Facebook Pages and Benefits to Brands

By Elizabeth E. Bushelow
Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications
2012, Vol. 3 No. 2 | pg. 2/4 |

Engagement and interaction

According to Lin (2011), "Operators of fan pages should increase opportunities for fans to interact to promote the development of deeper relationships both among fans and between fans and the organization" (p. 568). Social interaction ties increase the value of the trust that people have in brand communities (Lin & Lu, 2011). Increasing interaction between fans develops relationships among them and between them and the brand, which in turn add value to the brand as a whole. Social interaction among fans and between the fans and the brand facilitates shares value and trust of fan pages. Facebook encourages individuals to share information about themselves, and exchange thoughts and opinions with others.

College-aged students, who were the original users of Facebook, developed an online culture, and brands need to be aware of it when using the site for advertising. According to Vorvoreanu (2009), Facebook users want to interact with brands on their own terms and would prefer that brands do not use an "in-yourface" strategy. College-aged students also believe that the official corporate webpage, email, and telephone are more appropriate channels than Facebook for dealing specifically with customer service as well as brand policies and issues. Facebook is appropriate for increasing awareness of large brands, but not for in-depth conversation between the brand and its publics. In comparison, small companies can be more successful on Facebook because their size allows for more personal communication.

McCorkindale (2010) found in her study of Fortune 50 companies' efforts on Facebook that most companies are not using Facebook to its full potential. Most Fortune 50 companies are not using Facebookto share company information and disseminate information to their publics. Similarly, Waters, Burnett, Lamm,and Lucas (2009) concluded that nonprofits recognize what benefits social networking sites provide, but fail to take advantage of them. Facebook allows companies and nonprofits to disseminate information through press releases, photographs, and videos, but more companies need to take advantage of these opportunities (McCorkindale, 2010; Waters, Burnett, Lamm, & Lucas, 2009). The ability to share information allows a company or nonprofit to be honest and transparent and aids in the development of trust.

Many companies are not taking advantage of the two-way communication opportunities that Facebook offers (McCorkindale, 2011; Waters, et al., 2009). Companies need to be more engaged with their Facebook fans to give them an incentive to return to the page.

Brand loyalty and purchase intentions

Wilimzig (2011) suggested that association with a brand community implies some sort of brand loyalty, regardless of community participation and feelings of association. Consumers turn to online brand communities as a trustworthy and reliable source for brand related information (Punjumiemi, 2009). These online brand communities are convenient, easily accessible, and enable consumers with similar brand preferences to interact with one another. Lee (2009) concluded that loyalty to a brand community predicts brand loyalty.

Therefore, participation in a brand community has a positive effect on loyalty to a brand.

Brand loyalty affects brand community members' purchase intentions (Lee, 2009). Wilimzig (2011) concluded that a high sense of association with a brand community suggests that group members are more likely to purchase that brand. Data collected indicated that members of brand communities are more sensitive to advertising and therefore have a greater likelihood of purchase. The more a consumer gets involved with the brand community, the more likely they are to model their purchasing behavior on other community members (Punjumiemi, 2009).

Uses and Gratifications Theory

The Uses and Gratifications Theory argues that "audiences use media to meet their needs and fulfill their personal gratification" (Lee, 2009, p. 16). According to Blumler and Katz, as cited in Davis et al. (2009), this theory emphasizes "the active role of the audience in making choices and being goal directed" (p. 2). An individual's goals and priorities drive what information is consumed and by what means he or she uses to consume that information.

According to Rubin (as cited in Lee, 2009), audiences can be divided into ritualized and instrumental audiences. A ritualized audience focuses on the medium itself, rather than the content. The ritualized audience is more habitual in their actions. In comparison, an instrumental audience, who is goal-oriented, selects the media based on their content.

According to Sicilia and Palazon (as cited in Lee, 2009), "the gratification of individual needs in a virtual community depends on the perceived value of being a member" (p. 17). Virtual communities offer functional, social, and entertainment values. The functional values allude to an individual's need to give and seek information and advice. Social values cover friendship and social enhancement. Finally, entertainment values are fun and relaxation from an individual's interaction with others.

III. Research questions

Previous research suggests that individuals join brand communities or like Facebook fan pagesfor both entertainment and fun purposes as well as goal-oriented reasons. Facebook users feel that there must be a sense of trust in the page before they like the page. In order to cultivate trust, a fan page must be authentic, transparent, and honest. A Facebook fan page is a two-way method of advertising that allows for interaction and engagement between brands and community members. Researchers have found that beinga member of a brand community indicates some affiliation with that brand through brand loyalty and purchase intentions. Previous research fails to identify what implications the like button has for a brand. This research will aim to answer the following research questions:

  • RQ1: What types of relationships might exist between the amount of time an individual interacts with a fan page (playing games, viewing photos, watching videos, commenting, participating in contests, etc.) and that individual's brand loyalty?
  • RQ2: How does liking a page on Facebook indicate a user's affiliation with that brand?
  • RQ3: Is there a relationship between the amount of time an individual interacts with a Facebook fan page and the likelihood that the individual will purchase the product or service promoted by that page?
  • RQ4: How does becoming a fan of a brand on Facebook predict that individual's purchase intentions?

IV. Methodology

Data were collected through an online survey, a link to which was active for five days. Some survey questions were adapted from previous studies. The online survey was advertised to the researcher's Facebook network via three status updates on three separate days. The survey was posted over a five-day period from March 30, 2012 through April 3, 2012. Further, the researcher emailed classmates to encourage them to take the survey. Among the researcher's 878 Facebook friends and 60 classmates who received emails, 104 (11% response rate) completed the online survey. The survey assumed that participants are active Facebook users because most saw the survey link through the researcher's posts on Facebook. This survey, based on a convenience sample, aimed to discover why the participants like Facebook fan pages, how often they visitand interact with the pages that they like, and for what purposes they like Facebook fan pages. Survey questions can be found in the Appendix.

Before completing the survey, participants were informed of the study purpose and the general outline of the survey. The online survey took approximately 10 minutes to complete. Respondents were given the opportunity to opt out of the survey any time before submitting by closing the browser window.

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