Brands in Social Media : A Study on How Product Brands and Personal Brands Use Social Media to Portray their Brand Identity

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Medier och kommunikation


Brands are an important feature in today’s society. A brand can consist of anything; a product, an organisation, a university, a person or even a city. They are not constricted to products or companies, but are important constituents of culture. Having a cup of coffee at Starbucks is not only about the coffee, it’s also about the brand; its values and motivations, and what it represents for the customers and fans. Brands are interweaving themselves further into society than ever before.

Social media is growing and taking up a large part of people’s time. We discuss everything, including brands, on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Thus it is imperative for brands to actively partake in the discussion to not submerge and lose control over their brand image. They shape their brand identity, but the image is what is perceived by the people. If they let others shape the perception of the brand then there is a great risk that the image construct will not correspond to their intended identity. Social media provides a gateway for fans and brands to interact. This thesis investigates the primary uses of Facebook and Twitter for product and people brands respectively. Also, it looks at what components of the brand identity are displayed on the aforementioned platforms for both product and people brands and whether there are any differences between the brand types.

The investigation takes the shape of a content analysis of twenty brands’ Facebook and Twitter pages – 10 each for product and people brands. Variables pertaining to the four identity perspectives proposed by David Aaker – (1) brand as product, (2) brand as organisation, (3) brand as person, and (4) brand as symbol – were used to see whether there is a dominant perspective that brands adopt when interacting with fans in social media. Also, the uses of social media were investigated and matched with authors’ suggestions for ideal uses of social media for brands.

It was found that, in line with several authors’ recommendations of ideal usage of social media; brands adopt an identity approach consistent with Aaker’s Brand as Person perspective – regardless of brand type. The Brand as Person perspective was dominant for people brands on both Facebook and Twitter, however, slightly more enhanced on the latter. While still being the main perspective for product brands, the other identity perspective are given more attention so the prevalence of the Brand as Person perspective is not quite as distinguished. Also, the main uses of Twitter and Facebook were found to differ; Facebook is to a further extent used to engage fans whereas Twitter is predominately used to inform. The results provide a basis for which future research on brand identity and uses for brands in social media can build upon, starting with these general findings to dig deeper into more specialised areas of brands in social media.

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