Interacting with brand related content in Facebook – Do multiple audiences hinder positive brand interaction?

Ben Marder, David Houghton, Avi Shankar, Adam Joinson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Millions of social media users interact with brands on a daily basis. Both academics and practitioners advocate the importance of social media in meeting marketing aims (Campbell et al., 2014; Simmons et al., 2008; Qu et al., 2013). These technologies allow indiviudals to communicate about brands with “hundreds or even thousands of other people” (Mangold & Faulds, 2009, p.357). This communication contributes to the online selves of users (Belk, 2013), and brand content is used to sustain consumer identity projects (see Aaker, 1997; Hollenbeck & Kaikati, 2012). Hollenbeck and Kaikati (2012) address directly the assimilation of brand related content by consumers on social media in the maintenance of multiple selves (i.e., actual and ideal selves), and find that when linking with brands is incongruent with different selves this incongruence may lead to the avoidance of interaction with brand content.

Selves created and sustained through brand related content are viewed, validated and scrutinized by others (Schau & Gilly, 2003). This audience is crucial in decisions to interact with brands as consumers desire to cast a favourable image congruent with the audience’s expectation. Existing consumer research has either addressd an audience broadly as a single entity (Hollenbeck & Kaikati, 2012), or as a set of indiviudals with largely homogenous views (e.g., a brand tribe; see Simmons, 2008). Assuming a singluar audience in this way is appropiate when considering more traditional domains for marketing offline and for certain online environments (e.g., forums, company websites), but is not the case with social network sites (SNS).

In SNS, users present to multiple audiences simultaneously and continuously (see Binder et al., 2009; Marwick & Boyd, 2011). Under these conditions users strive to meet the different presentational standards of audiences simultaneously. When they perceive that an undesired image has - or will - be broadcast to one or more audiences, social anxiety (Marder et al., 2012) and relational tension result (Binder et al., 2009). The overall effect is that users monitor their online identity to avoid undesired representations and repercussions (Lampinen et al., 2009; Marwick & Boyd, 2011). In this environement visible brand interactions will be scrutinized by multiple audiences. The existence of multiple heterogeneous expectations problematizes the brand interaction. Associating with a certain brand may be congruent with the expectations of one audience but incongruent with another. A particular concern when brands leverage risqué content, a common viral marketing strategy (Kraus et al., 2010; Phelps et al., 2004).

Through the application of self-presentation theory, we examine how positive brand interaction (PBI) associates with social anxiety, and how multiplicity in audience expectations might hinder PBI. Here PBI is defined as an action undertaken by consumers, which is favourable to the brand (i.e., ‘liking’ the brand page, ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ brand posts). Facebook will be the focal site for this research as it is currently the most widely adopted SNS. Positive interaction is the focus, as the interface of Facebook inherently supports positive engagement - users are presented only with the option to ‘Like’ content, cf. dislike content.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAcademy of Marketing Conference 2015: The Magic in Marketing - University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 7 Jul 20159 Jul 2015


ConferenceAcademy of Marketing Conference 2015
Abbreviated titleAM2015
Internet address

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