Social media marketing vs User generated content vs Electronic word of mouth – Crib sheet

It’s that time of the year when I am supervising dissertation projects. And, again, I find myself clarifying the difference between three terms that often get confused and wrongly used as synonyms: Social media marketing (SMM), user generated content (UGC) and electronic word of mouth (eWoM). So, I ended up creating this table for my students, which I am now sharing with you, in case you find it useful, too.

TermSocial media marketingUser generated contentElectronic word of mouth
WhereSocial media channelsSocial media channelsSocial media channels
Intended recipientCustomers(but could also be broader public)Other customers and/or firmsOther customers
DriverBrand awareness
Customer service
Marketing research
Obtain benefit from firm
Help other customers
Help other customers

While the three terms refer to an activity that takes place on social media, they are difference it terms of the source of the activity, and the intended recipient. Namely:

  • SMM is social media activity generated by the firm, usually with the end customer in mind, though it could also be directed at the wider public or even an internal audience, as witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • UCG and eWoM are generated by the customer. But while the latter is directed at other customers (e.g., via a comment on the customer’s own social media account, or an entry on a review website), the former could be used strategically to engage with the firm (for instance, by leaving a comment on the firm’s social media page, or tagging them on a conversation).

The three activities also have different drivers:

  • SMM serves business goals such as raising brand awareness, or providing customer service.
  • eWoM is usually driven by a desire to help other customers
  • UGC could be also be driven by a desire to help other customers, but is more likely to be driven by other goals such as achieving a functional or hedonic benefit from the university (e.g., getting discount, getting an upgrade, getting a shout-out…), or as a form of self-expression (as in the case of Bill Costello’s video of reconstructing his dad’s BMW Motorcycle).

Finally, the type of content is also likely to vary:

  • eWoM is likely to consist mostly of informational content, such as product features, or consumer experience details.
  • UGC and SMM may be informational nature; but could also be in the form of entertainment or inspirational content.

Was this useful? Let me know if there are other terms or concepts that you would like me to clarify?

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