Peer-to-peer word-of-mouth: word-of-mouth extended to group online exchange

Anat Alon, Frederic Brunel
  • Online Information Review, April 2018, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/oir-09-2016-0290

Peer-to-peer word-of-mouth: word-of-mouth extended to group online exchange

What is it about?

This paper investigates how peer-to-peer word-of-mouth (PPWOM) conversations evolve over time because of the dynamic social nature of the community in which they take place. This study analyzed PPWOM conversations in an online community website for new and expectant mothers. Two data collection phases were undertaken during a four-year period. In phase I, messages were collected for a one-month period from five different bulletin boards (i.e. cross-sectional data) and at two points in time (i.e. semi-longitudinal). In phase II, a full longitudinal study was conducted, and the complete text of all messages of a newly formed bulletin board was captured for a nine-month period. The corpus of messages was examined in line with the basic tools of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. This research developed a typology of PPWOM genres and showed that these genres change over the community lifespan. The findings confirmed that the levels of social cohesiveness and the interaction communicative motives are the main factors that distinguish different PPWOM genres.

Why is it important?

This research has offered a new perspective into the study of PPWOM, and hopefully it will serve as a starting point for a broader dialogue regarding the social context in which PPWOM is exchanged. In contrast to traditional word-of-mouth research, this study demonstrated that PPWOM conversations go much beyond the exchange of functional information, and instead serve numerous social and emotional goals.

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