Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Business Administration

First Advisor

Daniel A. Sheinin

Abstract

Social media have changed the way individuals interact with each other, with corporations and with brands; and thus, the context for brand management. Recognizing the potential of social media to reach massive audiences, brands have become more “social” and embraced the new media; however, many are still struggling to effectively harness their potential. Research has aimed to offer some insights into the emerging social media challenges and have established some differentiated streams of research that serve as a general framework for these dissertation manuscripts. Specifically, we identify WOM communications, online reviews, media channels comparisons, online community influence, and co-creation as research areas within the social media literature. The two manuscripts in this dissertation investigate distinct aspects of social media and contribute to the emerging literature in the field. Manuscript I contributes to the evolving “Media channel comparisons” stream of research by investigating the diagnosticity of traditional and social media channels. Manuscript II expands the current social media research framework to the visual communication context. Specifically, it investigates how visuals characteristics and the responses they generate (i.e. ‘shares’) influence brand interpretation. A current challenge is to understand how media channel influences consumer’s judgments about brands. The first manuscript addresses this research gap and explores the diagnosticty of traditional media versus social media as a function of corporate message type. In two studies, we show that social media are more diagnostic than traditional media in forming attitudes and intentions towards corporate brands, independently of corporate message type. Media credibility is identified as the driver of these results. On the other hand, we find that social and traditional media are not distinctively diagnostic in forming beliefs about corporate brands. Changes in brand beliefs are dependent on the content of a message but independent from the communication channel. Another challenge is to understand how users interpret images in social media and make judgments about brands. In three studies in the second manuscript, we show that social media users integrate associations from multiple images when making sense of a brand. The weight given to each image when integrating multiple visual stimuli varies as a function of the online community opinion. That is, the interpretation of a brand is anchored on the most popular image in the social media profile.

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