Welcome to my teaching module, which is all about brand communities and, more specifically, what do people want out of these brand communities when they join, and how satisfied are they with the experience.
So, to start off, here’s my agenda. I’m going to give you a little bit of background on brand communities – what they are, why they’re important – before talking about two different groups, two different types of people who tend to be part of these brand communities. Then, I’ll give you a little bit of information about uses and gratifications theory, which is basically a discussion of why people consume media the way that they do. And then, I’m going to compare lurkers and posters, so the two different types of brand community members, with regards to their satisfaction with these brand communities based off of their experiences.
So, to start off, brand communities, according to Muniz and O’Guinn (2003) are a specialized, non-geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand. Which is basically a fancy way of saying that brand communities are a group of people who have been brought together based off of a mutual love for a brand. Since the Internet came on the scene, we see that they are much less geographically bound than they used to be. It used to be that you could talk about how much you loved Tupperware or Pampered Chef with your neighbours. Now, you can talk about it with people all around the world.
Now, brand communities are very important to marketers for a lot of reasons. A positive experience within these brand communities can lead to more positive brand image, loyalty, purchase intentions, and a multitude of other things, as you can see. The list is even longer than what I’ve put here. So brand communities are very important, and people want to get them right.
Now, there are two different types of members that we tend to see in these brand communities – lurkers and posters. So who are they? Lurkers are people who – well, they’re kind of the silent majority, that’s what they’ve been called. They’re a member, but they don’t do anything that other people can see. So you can go onto the Starbucks brand community, you can see what’s happening, but you’re a lurker if you don’t actually type or share anything yourself. Whereas the posters, they’re the ones who type and share. Now, we have a lot more lurkers than we do posters. About 90% of the people who are members of these brand communities are considered to be lurkers. Why do people lurk? Well, they lurk because they get what they need from browsing, and that’s the number one reason why people say that they lurk. They don’t need anything more. They can also lurk because they’re shy, or they want to remain anonymous.
Now, lurkers are similar to posters in a lot of ways. They join for the same reasons, they spend the same amount of time on the web, they’re similar in age, and there’s no difference with regards to gender. And so lurkers and posters are similar in so many ways – and yet their behaviours are very very different.
So, now that we know who the people are in these communities, let’s talk about Uses and Gratifications theory – which we can use to try to understand their behaviour and their choices a little bit better.
Uses and gratifications theory is a very common theory when we look at people who are consuming media. Basically, it says, according to Katz (1959), when you choose to consume media of any kind – be it radio, television, a brand community, or just a website – when you do that, you’re doing it for a reason. You’re not just passively allowing the media to come to you, you are choosing the media that will meet your needs. You’re choosing to watch the news because you want to have information about the election or you’re choosing to watch the news because you want to look smart to your friends tomorrow. Whatever the reason is, you don’t just randomly end up on The Shopping Network – you end up there because it is meeting a need of some kind for you. So lurkers are choosing to lurk within these communities for a reason – and posters are choosing to post within these communities for a reason. It’s all very purposeful and aimed at getting needs met.
So, in this next section, I’m going to present some research to you where McLaughlin, Haverila and Haverila (2020) discover a little bit more about what needs are being met by a brand community.
So, what needs are lurkers getting satisfied? Well, according to the research, lurkers go online and go to a brand community so that they can get information, so that they can learn a little bit more about themselves, so that they can be social with other people, so that they can gain some status, and so that they can be entertained. And they get all of those things. Their expectations are met on all of those things. They may not be doing much within these brand communities, but they are getting the information they need. They are being entertained, they are, for some reason feeling social integration. Their needs are being met. And so that’s very important, because when we discuss satisfaction, we talk about the fact that we, as consumers, are satisfied with an experience or with a product when it meets our expectations. So as long as a brand or a brand community does what we expect it to do, we are going to walk away satisfied from that experience. So lurkers are satisfied, and that is key. In fact, they actually get more information than what they expected to get. And they also get a little more social enhancement or status than what they expected.
Posters – same story. Posters have higher expectations going in than do the lurkers, but all of their expectations are met. They get more information than what they expect, so they are satisfied with their experience. Just as the lurkers are.
This article actually did a comparison to find out if the satisfaction was different – you know, are we seeing that lurkers are likely to be less satisfied than posters with the experience? And the answer is no. The difference between what they get and what they expect is about the same for both groups. They’re both similarly satisfied.
So to sum up, brand community managers are doing their jobs because people get what they want out of these experiences. So that is absolutely a very good sign for brand community managers everywhere.
So, thank you so much for watching and see you next time.
Algonquin College, Canada
Dr. Caitlin McLaughlin, Program & Course Developer, Algonquin College Caitlin is a marketing instructor, course developer, program developer, and Personality Dimensions Facilitator. She has taught Integrated Marketing Communications, Consumer Behaviour, Introduction to Marketing, Marketing Research, Services Marketing, and Brand Management (among others). Her research focuses on the use of brand communities in marketing.
SSHRC Grant #430-2018-00816
Andries, H., W. A. Areros and R. J. Pio (2018), “The Influence of Online Community Experience on Brand Image and Brand Engagement in the Formation of Value Co-Creation,” 5th Annual International Conference on Management Research. 74. Atlantis Press.
Hsieh, P.-L. and S.-L. Wei (2017), “Relationship Formation Within Online Brand Communities: Bridging the Virtual and the Real,” Asia Pacific Management Review, 22 (1), 2-9.
Hur, W.-M., K.-H. Ahn and M. Kim (2011), “Building Brand Loyalty Through Managing Brand Community Commitment,” Management Decision, 49 (7-8), 1194–1213.
Katz, E. (1959), “Mass Communications Research and the Study of Popular Culture: An Editorial Note on a Possible Future for This Journal,” Studies in Public Communication, 2, 1-6.
Liaw, G.-F. (2008), “A Study on the Influence of Consumers’ Participation in a Brand Community on Purchase Intention,” The 8th Global Conference on Business & Economics.
McLaughlin, C., Haverila, K., & Haverila, M. (2020, March). Uses and gratifications of lurkers and posters in online brand communities: The difference between gratifications sought and gratifications achieved. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Advertising Conference, Virtual conference.
McLeod, J. M., C. R. Bybee and J. A. Durall (1982), “Evaluating Media Performance by Gratifications Sought and Teceived,” Journalism Quarterly, 59 (1), 3-5.
Muniz, A. M. and T. C. O’Guinn (2001), “Brand Community,” Journal of Consumer Research, 27 (4), 412-432.
Nonnecke, B., J. Preece, D. Andrews and R. Voutour (2004), “Online Lurkers Tell Why,” Proceedings of the Tenth Americas Conference on Information Systems, New York: Association for Information Systems.
Popp, B., H. Woratschek and S. Roth (2008), “Motives for Participation in Virtual Brand Communities,” 37th EMAC Conference, Brighton.
Rau, P.-L. P., Q. Gao and Y. Ding (2008), “Relationship Between the Level of Intimacy and Lurking in Online Social Network Services,” Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 2757–2770.
Ridings, C., D. Gefen and B. Arinze (2006), Psychological Barriers: Lurker and Poster Motivation and Behavior in Online Communities,” Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 18, 329-354.
Rubin, A. M. (1994), “Media Uses and Effects: A Uses-and-Gratifications Perspective,” in Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, J. Bryant and D. Zillman, eds., Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 463–482.
Wirtz, J., A. den Ambtman, J. Bloemer, C. Horváth, B. Ramaseshan, J. Van De Klundert, Z. G. Canli and J. Kandampully (2013), “Managing Brands and Customer Engagement in Online Brand Communities,” Journal of Service Management, 24 (3), 223-244.
Zhou, T. (2011), “Understanding Online Community User Participation: A Social Influence Perspective,” Internet Research, 21 (1), 67-81.