Managing Brands Through Social Media: Storytelling in Social Media-Based Brand Communities

Managing Brands Through Social Media: Storytelling in Social Media-Based Brand Communities

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5143-0.ch003
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In this chapter, the authors describe the concept of brand community and how it is changing in the context of social media, and how it will impact brand trust and brand loyalty. Then they turn their gaze toward brand storytelling, a concept that has always been on the forefront of marketing activities but has recently been affected by social media in a way that traditionalists have had a hard time learning how to work around. Negative consumer-generated brand stories are a new type of crisis that brand managers are just getting acquainted with, and can harm the brand reputation severely if they are not dealt with accordingly. Finally, the authors talk briefly about the branding approaches that should be adopted by marketers if they want their brands to survive in the new age of social media.
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Companies consider brands to be important intangible assets and want to solidify their brands in the customers’ minds by generating compelling stories (Keller, 1993; Srivastava, Shervani, & Fahey, 1998). Brand stories achieve this by transporting the audience into the narrative of their world (Escalas, 2007).

These stories are generated by the company and try to bolster the relationship between the brand and the customers and also among the customers themselves by encouraging conversation around the stories (Escalas, 2004; Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012). The importance of stories is due to their ability to build brand awareness, understanding, empathy and recognition (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012).

In the past, brand stories were told via traditional marketing channels such as advertisements, and customers used these firm created stories to generate their own versions to share and as such, they didn’t have enough power in this process (Hoffman & Novak, 1996). Social media have shifted the power from the company to the users, as consumers can now generate brand stories based on their own experience with the brand that can be negative as well. (Kuksov, Shachar, & Wang, 2013; Boje, 1995; Deighton, Romer, & McQueen, 1989). Social media make it easy for user experiences to be heard throughout the world, i.e. the story of the man whose guitar was demolished by the staff of United Airlines. Before the dawn of social media, this story would have gained little traction, but thanks to YouTube it went viral and users around the globe were able to voice their opinions. As a result, this story could no longer be ignored by the company in question, as it can affect the brand image and associations (Holt, 2003). For instance, in the case of United Airlines negative word of mouth had a negative impact on its financial results (McCarthy, 2009). Managers should learn the ability to encourage users in order to have them generate positive brand stories and also learn how to react to negative brand stories that may tarnish the brand image.

Firms are always trying to create communities of customers around their brands in order to better understand their needs and to form a closer relationship with them (e.g., McAlexander, Schouten, & Koening, 2002; Schau, Muniz, & Arnould, 2009; Zhou, Zhang, Su, & Zhou, 2011). This community is all about connections and relationships among its members (Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001). Communities help managers get a better understanding of the customers’ opinions on new products and the firm’s competitors and also try to cooperate with the loyal customers of the company that can affect other users’ assessments and speed up the process of information sharing in the social networks (Franke & Shah, 2003; McAlexander et al., 2002; Muniz & Schau, 2005; Brown, Kozinets, & Sherry, 2003; Jin, Cheung, Lee, & Chen, 2009). There are other advantages for the firms to engage customers on social media such as lower costs (compared to traditional media) and higher levels of reach and communication efficiency (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

Many brand communities are being created on social networks by firms in order to take advantage of the popularity of social media and brand communities (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010; Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001). Studies suggest that brand communities can either be real or virtual, as they all have three traditional features of communities: shared consciousness, shared rituals and traditions, and obligations to society (Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001).

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