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Brand networking

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Brand networking is the engagement of a social networking service around a brand by providing consumers with a platform of relevant content, elements of participation, and a currency, score, or ranking. Brand networking creates communities that serve as interactive destinations to encourage brand participation online and off. This evolved level of user participation with the brand creates strong relationships with consumers and leverages sales and generates fan equity.[1]

History[edit source | edit]

The development and growth of social networking in the early 2000s gave birth to brand networking. Brands saw the immediate potential to reach and interact with consumers through online platforms like Facebook and MySpace. At first the ability to reach consumers by way of these platforms was inadequate; brands had the option to join as members or simply advertise on these sites. The potential existed to not only display advertisements to consumers, but to engage them to interact with the brand. This is when brands made the shift to create their own networking platforms. Less evolved attempts to connect brands with consumers via networking typically are built as online platforms meant only to complement a product/service and are limited in functionality. Typically these sites offer consumers the opportunity to interact through discussion boards and group pages. The Guiding Light Community was built to complement the popular CBS television soap opera. The site offers members reward points for contributing content to discussion boards and blogs (which is all geared toward the show).[citation needed]

Structure[edit source | edit]

Brand networking is more than a social networking platform; it is connecting consumers together and constructing relationships directly with the brand. Three key elements, in unity, create brand networking: relevant content, elements of participation, and a competitive currency.[1]

  • Websites in conjunction with other media types (TV, radio, print, etc.) present relative content around a vertical industry or sector of interest or cultural/social issues for a brand. This can be in the form of weight loss, marketing, or business—any content relative to the brand message. Relative content is not only provided by the brand, but also in the form of consumer-generated media. By creating a network consumers interact and create content for online site.
  • Next a brand provides participation with consumers online and off. This is accomplished through the combination of typical social networking features online (personalized page, friends, groups, messaging), to interconnect fans, and elements of involvement offline. This is not simply connecting online platform with mobile devices, but providing separate mobile features jointly with a secondary media type to drive online usage and build relationship with brand on the go. By participating in mobile campaigns users are interacting with the brand outside of traditional brick and mortar or e-commerce destinations.
  • The final element of brand networking involves incentivizing participation with the other two elements. The addition of a currency or point system acts as an anchor to the brand and network in addition to creating a competitive nature between consumers. These points are distributed for activity outside of the networking site. By incentivizing usage offline the brand image is re-enforced for the consumer and strengthens the relationship. Consumers are turned into promoters for both the brand and the users benefit.

Fan Equity[edit source | edit]

Fan equity is the idea by locking in consumers to a brand; they are turned into fans of the brand. As fans they are promoting, interacting, and consuming on a daily biases and become assets[1] Apple Inc. is one example of a company possessing fan equity. Customers of Apple are extremely brand loyal and are assets to them.

Creating a fan-generated brand is a difficult but effective method of business. Through the use of brand networking a company is able to build a consumer/fan base which provides a strong relationship between business and consumers. The trust is formed and then fans do a lot of work for the brand by word of mouth. Peer-to-peer channels are the strongest means of communication for a brand,[2] but also one in which they can only influence and not control.

This method of business is argued to be a relationship handled by the brand generally for their own gain (Bourne, Szmigin, 1998).[3] Many fans do not realise the work they are doing for companies by using their product or service. Facebook is a major fan-based brand which has become a global phenomenon through customer use with social media features such as sharing and commenting.

With social media's growth in popularity, marketing and advertising through social media continues to grow. Brands can display and promote their products or services very efficiently at a very fast rate where consumers share and contribute to the brand on a global scale.[4] This can also be seen as online word of mouth exposure that can be good or bad feedback for brands.

Once consumers become fans they are typically very loyal, which can create positive word of mouth for a brand. Fans become a valuable asset boosting the status and reputation. Different perceptions of brands can be pinned down to a person's origin or religion which creates a difficulty when trying to enter a market or gain market share.[5] Businesses need to be aware of the types of products or services they introduce to a specific market, by insuring they are culturally sensitive.

Fan pages are created on social media to keep the ongoing relationship between brands and consumers. By engaging and interacting with consumers, brands are able to obtain fans and produce positive imaging.[6] Social media can also bring bad publicity to a company which will result in a loss in fan equity. Some fans become attached to brands and are often encouraged to remain as fans through the use of celebrities endorsing the brand.[7] The addiction can become very intense and begin to control people's lives, causing them to make poor decisions and becoming obsessive consumers.[8]

Examples[edit source | edit]

Community Site Company Purpose Engagement Relevant Content Participation Element Score or Ranking
Guiding Light Community[9] CBS/Procter & Gamble Connect fans of Guiding Light TV show Reward Points, Groups, photos, and polls Yes Yes Yes
Mixing Bowl Meredith Corporation Users share recipes and cooking tips Connects to Facebook, Groups, Contests, Blogs, Recipes Yes Yes No
Mom Junction Procter & Gamble Connect and interact with moms Build network of moms, groups, Q & A, local moms Yes Yes Yes
Pink for a Cure[10] General Mills/myspace Connect and share stories of breast cancer survivors Connected through MySpace Yes Yes No
CarSpace[11] Edmunds.com Connect with automotive enthusiasts together Friends, Groups, Blogs, Photos, Mailbox, videos, connects directly to Edmunds for car listings Yes Yes Yes

References[edit source | edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Brand Networking: Social Media Ownership, Return on Involvement and Open Social Networks" Association of Advertising & Creative Versioning Archived 2015-08-01 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on April 5, 2009
  2. Libai, B., Bolton, R., Bügel, M. S., De Ruyter, K., Götz, O., Risselada, H., & Stephen, A. T. (2010). Customer-to-customer interactions: broadening the scope of word of mouth research. Journal of Service Research, 13(3), 267-282.
  3. Szmigin, I., & Bourne, H. (1998). Consumer equity in relationship marketing. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 15(6), 544-557.
  4. Jothi, P. S., Neelamalar, M., & Prasad, R. S. (2011). Analysis of social networking sites: A study on effective communication strategy in developing brand communication. Journal of media and communication studies, 3(7), 234.
  5. Chen, Y. M., Su, Y. F., & Lin, F. J. (2011). Country-of-origin effects and antecedents of industrial brand equity. Journal of Business Research, 64(11), 1234-1238.
  6. Jahn, B., & Kunz, W. (2012). How to transform consumers into fans of your brand. Journal of Service Management, 23(3), 344-350.
  7. Thomson, M. (2006). Human brands: Investigating antecedents to consumers' strong attachments to celebrities. Journal of marketing, 70(3), 104-119.
  8. Chung, E., Farrelly, F., Beverland, M., & Quester, P. (2005). Exploring consumer fanaticism: A fresh perspective on the concept of loyalty. Broadening the Boundaries: Proceedings of ANZMAC.
  9. Guidling Light Community
  10. Pink for a Cure
  11. CarSpace