Fox, Gavin (2013) Can restaurant marketers create positive electronic word-of-mouth through the use of social media? : An explorative study investigating the influence of consumer communications via social media. Masters thesis, Dublin, National College of Ireland.
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This dissertation is concerned with the exploration of the effect social media is having on consumer-to-consumer communications, otherwise known as word-of-mouth. It is known that word-of-mouth communications are highly influential in shaping consumer behaviour but never before has there existed a media platform where word-of-mouth can be convey and received and with widespread reach and effect. Word-of-mouth used to have a reach that could be measured in single or double digits. Now word-of-mouth can reach hundreds, thousands, or perhaps even hundreds of thousands with unprecedented speed.
This study explores the social phenomenon with respect to restaurants as, being predominantly a service high in experience qualities, word-of-mouth recommendations are considered particularly influential. The research investigates whether or not restaurant marketers can create positive word-of-mouth through social media and, if so, what types and styles of communications work best in getting their message to spread. It also examines from the consumers’ perspective, aiming to understand their motivations in spreading electronic word-of-mouth concerning restaurants, whether the message is marketergenerated or consumer-generated. Although considered relevant, the investigation of the effect of negative word-of-mouth was considered outside the scope of this research. Instead the study aims to explore whether or not restaurant marketers should include efforts to create positive word-of-mouth, as part of an integrated marketing communications program. The research was qualitative in nature. It adopted the use of four in-depth interviews with marketers of Dublin-based restaurants, a consumer focus group (of six participants) and two subsequent in-depth interviews with restaurant consumers who were considered to be active on social media. It was found that restaurant marketers can create positive word-of-mouth through social media and should include efforts to do so as part of their marketing activities. It was also found that certain types of individuals hold tremendous power in online settings. Targeting these influential individuals with communications they deem interesting can lead to the spreading of such communications to large audiences. This dissertation concludes by making ten recommendations to restaurant marketers, outlining the best approach to take in creating positive word-of-mouth through social media.
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