Why Do People Transmit Word-of-Mouth? The Effects of Recipient and Relationship Characteristics on Transmission Behaviors
Andrew T. Stephen
University of Pittsburgh
Donald R. Lehmann
Columbia Business School - Marketing
May 4, 2009
Despite the large amount of research on WOM and social contagion in marketing, sociology, and other disciplines, surprisingly little is known about the drivers of individuals’ WOM transmission behaviors. This essay seeks to better understand why and to whom consumers transmit WOM about products. Across three studies we find that (1) the main reasons for transmitting WOM are predominantly transmitter-focused and associated with transmitters using social capital embedded in their social relationships, (2) the importance placed on these reasons by transmitters is related to the types of recipients that they actually choose to talk to, (3) characteristics of recipients and the relationships they have with transmitters are strong drivers of transmitters’ decisions of who to (and who not to) transmit information to, (4) the underlying reasons for transmitting WOM, and hence the types of recipients that comprise one’s preferred “audience,” lie in transmitters wanting to use (but not build) social capital, and (5) the type of use depends on whether people are sharing their own opinions (“initial transmission”) or passing on others’ opinions (“retransmission”). Specifically, initial transmitters use their social capital to give themselves a receptive audience for them to air their opinions with a high chance of being listened to. Retransmitters instead use social capital to obtain (but not contribute) new information from recipients and recipients’ social networks. Thus, initial transmitters appear to talk for the sake of talking (and try to avoid being ignored), and retransmitters talk in order to get fresh information in return.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: social capital, word of mouth, information transmission, conjoint experiments
JEL Classification: M31, C25, C91working papers series
Date posted: June 25, 2008 ; Last revised: July 27, 2011
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