The influence of social media interactions on consumer-brand relationships: A three-country study of brand perceptions and marketing behaviors
Companies are increasingly allocating more of their marketing spending to social media programs. Yet there is little research about how social media use is associated with consumer-brand relationships. We conducted three studies to explore how individual and national differences influence the relationship between social media use and customer brand relationships. The first study surveyed customers in France, the U.K. and U.S. and compared those who engage with their favorite brands via social media with those who do not. The findings indicated that social media use was positively related with brand relationship quality and the effect was more pronounced with high anthropomorphism perceptions (the extent to which consumers' associate human characteristics with brands). Two subsequent experiments further validated these findings and confirmed that cultural differences, specifically uncertainty avoidance, moderated these results. We obtained robust and convergent results from survey and experimental data using both student and adult consumer samples and testing across three product categories (athletic shoes, notebook computers, and automobiles). The results offer cross-national support for the proposition that engaging customers via social media is associated with higher consumer-brand relationships and word of mouth communications when consumers anthropomorphize the brand and they avoid uncertainty.