The effects of live word-of-mouth engagement on hedonic experiences
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During hedonic consumption activities such as watching television or seeing a play, consumers can interact with other people consuming the same content in real-time on social media. I define “live WOM engagement” as viewing and/or posting online word-of-mouth messages about an experience in real-time, including passive reading of messages, as well as active conversations with others, and sharing posts. I examine how engaging in live WOM affects how much people enjoy an experience. In a conceptual model, I predict that engaging in live WOM will enhance enjoyment of the hedonic activity through two routes: (i) social connectedness and (ii) pleasure of self-expression. Further, I examine how, when, and why these two mediating processes affect the enjoyment of the overall experience by manipulating social motivations and different types of live WOM engagement (e.g., active versus passive). I test my predictions in the context of a hedonic consumption activity where live WOM is highly prevalent: social television viewing. First, using Nielsen Social’s Twitter TV ratings and IMDb consumer ratings, I show that social TV engagement is positively associated with consumer evaluations of TV programs. Further, I find that this relationship is stronger for the reality genre as compared to comedy and drama genres. Experimental study results show that engaging in live WOM while watching a program (vs. watching a program without engaging in live WOM) increases social connectedness, which enhances enjoyment. Moreover, this effect is stronger when viewers actively engage in a conversation rather than passively reading others’ posts. Additionally, in this context (watching a talent show clip), live WOM engagement does not cause distraction. This research creates a bridge between the word-of-mouth and hedonic consumption literatures by conceptualizing WOM engagement as a driver of virtually shared experiences. By examining the underlying processes that enhance experiences, this research provides strategic approaches for managers in media and entertainment industries.