The Persuasive Role of Implicit Product Reviewer Cues

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The importance of user-generated electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) product reviews is well documented in the literature. Among millennials seeking advice, an overwhelming majority turn to online product review sites, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, and marketers are increasingly focused on the value of harvesting earned social media. When reading user-generated posts, consumers often see a multitude of credibility cues about the product reviewer, (messenger). Some are self-posted informational credibility cues and can authenticate the reviewer as a real person, others are posted by the website community and reflect the consensus or normative opinion of that reviewer. Within the Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion (ELM) framework, source credibility is one of the main factors linked to persuasive ability. Research is ongoing to advance understanding of ELM’s application to consumer social media. One fundamental question this experimental research sought to answer was if consumer attitudes are affected by implicit messenger credibility cues presented simultaneously with the product review message. ELM remains a dominant theory in the study of marketing persuasion and one of the most cited models in marketing research. Although the benefits of explicitly establishing source credibility are well documented in the persuasion literature, the current research focused on the effect of implicit messenger cues, within the context of user-generated content. The findings of this online experimental field survey suggest that consumer attitudes are changed by implicit messenger cue conditions. Normative messenger credibility cues and self-posted informational credibility cues both influence credibility perceptions; stronger levels of either generates higher perceived messenger credibility and results in higher consumer persuasion.