Consumer-generated versus marketer-generated websites in consumer decision making

Fred Bronner

University of Amsterdam

Robert de Hoog

University of Twente

Introduction: from WOM to eWOM, from opinion leaders to e-fluentials

The hypothesis that ideas flow from mass media to opinion leaders and from these to the less active sections of the population, was tested and confirmed back in the 1950s (Katz 1957). In this two-step flow, informal communication, denoted as word-of-mouth (WOM), played a crucial role. Now, 50 years later, this WOM concept has been revitalised and given new significance through the use of the internet (Dellarocas 2003). As a result, a less personal form of WOM has come into vogue (Sen & Lerman 2007), but a form that offers more self-disclosure opportunities due to the greater anonymity offered by the internet (Sun et al. 2006). These authors also coined the term ‘e-fluentials’ to describe the opinion leaders who spread information via the internet. This new process of spreading information via ‘e-fluentials’ and internet was first described as online WOM behaviour (or online interpersonal influence), but from 2004 onwards the term ‘electronic word-of-mouth’ became popular (Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004).