Having a social media based brand community (SMBBC) is becoming a vital part of having a successful business model with an active consumer group. Traditional ways of reaching customers are fading, while social media influence is increasing. The rise in social media comes with an ideal opportunity to build brand communities, since they often overlap with social media. Previous research has shown that brand communities based on social media influence relationships among customer and brand, product, trust and loyalty (Laroche et al, 2013). However, the research about the benefits and consequences of brand communities based on social media platforms is limited. This article develops a conceptual framework that shows how building blocks of a brand community established on social media can influence brand trust.
Strengths of the paper
The article clearly describes the role of different factors that have an impact on the building blocks of a brand community, for instance consumer relationships with product, brand, company and other consumers (McAlexander et al., 2002). Furthermore, they clearly describe the current main three research streams about brand communities. They also discuss that brand communities can be vastly different based on social contexts and forms, and that there for the outcomes of the communities are very different. After this, they mention the importance of trust for brands, which can be improved by decreasing information asymmetry, by giving more information about product and brand. This leads back perfectly to the benefits of SMBBCs. Also, the methodology used for this article is clearly described. They used an online questionnaire that was answered by people who were part of a brand community. The final sample consisted of 569 questionnaires with 284 different brand communities. The largest age range was 21-30-year-old people (51%), with about 80% of respondents saying that that they logged in to their social networking site once or multiple times a day, while 49% of respondents also checked for their personal brand community at least once per day. This seems like a very representative sample for the population. The hypothesis that followed were clearly described and elaborated on. The rejection of one of the hypothesis, that the customer-other customers relationship negatively influences brand trust, was explained by the lack of hierarchy that could influence trust in other members, which I found an interesting conclusion.
Weakness of the paper
The return of investment for social media and SMBCC’s is shortly discussed in the article, but only by discussing the challenges of determining this rate. They could have focused more on what kind of ROI’s there are for business social media usage, and also mention the key differences compared to traditional marketing. Also, they mention that consumers make strong relationships with different aspects of brand communities based on their primary consumption motivations, but which motivations are indicators of future behavior of consumers in a brand community? Also, they form a hypothesis that consumers with high engagement have stronger relationships with a brand than people with low engagement, but that was already clear from the literature research that was done in a previous chapter. Instead of this, they could have focused more on brand value impacting trust for example, since I think people will trust a firm with a high brand value more easily. Additionally, the 284 brand communities that were used for answering the questionnaire could have been specified more. Since the sample included so many different brand communities, I think it is important to conduct more specific studies across various product categories to find more insights that are linked to certain products.
One of the main marketing objectives for a company is often to gain consumers’ trust in their brand (Sirdeshmukh et al, 2002). Therefore, knowing if and how social media-based brand communities (SMBBCs) influence brand trust can be vital information. Consumers often have a need for a brand to feel ‘genuine’ before making a purchase, which is why a SMBBC can be the perfect tool for this by providing the interaction between customer and company. They clearly describe the importance of social media for brand communities, and that companies that use this to their advantage outperform other companies. There are five dimensions that make SMBBCs unique: social context, structure, scale, storytelling and affiliated brand communities. Studying these dimensions compared to previous brand communities is inevitable for managers to be sure that their company stays up to date.
Take away for researchers
The findings of the article show that customer-brand relationships add to brand trust through SMBBCs, but more research has to be done about negative relationships between customers occurring and what effect this has on the brand community. Negative posts or comments have five times the effect of positive ones (Corstjens & Umblijs, 2012; Powers et al., 2012), so moderating the brand community might be necessary. The disadvantage of this is that removing posts on a social media page could be seen as a censorship move from the brand which decreases the trust of consumers, which should be researched in more detail.
Article used: Habibi, M. R., Laroche, M., & Richard, M. O. (2014). The roles of brand community and community engagement in building brand trust on social media. Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 152-161.
Laroche, M., Habibi, M. R., & Richard, M. O. (2013). To be or not to be in social media: How brand loyalty is affected by social media?. International Journal of Information Management, 33(1), 76-82.
Sirdeshmukh, D., Singh, J., & Sabol, B. (2002). Consumer trust, value, and loyalty in relational exchanges. Journal of marketing, 66(1), 15-37.
McAlexander, J. H., Schouten, J. W., & Koenig, H. F. (2002). Building brand community. Journal of Marketing, 66(1), 38–54
Powers, T., Advincula, D., Austin, M. S., Graiko, S., & Snyder, J. (2012). Digital and social media in the purchase decision process: A special report from the Advertising Research Foundation. Journal of Advertising Research, 52(4), 479–489.