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Let them talk! Managing primary and extended online brand communities for success
Charles H. Noble a,*, Stephanie M. Noble b, Mavis T. Adjei c a 333 Stokely Management Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0530, U.S.A.
337 Stokely Management Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0530, U.S.A. c College of Business & Administration, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, U.S.A. b KEYWORDS
Online brand communities; Netnography;
Negative word of mouth; Service recovery;
Social networking sites;
Abstract It is clear that customer-to-customer contact through informal social networking and more formal company-sponsored platforms, such as discussion forums, is an increasingly integral element in building brand communities. There are many benefits to this interaction, such as nurturing brand champions and
‘super users,’ and reduced service costs through customer-to-customer solutions for product problems. However, there are also hazards inherent in these largely unregulated communities, such as the potential damage of widely spread negative information, which may be based on fact or on malicious intent. Herein, we summarize the results of several years of research examining these communities in an attempt to understand why they succeed, what benefits can be extracted from them, and–—in particular–—how negative information emerging in these environments can be strategically managed. Based on a series of quantitative and qualitative studies, we identified several key drivers of online brand community success (i.e., intervention, conversion, value creation, and harvesting) and the different combinations of community players who must collaborate to achieve such success. Delving more deeply into the issue of negative information management, we find that the topic being discussed (i.e., core versus augmented product) and the validity of the claim greatly influence a firm’s appropriate strategic response. Throughout this article, we offer managerial guidance on the most effective ways to develop primary brand communities that encourage loyalty, purchases, and positive word of mouth.
# 2012 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
* Corresponding author
E-mail addresses: email@example.com (C.H. Noble), firstname.lastname@example.org (S.M. Noble), email@example.com (M.T. Adjei)
0007-6813/$ — see front matter # 2012 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2012.05.001 476
1. The blessing and curse of online communities Customers will talk, and they are at their most open, honest, and candid when they are talking to each other about their product opinions and consumption experiences. The classic notions of these conversations happening over a backyard fence or in a hair salon with opinions spreading to a circle of as many as a dozen (!) friends and acquaintances have been blown away by technology. Today, whether it is a
‘super user’ customer helping others solve technical problems or a celebrity tweeting about a bad airline experience, consumers are empowered to communicate like never before. There are many benefits to the right kinds of customer-to-customer (C2C) communications: reduced customer support costs, powerful marketing and promotion opportunities, new product ideas, enhanced loyalty, and incremental purchases (Algesheimer, Dholakia, & Herrman,
2005; Williams & Cothrel, 2000). However, while this kind of C2C communication can have an enormous reach (e.g., tweets can now be retweeted!) and be incredibly cost effective for the company involved, these communities also introduce a