Investigations of Factors that Affect Consumers' Online Word Of Mouth Behavior
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This dissertation includes two essays investigating factors that affect consumers' online word of mouth (WOM) behavior. The first essay studies how consumers as online posters make an online forum choice decision when they are motivated to influence other consumers. We propose that consumers have theories about effective word of mouth persuasion, acting as intuitive media planners in making online forum choices. Specifically, consumers possess audience beliefs (i.e. how loyal to the brand) and beliefs about effective persuasion (i.e. surprising and novel things are more impactful). Across three studies, we demonstrate that posters prefer posing positive messages on a brand-neutral forum (e.g., Digital Camera Forum) to a brand-specific (e.g., Nikon Forum) because positive brand information is not surprising to the later audience. However, when posting negative brand information, posters are equally likely to choose either forum since negative brand information is perceived as diagnostic and surprising to all audience. We further offer a boundary condition in which the poster's primary motive is not to persuade and affect others but to affiliate with others. Under affiliation motive, message valence does not affect forum choice since posters are not considering message valence as a way to being impactful. The second essay investigates the role of product rating scale in a product rating task, and how it can drive WOM behavior. We argue that rating scale can affect a rater's likelihood of engaging subsequent WOM behavior. Specifically, conducting three experiments, we show that participants' WOM intention are higher after evaluating their consumption experience on a 5-point rating scale than on a 2-point rating scale. We suggest that rating scales can affect a rater's certainty belief regarding the rating score assigned (i.e., high rating certainty leads to higher WOM intention). We further provide evidence that rating certainty mediates the impact of rating scale on WOM intention.