Monday, April 30, 2007

Taslim Sidi's Reflection Essay

Context for this post

Based on my involvement and observation of word of mouth episodes (WOME) over the course of the semester, I determined there were distinct patterns within my communication practices. As I spend the majority of my time during the week in classes, working, and doing homework, I generally don’t get to spend a lot of time with friends or peers. Therefore, a lot of my conversations took place in an online venue, either through email or on a message board. These online conversations tended to be shorter, in both interaction time and in brand conversation time than my face-to-face communications. This was correlated to the fact that my conversation venue determined my level of trust towards my conversation partner. For example, in my WOME #2, I discussed Bare Essentials makeup on a semi private (because you do have to be a member) message board. Of all my recorded episodes, I had the least amount of trust in my conversation partner and also I had the least personal relationship with this person. On the other hand, my last recorded WOME was a face-to-face conversation with one of my best friends. Even though we were in the presence of others (three males), the trust between conversational partners was very high.

If anything, the three male spectators during my last recorded conversation influenced the topic of WOM rather than the quality of the communication. It was interesting to me to consider the nature of gender in regards to WOME over the semester. Though the details of conversational spectators were not in the reports, my online conversation was between females with female spectators. In these instances where I was addressing only women, I talked about makeup and celebrity gossip, two topics that could be gendered female. In my face-to-face conversation, WOMES #3, when we were in the presence of males, we discussed beer, or a topic that could be thought of as more masculine.

Additionally, brands seemed to introduce other brands into a conversation. For example, in the first WOME I recorded, my friend (female) and I were discussing celebrity gossip. Our conversation included the best way to find out about celebrity gossip, via blogger Perez Hilton, and also various celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, that could be considered brands. Similarly, my 3rd WOM conversation started about Edison Light beer, which my friend was conducting market tests on, and diverged into a comparison of that brand with other brands we preferred such as Bud Light, or Coors Light. Each brand became a gateway to talk about other brands, which I think is very telling of how I have conversations.

Throughout the semester I have been assessing how I discuss brands or products with my friends and others. Although the event or meeting in which a WOME took place might have been prearranged, any WOM occurred as a result of casual conversation. Many times the actual conversation was fueled by a brand, evidence of the commercialization of chitchat. Most conversations were not to recommend one brand over another, more so to simply discuss our experiences with a product, as a way of storytelling.

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