Using Online Conversations to Study Word of Mouth Communication

Marketing Science, Vol. 23, No. 4, Fall 2004

Harvard Business School Marketing Research Paper No. 04-023

Posted: 12 Apr 2007

See all articles by David Godes

David Godes

University of Maryland

Dina Mayzlin

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Abstract

Managers are very interested in word of mouth communication because they believe that a product's success is related to the word of mouth that it generates. However, there are at least three significant challenges associated with measuring word of mouth. First, how does one even gather the data? Since the information is exchanged in private conversations, direct observation traditionally has been quite difficult. Second, what aspect of these conversations should one measure? The third challenge comes from the fact that word of mouth is not exogenous. While the mapping from word of mouth to future sales is of great interest to the firm, we must also recognize that word of mouth is at the same time an outcome of past sales. Our primary objective is to address these challenges. As a context for our study, we have chosen new TV shows during the 1999/2000 seasons. Our source of word-of-mouth conversations is Usenet, a collection of thousands of newsgroups with very diverse topics. We find that online conversations may offer an easy and cost-effective opportunity to measure word-of-mouth. We show that a measure of the "dispersion" of conversations across communities has explanatory power in a dynamic model of television ratings.

Keywords: word-of-mouth, diffusion of innovations, measurement, networks and marketing, new product research, internet marketing

JEL Classification: M31, D83

Suggested Citation

Godes, David and Mayzlin, Dina, Using Online Conversations to Study Word of Mouth Communication. Marketing Science, Vol. 23, No. 4, Fall 2004, Harvard Business School Marketing Research Paper No. 04-023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=980060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.327841

David Godes

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Dina Mayzlin (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States
213-740-3360 (Phone)

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