If You Are Not Visible, You Do Not Exist : A Qualitative Study of Corporate Reputation Management on Social Media
Abstract: The use of internet and social media has during the last decade increased and today both individuals and companies are active on social media. It is a new way for organizations to communicate with customers and many organizations have realized the value of their corporate reputation to contribute to a competitive advantage. This study is focusing on the context of real estate. Competition amongst real estate agencies is high and it can therefore be considered important for them to manage their reputation. It is an interesting context to study as it is different from other industries because sellers and buyers are working with investments and being dependent on taxes and interest rates. Moreover, it is interesting as it affects the economic growth. Previous studies about reputation management has highlighted the importance of communication but foremost focused on traditional media. Studies within social media has mostly focused on individuals’ use of it. Therefore, it is considered important to study in relation to the new phenomenon of social media. Studies have indicated that there is little known about how organisations manage corporate communication and their corporate reputation in an online environment. To fill this gap the following research question guides this research: How do real estate agencies manage their corporate reputation through corporate communication in social media? The purpose of this study is to examine and gain a deeper understanding of how real estate agencies use social media to manage their corporate image and reputation. The study aims to investigate how the real estate agencies communicate their identities to influence their customers’ image, as it is part of the corporate reputation. A theoretical framework was developed emphasizing two main theories; the Operational model for managing corporate reputation and image (Gray & Balmer, 1998), and the Honeycomb of social media (Kietzmann et al., 2011). These theories have further been developed into a conceptual model which illustrates their relation in this study. In order to fulfill the purpose and to answer the research question, a qualitative approach was adopted and semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine real estate agencies. The analysis of the empirical result was compiled into a number of key findings. From which we could conclude that the most important aspects for real estate agencies activity on social media is to be present, to engage in conversations, to share information and to form relationships. It was also found important that they monitor what is said on social media in order to improve and react on feedback. Moreover, that brand management is a common focus.
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