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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|2043||2013||8 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Business Research, Volume 66, Issue 2, February 2013, Pages 216–223
Brand communities represent highly valuable marketing, innovation management, and customer relationship management tools. However, applying successful marketing strategies today, and in the future, also means exploring and seizing the unprecedented opportunities of social network environments. This study combines these two social phenomena which have largely been researched separately, and aims to investigate the existence, functionality and different types of brand communities within social networks. The netnographic approach yields strong evidence of this existence; leading to a better understanding of such embedded brand communities, their peculiarities, and motivational drivers for participation; therefore the findings contribute to theory by combining two separate research streams. Due to the advantages of social networks, brand management is now able to implement brand communities with less time and financial effort; however, choosing the appropriate brand community type, cultivating consumers’ interaction, and staying tuned to this social engagement are critical factors to gain anticipated brand outcomes.
Community activity “is the biggest change in business in 100 years” (Ahonen & Moore, 2005). Community research has been an important topic in different areas over time. However, since the mid-nineties communities have experienced a renaissance, and have since risen in quantity and relevance; from the point of view of the consumers, the extensive and still growing accessibility of the internet boosts the participation in virtual communities worldwide; corporations, on the other hand, invest increasingly in their installation and maintenance. Forward-looking, communities will be important for consumers, as well as for marketers, as they represent a reaction to the lack of traditional forms of collectivization (Schouten & McAlexander, 1995): consumers gather, interact, and participate based on the “norm of reciprocity” (Chan & Li, 2010); without companies’ concerns that consumers might avoid relational devices (Ashley, Noble, Donthu, & Lemon, 2011). The recent development and success of such consumer communities, especially in virtual environments, show that “this form of online organization is creating a large impact in the business community” (Ganley & Lampe, 2009). Brand communities are a special form of consumer communities (Muniz & O'Guinn, 2001), and have become a major current issue in the study of brands, since they bind brand and community together. Social interactions between community members profoundly influence customers’ relationship with, and attitude towards, the brand (McAlexander, Schouten, & Koenig, 2002). These social formations offer many advantages (e.g., Brown, Kozinets, & Sherry, 2003), and serve as a tool to build strong and lasting relationships with customers (e.g., Algesheimer, Dholakia, & Herrmann, 2005). In addition to the rise and the high value of brand communities, “saying that networks are important is stating the obvious” (Cross, Liedtka, & Weiss, 2005). The actual numbers of selected online social networks are impressive. Facebook, for instance, reaches more than 500 million active users around the world in April 2011 (Facebook.com, 2011a), LinkedIn represents over 100 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world (LinkedIn.com, 2011), and Twitter counts 106 million people in April 2010, growing by a rate of 300,000 members a day (Huffingtonpost, 04/30/2010). “Along with other forms of computer mediated communication, they [social networking sites] have transformed consumers from silent, isolated and invisible individuals, into a noisy, public, and even more unmanageable than usual, collective” (Patterson, 2012). Consequently, successful contemporary brand strategies also entail exploring and seizing social network environments. In such virtual environments users often gather together in sub-groups with a specific brand in its center (Woisetschläger, Hartleb, & Blut, 2008), a brand-related community; consumers sharing their interest for a brand, exchange information and knowledge, or they simply express their affection for this specific brand. Muniz and O'Guinn (2001) introduce the concept of a network based brand community which they define as “a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand”. Hence, a brand community can exist everywhere, also virtually (Thompson & Sinha, 2008). This characteristic indicates that brand-related communities such as the Apple group with 110,015 members (Facebook.com, 2011b) or the Starbucks fan page with 21,238,192 members (Facebook.com, 2011c) potentially offer a multitude of benefits to marketers. Research during the last decade has investigated the existence of, and primarily social processes within, brand communities. From various studies, one can derive that social exchanges in brand communities exist throughout different product categories and branches, cultures, and different types of communities. The latter includes offline and online brand communities (Muniz and O'Guinn, 2001 and Muniz and Schau, 2005), small-group brand communities (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 2006a), virtual large network brand communities (Adjei, Noble, & Noble, 2010), and brandfests (Schouten, McAlexander, & Koenig, 2007). Consumers and companies connect in distinct and extended ways. Brand aficionados perceive social identities with small-group friendships groups, with virtual brand communities, with the brand, and with the company, all in a system of interconnected relationships (Bagozzi, Morandin, Bergami, & Marzocchi, 2012). Similarly, literature offers a range of studies in the fields of common virtual consumer communities (e.g., Algesheimer et al., 2010 and Dwyer, 2007), and online social networks (e.g., Cheung and Lee, 2010 and Raacke and Bonds-Raacke, 2008). However, to date, the existence, functionality and influences of brand communities and social networks have mainly been investigated separately. In fact, one of the few existing studies in this area researches the influence of customer-based brand equity on brand community dynamics and represent social networks as a well applicable environment for generating new brand community members; applying a quantitative research approach (Schäfer et al., 2011). A related study investigates the differences of consumer- versus marketer-generated brand communities (Sung, Kim, Kwon, & Moon, 2010), but does not focus on the distinct setting of a brand community within a social network. Thus, the combination of both venue and their coalesced meaning for marketing management and research still remain to be explored. Consequently, this paper aims to contribute to research by investigating the existence of brand communities embedded in a social network environment, and gaining further insights into the interplay of these related social concepts. Furthermore, building on recent identity research (Bagozzi et al., 2012), embedded brand communities allow their members to perceive multiple social identities: with the brand community, the brand, the company, and with the social network. Together with an analysis of the social and psychological processes of their members, this research seeks to contribute to marketing research and to help marketers understand how to best utilize such communities in social networks. The author therefore scrutinizes motivational drivers for participation, and differences between diverse types of sub-groups embedded in a social network. First, this article provides an overview of the literature on social network and brand community research, on which this research builds upon. The study then explains the design of the empirical study, the netnography approach. Finally, the discussion of the findings highlights contributions to marketing theory and practice, and lays down a number of implications for future research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper aims to investigate the existence of brand communities embedded in a social network environment. Brand communities within social networks do exist and they classify into different sub-groups based on dissimilarities. Contrary to generic virtual brand communities, members of embedded brand communities take two conscious decisions when joining the corresponding community: first, they join the social network, which is, in turn, the requirement to subsequently being able to participate in the embedded brand community. The key motivational antecedents for participation in the latter are: passion for the brand and the field of interest, willingness to learn and improve skills, social relation to others, and reception of information tailored to specific members’ needs (which individuals perceive as more objective and useful than information from other sources), entertainment, and enhancement of one's social position. Overall, both of the explored sub-groups show brand community characteristics. However, the strengths of these peculiarities differ. Specifically, the perceived membership due to consciousness of kind and social identity is more distinct in the group than on the fan page; in addition group members feel a higher moral responsibility and find better fulfillment of their need for information. The fan page, however, serves as a platform to convey concerns and suggestions to brand management and to receive social enhancement. Based on this results, the Facebook group, certainly states a clear brand community, showing strong value of all community markers, social identity, brand emotions, and the commercial character. The fan page, on the other hand, seems to embody a weaker form of a brand community; in general, brand community characteristics are present but the perceived membership in form of consciousness of kind and social identity are less salient; in addition social relations and the support of peers are of less importance. However, independent of the type of the sub-group, social networks offers spaces where brand communities may evolve. 5.1. Theoretical implications By demonstrating the existence of brand communities in a social network environment, this study contributes to brand community, identity, and social network research. Individuals interact with many social network members characterized by different interests, purposes and social identities. At the same time, they perceive shared consciousness of kind and a distinct social identity with certain peers; sub-group members share their enthusiasm for the same brand and interact regarding their object of interest. Consequently, consumers are members of both wider ranging and closer knit communities at the same time; they hold multiple memberships. These findings are in accordance with recent research that illustrates complex connections of consumer to organizations, including relations to the firm and the physical branded product, as well as to a small friendship group and virtual community, where both connect to the organization in a chain of relationships (Bagozzi et al., 2012). Similarly in the context of embedded brand communities, individuals’ social exchanges with other social network members, and certainly also group membership and participation in the corresponding brand community influence members’ identity. Thus, the investigation of members’ multiple social identities in embedded consumer communities and their multilevel interactions represent interesting fields for future research. Furthermore, these findings represent a contribution to brand community research as different types of brand communities have thus far only been considered based on the size of the group or the initiation (e.g., Bagozzi & Dholakia, 2006a). The findings of this study present the strengths of main brand community characteristics as distinctive criteria, instead. Furthermore, the characteristic of embeddedness describes a new form of brand community. Finally, this study validates the Muniz and O'Guinn (2001)) brand community conceptualization in a completely different setting, namely in a social network environment. With regard to social network research, this study demonstrates the partitioning of social networks’ users into further sub-groups. This finding also adds to prior research, which showed that many networks feature the property of community structure, “in which network nodes are joined together in tightly knit groups, between which there are only looser connections” (Girvan & Newman, 2002). Individuals satisfy several needs by participating in specialized, embedded communities; thereby, the social network offers its members additional benefits and consequently, users’ loyalty towards the social network rises. Furthermore, brand communities embedded in social networks also represent an environment in which marketers can leverage identity synergy. Consumers’ involvement with a community facilitates their pursuit of other important social identities. To the extent that individuals perceive identity synergy they, in turn, identify with the enabling entity (Fombelle, Jarvis, Ward, & Ostrom, 2012). 5.2. Managerial implications For marketers the results of this research demonstrate the possibility to create brand communities without the enormous effort of building and owning online platforms, or promoting independent websites, etc. Instead, using social networks offers brand management benefits: the access to unbelievable numbers of consumers, at low costs, high speed and ease of applicability. In addition, the findings help marketers choose which tools are more suitable to build brand communities within social network environments, and under which circumstances these tools should be used. As groups state true brand communities, they are more appropriate to build long-term relationships between and with groups of members. Furthermore, they appear to be more efficient in customer-to-customer based information exchange and learning. In contrast, fan pages offer enormous communicational means and the possibility to reach a large audience fast. Finally, being aware of the reasons for participation, marketers have the possibility to directly correspond to the social network and enable customer to satisfy their need by the means of brand community membership. In accordance to the findings of this study, Facebook independently further highlighted the differences of group and fan pages. The company changed the name of the latter into ‘Facebook page’, which they now define as “a public profile that enables you to share your business and products with Facebook users. Create one in a few minutes with our simple interface” (Facebook.com, 2011f). In contrast, Facebook groups offer users to share things privately or publicly with a certain group of people (Facebook.com, 2011g). Consequently, Facebook pages and groups are comparable to marketer-generated and consumer-generated brand communities (Sung et al., 2010). 5.3. Limitations and future research One possible topic of sub-groups embedded in a social network, is a certain brand. People declare themselves as a member or devotee of such a sub-group by joining. This study presents individuals who conduct a social categorization and become a member of a brand-related group or a fan page, being brand devotees. However, probably also other sub-groups within Facebook exist that are brand-related but not true brand communities; their participants lack in, for example, brand emotions and affective social identity; instead, they might only be superficially interested in the branded products, and consequently do not embody real brand community members. The community under study has the highest degree of interactivity of all compared groups based on the Interbrand ranking. Although this study demonstrates the existence of brand communities embedded in social networks, future research should conduct additional studies in order to allow generalization statements; further studies should also investigate the impact of such brand communities on social network members’ behavior, as well as explore the reciprocal influence of the social network and the community. Finally, the processes of building a brand community within a social network represent an interesting field for future research, and could be approached by conducting a long term empirical study including different stages of such a community.