Traditional word-of-mouth versus electronic: Which has more influence?

Whitney Lehman, assistant professor of communication at Nova Southeastern University, recently studied students’ perceived influence of electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) on their college search and choice compared to that of traditional word-of-mouth (WOM). Lehman found that traditional WOM had a greater perceived influence on students’ college choice than eWOM. In addition, eWOM had a greater perceived influence during the search phase than during the choice phase and a greater perceived influence when consumed on online reviews/forums than when consumed on social networking sites.

Lehman’s study, which was featured in the latest C&U Journal, used an online questionnaire to survey 276 first-time, non-transfer undergraduate freshmen students at the University of Miami.

“[S]tudents reported that word-of-mouth, college Web sites, college planning/ranking Web sites, online reviews/comments (eWOM), campus tours, and college e-mail were more influential sources of information than were social media when making an enrollment decision,” Lehman wrote. “Nevertheless, these findings should not be taken to mean that social media do not play a role in the college choice process or that marketing and recruitment officials should stop creating and maintaining official college social media. One-third of students reported that they used eWOM when making an application decision, and one-fourth of students reported that they used eWOM when making an enrollment decision.”

Other features in this issue include: From “AICE-ing” the Test to Earning the Degree: Enrollment and Graduation Patterns among Students with the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Diploma, by Carmen Vidal Rodeiro, Cara Crawford, and Stuart Shaw; and Revolutionizing Academic Records: A Student Perspective, by Jesse Parish, Rodney Parks, and Jack Fryer.  

This edition also continues a series on mentoring and includes articles on Disney educational experiences on college campuses; leadership; and mission and vision in the registrar’s office.


For more information, or to submit a manuscript, please contact Managing Editor Heather Zimar at