Consumers' social media advocacy behaviors of luxury brands : an explanatory framework
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] In the age of the internet, social media have emerged as the most powerful marketing tool around the world. Social media have the power to amplify marketers' brand messages to target consumers. Accordingly, a majority of brands try to build relationships with consumers in various social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. When consumers engage with brand pages in social media with behaviors such as clicking Like buttons or sharing postings with others, they are in essence advocating those brands to their peers, which I term as social media advocacy behavior (SAB for short). Nonetheless, empirical research on the drivers of consumers' social media advocacy behaviors is still in its infancy. We know very little about why some consumers choose to engage in SAB, whereas many others do not. My dissertation proposes an integrative framework for understanding consumers' underlying motivations for SAB. In so doing, I focus on luxury brand consumption, primarily because the luxury brand market is globally large and growing rapidly, especially in some Asian countries such as China and South Korea. An additional reason for focusing on SAB in regard to luxury brands is that when consumers engage with luxury brands in social media, they potentially gain symbolic benefits such as self- enhancement. In view of such symbolic benefits, marketers of luxury brands are emphasizing social media strategies to attract new consumers as well as to increase brand loyalty with existing consumers. Therefore, SAB is a particularly important issue for marketers of luxury brands. My conceptual framework includes four independent variables. First, I examine the role of brand prestige, since prestige is often associated with luxury (vs. non-luxury) brands. Second, since SAB is often triggered by the behaviors of others in one's social media circle, I look at whether the SAB cues received from others are from people with whom one has strong rather than weak ties. Third, I investigate the role of two individual-difference variables, need for status and need to conform. Both of these variables are well established in psychology and consumer behavior research. I argue that these two variables play an important role in influencing SAB. Further, my framework also posits that the effects of brand prestige, strength of reference group cues, need to status, and need to conform on SAB will be mediated by three motivational variables (self-enhancement benefit from SAB, community identification benefit from SAB, utilitarian benefit from SAB) and one inhibiting variable (social-evaluative anxiety from SAB). The empirical part of my dissertation involved an experimental study. My study involved two product categories, handbags and clothing. Because of the nature of these product categories, only female participants were recruited. Data were collected using Qualtrics online software and participants were provided monetary compensation. There were a total of 413 usable responses. The data were analyzed with regression analyses and mediation analyses using Process software. The results showed that strong reference group cues, high need for status and high need to conform were positively related to likelihood of SAB for both product categories. Further, mediation analyses supported the role of self-enhancement benefit, community identification benefit, utilitarian benefit, and social-evaluative anxiety in mediating the effects of three aforementioned variables on the likelihood of SAB. In addition, the results supported the prediction that high vs. low brand prestige would have a positive effect on self-enhancement benefit and a negative effect on utilitarian benefit. In conclusion, I believe my dissertation makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of consumers' motivations for engaging with brand pages of luxury brands in social media and why some consumers choose to become brand advocates in social media, while many others do not. In addition, my research provides practical guidance for marketing practitioners on how to exploit social media platforms for building brands.