Facebook Pages and Benefits to Brands

By Elizabeth E. Bushelow
Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications
2012, Vol. 3 No. 2 | pg. 1/4 |

Abstract

Facebook fan pages allow a brand to create an online community of brand users through the social networking site. By pressing Facebook's "like" button, a Facebook user can become a fan of the page and can interact with the brand and other consumers. This research aimed to examine whether liking and interacting with a Facebook fan page has an effect on brand loyalty and purchase intentions, and Facebook fan pages create an online brand community. An analysis of 104 online survey responses indicates that interaction with fan pages is not a strong indicator of consumer brand loyalty or purchase intentions, suggesting that brand communities are not formed on the basis of liking a page.

I. Introduction

As an increasing number of people get their news and connect to others through social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, brands are turning to social networking sites to supplement their communication with consumers. With over 845 million users, Facebook is currently the largest social networking site ("Fact Sheet," 2012). Facebook allows users to connect and interact with others, express themselves, and maintain social relationships. On average, Facebook reports 483 million user logins each day. Kerpen (2011) describes social networking sites as a cocktail party where anyone can listen to what others are talking about, and can join the conversation if they wish. But what makes social networking more effective than one's average cocktail party is that instead of joining just one conversation, one has the ability to have conversationswith thousands or millions of people at once.

With such a large user base, Facebook is becoming a popular tool for public relations and advertising professionals to reach mass audiences. Facebook fan pages allow brands to create an online community of brand users on the social networking site. These public profiles, which operate in a similar manner to individual user profiles, allow a brand to share information and post updates, photos, and more. According to Facebook fan pages, "by leveraging the real connections between friends on Facebook, a public profile lets users connect to what they care about. Facebook pages give you a more dynamic relationship with the public figures and organizations you are interested in" ("Facebook Pages," n.d.). As of December 2011, there were over 37 million fan pages with 10 or more "likes" ("Fact Sheet," 2012). Fan pages create an online presence for a brand and allow the brand to actively engage with its publics. To join the community, a user simply hasto click the like button to subscribe to information and updates from the brand.

Facebook's like button was introduced to the public in April of 2010 (Kerpen, 2011). The like button receives over one billion clicks each day and allows Facebook users to express approval of pages, photos, statuses, articles, and more. Kerpen (2011) claims that it is this personalization of the web that is driving the social media revolution. The like button is a powerful tool because after it is pressed, Facebook shows the individual's entire network what he or she has just liked, spreading information and affiliations in a viral manner. Therefore, when an individual likes any page on Facebook, the individual's Facebook friends can see which page that person liked.

While a lot of research examined individuals' motivations behind joining a brand community and liking a Facebook fan page, only limited research has looked at what implications the like button has for brands.

A fan page may have millions of likes, but is clicking the like button a reliable measure of brand loyalty and purchase intentions? What is individuals' intention when they like a Facebook fan page? Using the Uses and Gratifications Theory as a theoretical framework, this research tested whether or not an individual becomes a member of a brand community when he or she likes a fan page and examined how liking and interacting with a fan page affects brand loyalty and purchase intentions. Overall, the research will help determine if Facebook fan pages are an effective and useful tool in communicating with consumers.

II. Literature Review

This study extends the Uses and Gratifications Theory to test whether or not liking a Facebook fan page influences brand loyalty and purchase intentions. This section examined previous research on Facebook fan pages, brand communities, brand loyalty, and purchase intentions.

Online Brand Communities

A brand community is a group of individuals forming ties and relationships centered on a brand (Muniz & O'Guinn, 2001). According to Muniz and O'Guinn, "a brand community is a specialized, non-geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand" (p. 412). Like a traditional community, a brand community is defined by a shared sense of belonging in the community, shared rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility.

According to Muniz and O'Guinn (2001), brand communities are causing a shift from the consumerbrand dyad to the consumer-brand-consumer triad. In the triad, a brand is viewed as a social object, which is developed and constructed by consumer feedback and consumer insight, giving the consumer an active role in the brand's development. Consumers become active loyalists who are committed to that brand. Ad-ditionally, brand communities allow the consumer to have a greater voice and provide its members with social benefits.

For the brand, a community allows it to share information about the brand, its history, and its culture of the brand (Muniz & O'Guinn, 2001). Further, a brand can become an informational resource for the members of the community and provide customer service. Creating a strong brand community is a key step in developing a strong relationship marketing strategy. A brand community leads to interpersonal bonds between a consumer and the brand, developing long-term relationships rather than individual, one-time transactions.

Motivations behind clicking the "like" button

An individual always has a motivation behind liking a Facebook fan page. Brand community mem-bers join a community based on either the positive or negative feelings they have towards a brand (Wilimzig, 2011). Further, individuals choose to join a Facebook brand community because they are loyal to that brand. Other motivations for joining these brand communities are economic benefits, such as discounts, competitions, and lotteries, and entertainment. Providing exclusive deals and discounts available only to membersof the Facebook brand community is an incentive for individuals to join the community (Vorvoreanu, 2009). Weman (2011) found that consumers are not joining brand communities to make new friends or socialize and connect with strangers.

Hedonic motivations, related to fun or playful goals, are related to contribution behavior on a Facebook fan page (Malmivaara, 2011). Those motivated by hedonic notions are more likely to join a page in order to comment on or interact with the page and brand. In comparison, utilitarian motivations, driven by some sort of goal, are strongly related to browsing behavior. An individual with utilitarian motivation is more likely to look through and browse a page, rather than interact with that page. Overall, most individuals and their online behaviors are shaped by both utilitarian and hedonic motivations.

Authenticity + honesty + transparency = Trust

Authenticity, honesty, and transparency are three qualities that help develop trust in online brand communities. To create a positive impression of a Facebook brand community, users need to trust the brand and other members of the community (Lin, 2006). Kerpen (2011) stated that the fan page must be authentic, or real. Operators of a fan page must be human, rather than robotic, in order to create a personal atmosphere. Having a scripted and generic voice online will have a negative impact on site users.

According to Kerpen (2011), "You must be as honest and transparent as possible when using social media. Honesty and transparency build a direct relationship between you and the customer, and any deviation from these values can erode brand trust forever" (p.109). Facebook fan pages are a simple and effective tool for honest and transparent word of mouth marketing (Kerpen, 2011). The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has developed an ethics code for what is appropriate and inappropriate on social networking sites. As cited by Kerpen (2011), the code of ethics encourages honesty of relationships, honestyof opinion, and honesty of identity—saying who you are speaking for, saying what you truly believe, and never falsifying your identity.

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