eWOM via mavens, buzz agents, and followers

Kathleen Ferris-Costa, University of Rhode Island


With the Internet as an increasing locus for consumption, consumers have unparalleled access to information, and the ability to make price and quality comparisons as never before, along with the opportunity to interact with other consumers and companies in many different ways. These interactions are conducted via e-mail, instant messaging, forums, online communities, newsgroups, chat rooms, homepages, blogs, video blogs, review and social networking sites. Thus, the topic of personal influence now extends into cyberspace as online interpersonal influence or electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM). eWOM can be both firm-sponsored and consumer initiated. The plethora of communication platforms using the Internet also suggests that the size and nature of social networks as well as the speed and variety of feedback mechanisms are significantly different from the offline world where face-to-face interactions among close ties are common. This has created a research opportunity to address how eWOM, both firm-sponsored and consumer initiated, operates in the changing communication space. This dissertation has been designed to extend the current literature on market maven and buzz agent communication behaviors since most of the available evidence on the influence of market mavens and buzz agents come from the offline world. Two studies examine the motivation and communication processes of the buzz agent and market mavens. The first study, using an online survey, focuses on how these two types of influentials differ in their motivation and communication processes. The survey results suggest that depending on whether or not they are extrinsically or intrinsically motivated, market mavens and buzz agents are likely to participate in eWOM in exchange for an increase in consumer status; they are likely to value/seek feedback; and they are likely to use small group-based virtual communities. In addition, buzz agents are also likely to participate in eWOM in exchange for an increase in status with the advertiser. The second study, using an online experiment, examines the effects of disclosure on recipients who have strong/weak ties with the buzz agents. The results show that regardless of the tie strength, disclosure lessens the consumer's likelihood to purchase.

Subject Area

Marketing|Web Studies

Recommended Citation

Kathleen Ferris-Costa, "eWOM via mavens, buzz agents, and followers" (2011). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3450934.