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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|2021||2012||11 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Research in Marketing, Volume 29, Issue 4, December 2012, Pages 395–405
How do consumers represent their identities on online social media platforms? In this article, we focus on consumers' use of brands on their Facebook pages as subtle cues to represent their selves. Although recent research suggests that consumers present an actual, not an ideal self, our data reveal that veridical presentations of the actual self through brands rarely exist. Furthermore, we contribute to an understanding of how multiple selves interact to inform brand connections. We offer insights into how and why consumers either blend or integrate their actual and ideal selves or choose one of them exclusively when these selves conflict. Additional contributions and future directions in the areas of self, branding, and social media are discussed.
Scholars have investigated the presentation of the self online since the early days of the internet (e.g., McKenna and Bargh, 1998 and McKenna and Bargh, 2000). One key question of interest in this stream of research has concerned whether people present an accurate version of themselves online, a more idealized version of themselves, or both (Bargh, McKenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002). Early studies of online impression formation focused on relatively anonymous online environments, such as chat rooms, bulletin boards, product discussion forums, and gaming websites. These studies generally concluded that, due to the anonymity of these environments, users tend to construct idealized versions of themselves without fear of disapproval and social sanction from those in their off-line social circles (e.g., Bargh et al., 2002 and Walther, 1996). For instance, a study of a prominent online gaming site shows that players create virtual, alternate selves who embody aspects of the players' ideal selves (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007). As the media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, new online platforms have altered the ways in which people interact with one another. At least 75% of adults who use the internet use social media (Stephen and Galak, 2010 and Urstadt, 2008). Social networking sites (SNSs), which fall under the umbrella of social media, have recently become prominent. SNSs such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, attract more than 90% of young adults and teens, and represent over a quarter of all internet traffic (Trusov, Bodapati, & Bucklin, 2010). Consistent with the growing research on human brands (Close et al., 2011 and Thomson, 2006), there is a renewed interest in how people present themselves online, especially in the context of these SNSs. A great deal of interest is centered on Facebook, the largest SNS, boasting 640 million members worldwide, with 165 million of these members residing in the United States (Stone, 2010). There are key characteristics of Facebook that distinguish it from other forms of social media, and even from other social networking sites such as Twitter and MySpace. Facebook users are “primarily communicating with people who are already part of their extended social network” (Boyd & Ellison, 2009, p. 210), and these users, or “friends,” are all visible within their networks. In other words, Facebook represents a means for individuals to continue their offline relationships and conversations in an online medium. In addition, within each network lies a certain degree of visibility through features including wall posts and public displays of connections. Indeed, Facebook use is shown to be significantly associated with the maintenance and creation of social capital (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). Recent research on Facebook examined the conveyed personalities of users' profiles to test the validities of the idealized virtual identity hypothesis (that Facebook users' profiles display idealized information that does not reflect their personalities) and the extended real-life hypothesis (that Facebook users' profiles display information to communicate their real personalities) (Back et al., 2010). The research concluded that consumers present an actual, but not an ideal, version of themselves on this social networking platform. The authors' proposed explanation for this finding that an idealized version of the self is not reflected in users' profiles is that creating idealized identities should be hard to accomplish, primarily because “friends provide accountability and subtle feedback on one's profile” (Back et al., 2010, p. 372). In other words, Facebook “friends” might question the validity of information if it does not reflect their perceptions of the person. With the current research, we aim to build on this literature studying consumers' expressions of self via Facebook to complement and extend these findings. Specifically, we focus on consumers' use of brands as subtle cues to represent their selves. Brand mentions are arguably the most relevant and important aspect of this medium to marketers, and can include “liking” a brand by publicly linking it to one's profile, as well as mentions of brands in other subtle ways, such as through narratives, photographs, and profile activities and interests. While it has been noted that consumers may use brands to identify themselves with specific subcultures and/or identities online (Stern, 2004), we have a limited understanding of what purpose these brand linkages serve in the expression of consumer identities in SNSs. Thus, we aim to shed light on two important questions. First, how do users present their identities through brands on Facebook—do they represent the actual self, the ideal self, or both? As a limiting condition to recent research concluding that Facebook profiles reflect actual but not ideal selves, we propose and show that consumers may present both actual and ideal versions of themselves through the brands that they publicly associate with on Facebook. Second, and perhaps more importantly, how do consumers use brands to blend their actual and ideal selves when these identities are congruous, or cope when these identities are incongruous? As we will discuss later in more detail, Facebook has a number of characteristics (e.g., its ubiquitous nature, high visibility, direct connection to a sizable and heterogeneous network of known individuals) that provide unique and interesting conditions for investigating the interaction of multiple selves and the incorporation of brands in consumer self-expression. We aim to make at least three important contributions with this article. First, we respond to a call for further research on identity and brands. Kirmani (2009, p. 274) notes that research is needed “to pursue issues dealing with the intersection of identity and brands” to offer theoretical and substantive insights in this area. According to congruity theory, consumers tend to prefer brands that are congruent with certain aspects of their identities (Sirgy, 1985). However, this literature is relatively silent on how multiple identities interact to inform brand preference. We aim to extend this theory by shedding light not only on how consumers choose brands that are congruent with their selves but also how and why consumers publicly link themselves to brands to resolve conflicts engendered by different salient aspects of the self. Second, we extend the current knowledge on how consumers use brands as cues to represent themselves, in the context of the most well-known and most used social networking platform: Facebook. Whereas most prior research has examined brand-self congruence in the context of offline measures, such as brand perceptions and purchase intent, we examine the ways in which consumers directly and publicly link themselves to a brand to present their selves on a prominent social networking platform. This is important as it has been noted that the particular self that consumers choose to express may be dependent on contextual factors (Schenk & Holman, 1980). Third, this research builds on the recent literature by providing an improved understanding of consumers' self-presentations on SNSs. To complement recent research showing that Facebook profiles reflect only actual, and not ideal, versions of the self (Back et al., 2010), we show that by using brands as subtle cues, consumers do indeed communicate idealized versions of their selves, and even more so in aggregate than their actual selves. Overall, this research builds on a strong foundation of work employing qualitative methods to explore new media (e.g., Brown et al., 2007 and Kozinets et al., 2010). The remainder of this manuscript is organized as follows. Next, we review the literatures on brands and the self and self-expression with regard to different aspects of the self. Then, we introduce our methodology and findings. Finally, we conclude by discussing the implications for firms and future research directions.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Individuals represent aspects of their selves to others in their online social networks. Even in the absence of the nonverbal cues that characterize offline communications, people use whatever information is available online to form impressions of others (Walther & Parks, 2002). In the context of Facebook, most prior impression formation research focuses on sociometric data regarding the user's “friends” (Tong et al., 2008 and Walther et al., 2008). Less research, however, is focused on impressions formed based on information posted directly by a user (for an exception, see Back et al., 2010). Importantly, the information that is directly created or posted by a Facebook user (e.g., brands “liked” by the user) can also be used to mold others' impressions of him or herself. Consumers are networked to other users on this platform, and within each network lies a certain degree of visibility through features including wall posts and public displays of connections. Indeed, the online environment allows for a transcendence of physical and material constraints, thus facilitating consumers' extensions of self, even in the absence of material possessions (Zhao & Belk, 2007). Whereas earlier research suggests that Facebook users' profiles reflect only the actual self (Back et al., 2010), our findings present evidence of the use of brands to express both the actual and ideal selves. Back et al.'s (2010) study of self-expression on Facebook was conducted at a relatively high level of inquiry, examining users' Facebook profiles as a whole. Our unique methodology and tighter focus on brands allow for a deeper understanding and discovery of more subtle ideal-self expressions that slipped “under the radar” in earlier research. Indeed, we find that most people edit their presented selves in some motivated way. Over half of our participants self-reported expressing the ideal self to a greater extent than the actual self in their linkages to brands. Furthermore, participants revealed two subcomponents of the ideal self: ideal self-representation and ideal self-presentation. Ideal self-representation involves an expansion of the actual self (self-enhancement), while ideal self-presentation is a limitation of the actual self (self-protection). Thus, we identify reflections of self in this novel context that appear to have gone undetected in prior work. An interesting finding of this research is that the ideal and actual selves often conflict on Facebook. Consequently, we contribute to the literature on how multiple selves interact to inform brand connections. Due to the virtual nature of Facebook as a unified platform for networking, consumers are forced to present a single persona to a wide range of acquaintances. In deciding how to express the self on Facebook, we find that participants' actual and ideals selves either blend (congruous) or conflict (incongruous). Users express their identities through brand linkages depending on the nature of the congruity (or lack thereof). When the identities are congruous, participants present either the actual or ideal self to a greater extent by linking with brands; however, aspects of both the actual and ideal exist. Therefore, we found evidence of a blending of the two identities. In other words, participants use a mix of brands representing both the actual and ideal selves, but typically more brands will represent either the actual or ideal self. When the identities are incongruous, participants take one of two routes in an effort to resolve the incongruity: linking with brands to enhance and protect the self-concept (i.e., ideal only strategy), or abstaining from linking to brands altogether. The avoidance of some brands and the embrace of others is a means through which users express aspects of their self-concepts. As the usage of social media platforms such as Facebook continues to increase, it is important for marketers to understand whyconsumers link with certain brands and avoid others as a form of self-expression. Our study sheds light on the importance that marketers need to place on their social media promotional efforts. Participants in our study conveyed that brands can send powerful virtual messages. Furthermore, our findings demonstrate that a brand's online image is just as important as its offline image, and possibly more important. Consistent with self-concept theory, consumers behave in ways that maintain, enhance, and protect their senses of self (Cheema & Kaikati, 2010), and one way consumers do this is by linking with brands on Facebook to portray a certain image to others.