Brand communities in the age of social media : A qualitative analysis of brand communities' mutation with the advent of social media through the case study of "Laura Pausini Fan Club".
Facoltà di comunicazione, cultura e società
Facoltà di scienze economiche
Master in Marketing
Online brand communities are strategic tools supporting corporations in maintaining and enhancing their relationship with those customers who are true brand admirers thanks to the increase of their loyalty, satisfaction, and engagement. Despite the advantages, these web-based aggregations are also a double-edged sword; with the advent of web 2.0, in particular with social media, every individual can establish a fan page regarding the product, whose contents, members' actions and behaviors affect the brand equity directly. As a result, online brand communities can no longer be considered as separate entities acting individually, but they exist as a part of an entire network of affiliations talking about the same topic and that influence each other. However, contemporary literature lacks a general understanding of the brand community network. For this reason, this research qualitatively analyses a specific brand-person system, composed by the official fan club of Laura Pausini and the social media fan pages dedicated to her, which are not authorized by the company, to try to understand how it works. Namely, the paper aims at examining the characteristics of groups composing the network, the relationships inside, and the drivers of followers' engagement. Furthermore, it investigates the grounds behind the foundation of unofficial communities to see if they intend to satisfy different needs beyond the ones of the official group. After comprehending how the network operates and why fans also join non-authorized groups, organizations can improve their existing community management strategy adapting it to the new needs of customers within the web 2.0 context. To answer the questions raised above, the student recruited a purposing sample composed bay fans of the Italian singer. The sample includes official fan club members, others who follow the artist through the unofficial pages, and admins of the latter. These individuals took part in in-depth interviews concerning their experience within the two types of communities, while non-authorized pages managers explained their tasks and grounds of creation too. Results showed that most of the unofficial pages were born to fulfill the social needs that were once provided by the official fan club, which today benefits its members mainly with functional advantages, especially with offline incentives. Consequently, the two types of communities play different roles within the system; however, official subscribers perceive that they lost privileges and feel economically exploited and not listened to by the authorized community. In addition to that, the network is not very cooperative, and the official fan club limits itself to checking the contents published by the other pages.