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Communicating Complex Services Using Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Twitter: An Exploratory Study

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is one the most investigated phenomenon in marketing research, and affects customers’ trust and purchase decisions. It has been found to play a crucial role in services marketing in particular as intangibility makes the pre-purchase trial of services impossible. It is especially important when services are complex and associated benefits may be ambiguous or not immediately observable.

Nowadays, WOM mostly occurs through digital platforms. Similar to WOM, electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) has been found to be more effective and to have higher credibility, empathy and relevance to customers than traditional marketing vehicles and marketer-designed electronic media. While there is general agreement that eWOM can have a potentially larger impact than traditional WOM, empirical research on the determinants of eWOM impact is still at an early stage.

To address this gap, we have conducted an exploratory study to investigate the determinants of eWOM engagement for communications relating to complex services on social media. We have analysed 4,569 original Twitter posts generated by 1,771 accounts relating to a complex service i.e. high performance computing in the cloud. The empirical analysis suggests that message sentiment and user activity are positively related with eWOM engagement, while the effect of user visibility and user credibility tend to be negative. Moreover, the results of the study show that messages originated by organisation users tend to receive less retweets and more replies than messages originated by other users suggesting that customers tend to share information gathered from their peers but verify it by engaging with companies.

The results of this study are of interest to marketing researchers, and service marketing researchers in particular, with respect to the peculiarities of complex service environments. Similarly, the results are of interest to practitioners, who can get valuable insights on how to better utilise SNSs to improve the impact of their social media marketing activities.


The paper was presented at the Summer 2017 American Marketing Association (AMA) conference. AMA is the largest academic conference for marketing scholars, faculty, and doctoral students attracting more than 1,000 academics every year. This year's theme was Innovation and Sustainability through Marketing. Authors were invited to submit their works on the topics of: (1) the innovation and/or sustainability behaviours of firms, managers, and consumers, (2) the economic, social, and environmental motivations and outcomes of these behaviours, and (3) how firms, managers, and consumers respond or adapt to the innovation and/or sustainability behaviours of other actors in the marketplace.

Proceedings are available on the AMA Website

This Paper and blog post were written by Anna Gourinovitch, Innovation and Dissemination Coordinator at DCU Business School

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