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Über dieses Buch

This book presents and analyzes the concept of online brand communities, an emerging and exciting topic in marketing and eCommerce. First, it lays out the foundations like the evolution of the Web and the so-called Social Web, its utility for users and businesses, and the evolution of the marketing mind-set to adapt the Social Web. On this basis, the book then presents a detailed analysis of online brand communities, examining the concept of virtual community with a specific focus on virtual brand communities. In this context the book also explores recent trends related to branding and brand management. Next, it proposes a classification system for online brand communities, taking into account questions like the motivating factors for consumers to join, participate and stay in a community. The process of value creation in communities is examined from both business and consumer perspectives. The book draws to a close with a brief presentation of the process broadly accepted for the successful development of online brand communities.



Chapter 1. Introduction

This book delves deeply into the budding and thrilling area of online brand communities. First, the initial topics that define the backdrop of online communities are introduced. Specifically, question about the evolution of the web, the foundation and pillars of the so-called Social Web, the use of the Social Web for users and businesses and the evolution of the marketing mind-set to adapt to the Social web will be presented, among other themes.
Once its backdrop is presented, we move on to deal with specific online brand communities in detail. The evolution of the concept of virtual communities will be looked at with special emphasis given to brand-related virtual communities. To this end, the trends related to branding and brand management will be analyzed. Next, a classification system for online brand communities will be created, establishing the main factors that motivate a person to join one; we will also elucidate and analyze the factors that increase appeal, participation and user retention. Then, the application of the process of creating value in a community, both from the point of view of business interest and from the point of view of the user is studied, analyzing the user’s new role as “prosumer”. Finally, the necessary steps and stages of the successful development of an online brand community are presented.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 2. Evolution of the Web

Information and communication technologies (ICT) have brought about a considerable change in the way that people relate to and communicate with one another. Companies, as an active part of society, are not excluded from this situation; they must adapt their uses to appropriately establish and maintain relationships in this setting. In this sense, the Internet figures as the most widespread and important ICTs, as it serves as the base for other ICTs and plays a key role in the generation and distribution of information. Over the last two decades, its expansion has generated a cascade of social, cultural and economic changes, causing a change in business models, in manufacturing processes and in systems of distribution for products, information and content.
First the chapter will address what ICTs are, how they work and how they affect society. Next, the chapter focuses on the study of the Internet’s evolution, from its beginnings through its possible future, covering the forms of Web 2.0 or Social Web and Web 3.0 as well as its effects on social and business relationships. Other aspects related to the Internet and businesses such as Ubiquitous Computing and the Semantic Web are presented.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 3. Foundations and Structure of the Social Web

The Social Web is postulated to be a new space in which people can interact, search for information, communicate, entertain themselves, plan their actions, make purchases and learn. In this way, the philosophy underlying this version of the Internet has brought about a changed the role of the users, who have become an active part of the content that they consume, forcing companies to adapt to this situation, which is defined by the adjective “social.”
The social media that comprise the Social Web have had a large following of investigators, practitioners and the general public. Also, their use has grown at a staggering rate in recent years, to the point that they constitute common societal tools. Virtual communities, virtual social networks, blogs, wikis, forums, microblogs, etc. have emerged, creating huge advantages for their users, among whom we count companies that can now deliver greater value to their clients. This leads to e-commerce developing to include social elements, which in turn leads to the emergence of social commerce, in which the consumer assumes a predominant role, becoming a co-creator and co-producer of the products that they themselves are going to consume (prosumer).
In this chapter the main aspects of the philosophy in which the Social Web is based will be established, the users’ main motivations and available tools will be summarized, then a visual map that summarizes the main social media will be presented. Finally, the principle characteristics of social commerce will be established.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 4. Utility of the Social Web for Business

The Social Web is a phenomenon that has invigorated society. The ways in which people relate and communicate with each other have changed, in turn causing changes to communications and interactions between businesses, their clients and their environments. This forces organizations to understand the phenomena caused by the emergence and pervasion of social media use in order to exploit the advantages that social media can offer and to keep up to date on the tools society is employing to connect and socialize.
This creates new challenges for organizations; their structures, objectives and functions must change in order to keep up with the new situation. Adapting allows them to achieve improved brand profitability, development and management. Additionally, companies should be familiar with the risks of using social media as well as how to overcome them.
Furthermore, new tools and social media have led to new challenges in measuring business results, which has in turn led to new methods and metrics. Both the volume of information and the qualitative component of data have increased; therefore, traditional methods for measuring revenues and returns on investments have become outdated.
This chapter introduces reasons for organizations to use the Social Web. Next, the principle metrics for measuring results will be introduced, with special attention being given to return on investment (ROI). Finally, we analyze the possible risks associated with social commerce for businesses, business changes that tend to occur in structures and management and, lastly, some data about the extent of Social Web use among companies is offered.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 5. Evolution of the Marketing Mind-Set and the Value-Creation Process

Consolidation of social applications is changing communication between brands and their consumers. Organizations are losing their once complete control over their messages and processes of value-creation to consumers, who are becoming active participants and co-creators of value in the relationship. This requires a new focus for companies, which will have different nuances, depending on the type of electronic marketing they are using.
This chapter deals with how the new model of the Social Web has influenced the transformation of marketing. First, changes in communication between companies and consumers are described, paying special attention to the characteristics of the consumer’s profile in this context. Next, the evolution in the marketing mentality due to the expansion of the Internet is explained; here, marketing 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 as well as their main characteristics and consequences are described. Finally, we will delve deeper into value-creation in this new model, as well as into the new aspects of marketing that have emerged as a consequence of the model (e.g., inbound marketing or crowdsourcing marketing).
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 6. Brand and Social Web

Brands have become an indispensable element in distinguishing between the products of different companies, reflecting their personalities and finding their correct positioning. Furthermore, over the years, the importance of brands has increased to such a degree that they have come to be an instrument that fits alongside important dimensions such as functional, emotional, relational or strategic. Therefore, it is evident that the creation of a fitting brand strategy that defines and encapsulates the brand equity is essential to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.
It is also important to consider the influence brands have exerted over the emergence and spread of social tools, which have transformed the management and development of brand strategies, orienting them towards company goal completion and towards consumer purchasing decisions.
Therefore, in this chapter we will give a tour of the evolution of brand strategies, from the more traditional focuses to the current forms, including the Social Web. To do this, the various versions that have existed will be analyzed, from the product paradigm to community brand management paradigm, delving deep into their characteristics and main implications.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 7. Conceptual Approach to Community, Virtual Community and Online Brand Community

Human beings, due to their unique characteristics as a species, need relationships with other individuals. This explains the interactions between people and the tendency to live in groups. All human beings belong to one or more communities, although this happens involuntarily. By simply having a family or residing in a city, one belongs to these communities. In other cases, the individual chooses which community he belongs to, seeking groups of people with values or styles similar to his own. Among these communities, we count brand communities, which revolve around one or more brands.
The birth of the Internet and its evolution through ever-more-social versions has allowed people to find virtual communities into which, despite physical distance, they can integrate and adapt. Furthermore, online communities can facilitate maintaining and strengthening relationships with offline communities. In this context, communities that revolve around brands are strengthened by the emergence of online brand communities.
This chapter defines community and identifies its primary characteristics. Later, we delve deeper into the main characteristics of virtual communities, as well as brand communities, both online and offline. Finally, these types of communities are compared.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 8. Types of Virtual Communities and Virtual Brand Communities

Virtual communities have evolved considerably since they began. They have gone from being news groups and chat rooms to communities of people with strong bonds, diverse media for maintaining contact, and even with power in their sectors of interest. Virtual communities help their members overcome the sensation of isolation and allow them to maintain social activities.
However, despite virtual communities’ increasing importance and popularity, there is still no classification system agreed on by researchers. This is due to the unique properties of virtual communities and to the fact that they are being studied across various fields. However, various classifications have been proposed with the objective of helping researchers of distinct disciplines to perfect their theories about the development of and participation in virtual communities.
The structure of this chapter’s contents is as follows. First the existing classifications of virtual communities are analyzed. Next, we look at the special case of what are known as anti-brand communities, a specific type of brand community whose members create content that is critical of and generally against the brand they discuss. Finally, a unifying classification system for virtual communities and virtual brand communities is proposed.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 9. Consumers’ Motivations to Participate in Virtual Brand Communities

The reasons that bring people to relate to other similar individuals, brands or organizations through communities are highly varied, depending on the type of person, what they hope to accomplish and the type of brand. In general, motives like seeking information, communication, establishing relationships and constructing an identity show up in most studies, but other more hedonistic characteristics, like leisure or reputation also lead to participation. When trying to identify and explain people’s motives for participation, various theories emerge, mainly from the fields of psychology and sociology, which offer their own view on this research question.
In this chapter, we deal with the basic motivations that bring users to join virtual communities, especially virtual brand communities, as well as what intensifies their relationship, engagement and participation once they have joined. To go about this, we will first thoroughly explicate the different theories mentioned. Next, we summarize the main reasons highlighted by such theories for both online communities in general, and more specifically, for online brand communities.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 10. Factors Influencing Members’ Engagement with Virtual Brand Communities

The survival of a virtual brand community relies on its ability to attract potential members and convert them into active members of the community. Therefore, it is necessary to delve deep into the main factors that have been taken into account throughout the literature in order to explain the process of recruiting and retaining individuals of specific social groups, like virtual brand communities.
Throughout this chapter, therefore, we are going to flesh out the most influential variables in the process of long-term recruitment and retention of members in the field of virtual brand communities. Special attention is paid to the member’s engagement with the community, due to the benefits it presents: improved predisposition to continue participating in the community, increased trust of and commitment to the community and increased satisfaction and loyalty to both the community and the brand community.
Finally, we will briefly explore other noteworthy elements from relevant research such as promoters of attraction and continued participation of virtual brand community members, e.g., agreements or social norms, usability, visual aesthetic, entertainment, quality and recommendations.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 11. Value Creation in Virtual Brand Communities

The evolution of the Social Web has opened up a world of opportunities for brands as well as for the consumers themselves. Virtual brand communities, which are increasingly used as tools for value creation by users and organizations alike, are a perfect example of this type of opportunity.
Many companies have opted to create or integrate themselves into brand communities in order to establish long-term relationships with customers.
These communities, therefore, are especially pertinent to their online strategies, both in terms of how they interact with customers and how customers interact with one another. Thus, online communities are now attractive tools for businesses, as they can be used as platforms for the co-creation of products and experiences between companies and consumers; on these platforms, customers truly become partners of brands. Furthermore, communities can provide important benefits and opportunities on behalf of companies such as increasing customer loyalty, lowering marketing costs or developing new products.
The above notwithstanding, company participation in online brand communities is not without its risks and inconveniences, e.g., the rejection of the brand’s marketing efforts through negative comments, which could cause damage to the brand’s image and reputation or even promote their competitors. In any event, brands must develop strategies to take advantage of and amplify the benefits that communities offer, while minimizing and appropriately managing the inconveniences and threats that will also emerge.
Throughout this chapter we will analyze the potential for value-creation offered by online brand communities to businesses and will discuss the relevant benefits and potential drawbacks. We will explain the current role that consumers play in these communities, paying special attention to their participation in the processes of value-co-creation with brands and prosumers.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo

Chapter 12. Creating and Developing Virtual Brand Communities: Some Practical Guidelines

As non-traditional social and dynamic tools, virtual brand communities are constantly changing and evolving. This complicates the process of defining the keys to the success of their creation and development. However, there are many factors that organizations should keep in mind; furthermore, there are several stages that virtual brand communities should pass through. In this chapter, the most important general factors and considerations are synthetically analyzed, and the necessary stages for creating and developing a community are presented.
Francisco J. Martínez-López, Rafael Anaya-Sánchez, Rocio Aguilar-Illescas, Sebastián Molinillo


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