To do this, the thesis has conducted a literature review about word of mouth communication. Traditional word of mouth is a relevant starting point given that online word of mouth originates from this base, and shares many important characteristics with it. In addition, this thesis emphasises the potential of social media tools, because these are commonly used to pass on online word of mouth messages. On the background of the literature review and the examination of social media, a process model of online word of mouth has been developed. In order to demonstrate the process model, this thesis includes a contemporary case, which analyses how a company has utilised it. Several elements are found to be important in relation to online word of mouth. These include the identification of the right influencers and to encourage these to pass on online word of mouth messages; to choose the proper communication channels; and how to get listeners to listen to the messages. The process model of online word of mouth makes it tangible for companies, who do not know how to utilise online word of mouth, to encourage online word of mouth communication. The process model is general and the choices made in the steps of the model are likely to differ depending on the company, who utilises it. However, it does provide as an important indicator of which elements are important to include in an online strategy, making online word of mouth manageable and easier to approach.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages100