Written by Jule Radeke
Facebook – the Phoenix under the social media network sites – launched a Facebook page community concept…
“[Facebook] Community Pages let you connect with others who share similar interests and experiences” (Facebook.com, 2010)
whereas literature revealed that
“Customer engagement is a concept that has emerged recently to capture customers’ total set of behavioural activities towards a firm” (Gummerus et al., 2014, p.587)
This contrasting juxtaposition makes oneself wonder in how far these two concepts are combinable. When customer engagement is becoming more and more important how could the new concept of Facebook-fan-page-brand-communities be of added value? And if so, how could brand managers possibly use these two concepts and turn them to their advantages?
LET’S START FROM THE BEGINNING
In the early age of the internet, brand managers tended to simply replicate offline marketing activities online, underestimating the growing power of social media (Chrisodoulides, 2009). Over the years, however, every single marketing campaign turned out to require a so-called 360° marketing campaign approach, indicating the paramount importance of involving, connecting and meeting the customer on social media platforms (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). Accordingly, brand managers had to quickly understand the increasing importance of such ‘windows to the world’ tools and started engaging into a many-to-many communication with the online customer (Chrisodoulides, 2009). Subsequently, new possibilities arose on how to engage with the customer in order to deliver the brand promise online (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). Marketers found a way by using their brands as ‘legitimate relationship partner’ (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). In other words, brands can be compared to human beings that help customers in making decisions and fulfilling their needs (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013).
Unquestionably, this development brought implications concerning the customer engagement and the overall brand customer relationship. Accordingly, this blog post will, to the researcher’s knowledge, be the first attempt to look at Facebook-fan-page-brand-communities as a customer brand engagement relationship tool. The aim is further to look at why and how brand managers should implement such tool.
The first blog post will reveal theoretical contributions by examining relevant literature. Within the second blog post these theoretical contributions will be brought to life by looking at current Facebook-fan-page-brand-communities examples. The blog post eventually ends with recommendations for brand managers.
TAKING THE CUSTOMER BRAND RELATIONSHIP ONE STEP FURTHER
Over the years, the idea of forming and strengthening the customer brand relationship in times of social media has become highly important for a brand’s overall performance (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). Within this context, Fournier (1994; 1998) conceptualized the idea around customer brand relationships. In his conception, the customer and the brand are within a dyadic relationship; comparable to a relationship between two people (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). Herewith, the brand relationship “can imbue unique meaning to the customer […] and can help customers develop and communicate something about who they are, who they were, or who they aspire to be” (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013, p.201).
The customer brand engagement theory discussed by Hollebeek et al. (2014) further states that the customer brand involvement, which reflects the level of interest and personal relevance for the customer, has experienced a shift towards a more “focal interactive customer brand relationships […] in specific social media settings” (p.149). In other words, with the rise of social media, the ingredient of ‘engagement’ became more essential for the customer brand relationship. This development further implies that the role of the customer shifted from being passive to being active (Hollebeek et al., 2014). The scholars Cova and Pave (2006) describe this evolvement as the “act of customers seizing control of a brand’s ideology, use and persona” as the Serendipitous hijack phenomena and acknowledge that the brand hijack phenomenon “is even more accentuated when the interactions with the brand take place online” (p.1090). This interactive and engaging approach naturally led to the presence of brands on social media platforms and further evolved into what can be called online-brand-community engagement (Hollebeck et al., 2014).
ONLINE-BRAND-COMMUNITIES AND CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT – A COMPATIBLE CONTRADICTION?
The first concept and definition evolving around brand communities was introduced by the scholars Wirtz et al. (2013, p.224) as “a specialized, non-geographically bound (online) community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand”. The existence of such online-brand-communities were introduced with the rise of mass media and modern marketing (Wirtz et al., 2013), whereby the sudden high customer-brand engagement led to the proliferation of online communities. Accordingly, brand managers started to embrace online-brand-communities “[…] and by 2012, some 50 percent of the top 100 global brands had established an online-brand-community” (Wirtz et al., 2013, p.224). The scholars Cova and Page (2006) refer to online-brand-communities even as ‘customer tribes’ or ‘brand tribes’, indicating that customer engagement can be interpreted as the highest form of loyalty.
Such customer engagement is defined as “behaviours [that] go beyond transactions, and may be specifically defined as a customer’s behavioural manifestations that have a brand or firm focus, beyond purchase, resulting from motivational drivers” (Gummerus et al., 2013, p.4). Noteworthy, Writz et al. (2013) provide another, yet very essential customer engagement definition: “the customer’s intrinsic motivation to interact and cooperate with community members”, which refers to the positive influence of a customer’s identification with the brand community. The activities of such an customer engagement can range from word-of-mouth recommendations, blogging, tweeting, pinning or writing reviews, helping other customers or engaging in actions and campaigns (Gummerus et al., 2013).
Not surprisingly, literature, as shortly mentioned above, divulges that customer engagement is believed to have a direct and positive correlation to numerous customer brand relationship outcomes, such as satisfaction and loyalty, making online-brand-communities highly attractive for brand managers (Writz et al, 2013). Moreover, customers with a strong online-brand-community commitment tend to have an overall strong brand commitment, which is expressed in the phenomenon that they become “vested in the successes and failures of the brand” (Writz et al., 2013, p.235).
When referring to the essential idea of engagement the concept of involvement seems worth mentioning since literature indicates that these terms are nearly interchangeably (No author, 2012). Hereby, literature states that engagement encompasses an emotional connection to the brand, incorporating feelings like love, passion and devotion to one particular brand.” (No author, 2012, p.4). Involvement, on the other hand, refers to the “cognitive effort exhibited towards a product category” (No author, 2012, p.4). Making these theoretical thoughts more feasible; involvement would be an indicator of interest (how many Facebook likes does a brand has), which would than naturally lead to the engagement with the particular (Facebook-fan-page-brand) community (No author, 2012).
Logically, researchers have started recommending managers to create such online-brand-communities and to leverage on “the existence of tribes of individuals impassioned by a brand” (Cove and Pave, 2006, p. 1089)
FACEBOOK – THE ANSWER TO ALL BRAND MANAGER’S PRAYERS?
Just like the mythical Phoenix bird arising out of its own ashes, Facebook arose out of the growing social media trend in 2004. Today, Facebook is the largest social networking site with currently 890 million daily active users globally (Facebook.com, 2014). With 63% daily user engagement, who share, post, text, hence, interact and connect with their friends and family, this social media channel is of great significance for brands (Latka, 2014). Not surprisingly, brand managers are leveraging on Facebook’s mission “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Facebook.com, 2014a). As a result, many brands have a strong presence on Facebook since it additionally has the “ability to facilitate multiplicative exposure and its suitability as a relationship enhancing tool” (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013, p.202).
A Facebook-fan-page can become a brand’s very own and personal profile (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). In other words, the brand becomes a public-face, an additional touch-point and some kind of ‘information hub’, with which the users can easily connect and engage (Turri, Smith, & Kemp, 2013). This application is seemingly fitting to the aforementioned literature, stating that customers have the need to publicly express their brand affection and their overall desire for identification on social media platforms.
Moreover, through every Facebook fan an average of 34 of their friends can be reached, which undoubtedly sounds like music in brand manager’s ears (Pereira et.al, 2014). The brand‘s fan is hereby seeking for advantages such as being the first to gain the newest information and accessing to exclusive content (Pereira et.al, 2014).
Furthermore, active advertising on Facebook has been proven to increase brand awareness and, subsequently, purchase intention (Pereira et.al, 2014).
Lastly, the governance of Facebook-fan-page-brand-communities seems worth mentioning. Here, the perception of customers is influenced by the information of if the (community) site has been established in order to (1) sorely promote the firms product or if the site was member-initiated (2) to independently gather people with the same brand-specific interests (Gummerus et al., 2012).