Posted by: Emily Priebe | November 11, 2013

Is there value in negative WOM?

As marketers our initial reaction to negative WOM might be negative itself, especially when that negativity is voiced through very public social media channels. However, this might not necessarily be a bad thing for brands. In many ways, consumers that take the step to comment may be an indication of greater engagement and loyalty to the brand. If the correct redress to the complaint is given, then the loyalty and future business of the consumer may be retained.

Bach and Kim’s (2012) study states “the majority of dissatisfied consumers do not voice their complaints to an organization.” This indicates that instead of trying to engage with a brand, dissatisfied consumers may simply move on to a new retail or service provider, while the very engaged voice their opinions.

Meaningful engagement with a brand goes beyond the like, the fan, and the follow. Consumers who seek out a brand’s social media channels and post on those sites, are much more actively engaged with the brand and should have value to companies, even if it is negative content.

If negative WOM increases engagement with our brand and we as marketers have strategies in place to provide the right course of redress, is negative WOM really a bad thing?


  1. I think it would be interesting to determine the circumstances and purposes where negative WOM could offer value. Rebecca Black and Miley Cyrus are the most recent examples that come to mind that indicate spectacle always benefits from publicity, good or bad (or is that the same as WOM?). The opposite is true for entities meant to be taken seriously, or those where reputation and prestige are components of identity. The distinction becomes more complex when you factor in the nature of consumer engagement with the entity, since all folks need to do is add views or clicks for spectacle to succeed online, but more prestigious entities demand more commitment and engagement from audiences– in other words, they demand stakeholders.

    Stakeholders are consumers, broadly construed, which is where Bach and Kim come in. The found a number of ways negative WOM can be analyzed to guide remedial as well as proactive action, and in addition to appearing to value consumer input, a negative WOM forum provides valuable feedback. Plus, it may prevent complaints from being shared in more visible forums. Most importantly, the potential to transform complaint forums into info-sharing hubs portends enormous value for companies in Web 2.0.

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