Social media has enabled and accelerated the social construction of brand meaning. Are all
brand communications (consumer, organisation or other originated) within this environment
authentic, and trustworthy? Discuss.
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 2
Social Media Has Enabled and Accelerated the Social Construction of Brand Meaning
Social media platforms have a great potential of helping a company to increase its
brand awareness and expand. Even though the practical applications of various websites such
as Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook might vary from brand to brand,
Coleman, Chandler and Jian (2013) pointed out that the overall value does not change; it
remains the same. A company needs to come up with a strategy which works for it and
pursue it relentlessly all through the year. This paper provides an exhaustive discussion of
how social media has actually enabled and accelerated the social construction of brand
meaning. In addition, this paper discusses whether all brand communications in this
environment are trustworthy and authentic.
Authenticity is defined as the condition or quality of being genuine, trustworthy, or
authentic. It is and has always been an essential component for establishing a successful
brand (Holt 2016). In the recent past, there have several research studies that have looked into
what customers deem as the main characteristics for brands to have. For instance, studies by
Cohn & Wolfe and Mindshare North America found that authenticity and
honesty/trustworthiness are significant attributes, especially to Generation Y and millenials.
In essence, authenticity and trustworthiness are two of the five main brand attributes for
youngsters worldwide, and a lot of them are sceptical about how brands actually market to
them (Vernuccio 2014). Consumers’ desire for authenticity and openness could be juxtaposed
against the findings of other researchers that the trust of consumer in big companies is
reducing (Kissel & Büttgen 2015).
Social media offers opportunities for creating social content with a point of
difference. This is especially significant in sectors like the retail sector in which business
organizations are usually selling product items that are similar or the same. In this way, social
media enables and accelerates the social construction of brand meaning. For example,
Harrods across its retail store has a total of 28 eateries. The company employed social media
in an innovative way and ran a campaign dubbed “Twenty Ate Days” that featured a
dissimilar eatery each day all through the February month. This campaign was able to receive
really affirmative press coverage and lots of consumer interest that helped build awareness of
the Harrods company brand whilst at the same time promoting the variety of delectable foods
that the company offers in its restaurants (Vernuccio 2014).
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 3
Social Media Enables and Accelerates Social Construction of Brand Meaning
When the brand of a company is not a household name or not yet very popular and the
company’s management want more potential clients to know who the company is, then social
media could help the company get there by increasing the company’s brand awareness. A
business organization should be able to expect changes within its environment and respond to
those changes in a creative and flexible way. The changing nature of communication implies
that businesses should take on social media channels and use them in communicating to a
wide audience (Holt 2016).
A business organization can use social media effectively in promoting its brand not
only to its existing clients, but also to future and new customers. For example, Harrods, a
luxury British retailer based in London England, effectively employs various social media
channels in promoting its luxury brand to its current loyal shoppers and to future, new
shoppers. By monitoring and seeking novel trends and opportunities, this British luxury
retailer ensures that its brand always stays relevant and current (Holt 2016). This way, social
media effectively enables and accelerates the social construction of brand meaning. Recently,
Harrods was voted by consumers and critics in the top 5 retailers to follow on Instagram
(Holt 2016). This clearly demonstrates that an organization can actually utilize modern
communication channels but still make certain that its values and brand do not become
If utilized in a proper manner, social media could easily become a very powerful
marketing tool available for the business enterprise. Sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and
Twitter are able to move consumers along a spectrum from just ‘liking’ the company all the
way to being ready to defend the company and its brand. In particular, social media is
important for 3 different reasons which demonstrate the way in which social media enables
and accelerates the social construction of brand meaning. Firstly, it humanizes the brand of
the company – the problem which many brands have particularly electronic commerce or
online-based firms is that they are not able to link with their clients on an emotional level.
According to Yan (2011), social media enables a company to humanize its brand and meet its
target audience where they are. This is really essential and could change the company’s brand
from a stale corporate name to a breathing, living organization.
Secondly, social media can provide relevant insights – brands that are savvy know
that social media platforms serve as a crucial listening tool. The company could utilize social
media to learn and discover what consumers are saying about the company’s brand and
utilize that knowledge in improving features, communications or processes. Social media can
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 4
also be used to drive traffic – when social media websites are capitalized on, they are really
good in terms of producing leads and driving traffic to external landing sites or pages
(Watkins 2014). Even though it is an extremely organic way of acquiring traffic, social media
websites are often much more valuable in comparison to paid advertising campaigns.
All Brand Communications on Social Media Are Authentic and Trustworthy
Authenticity in social media helps to set the tone: in general, it is hard work to pretend
to be something or someone else, and in the end, the brand would come unstuck. According
to Vernuccio (2014), being authentic is important in guiding the tone of the brand’s social
media. Moreover, given that the tone of the brand would be emanating from a place that is
genuine and real, it would resonate with the brand’s community, it would be sustainable, and
would be a key reason that would keep customers coming back. Brands may have dissimilar
personalities such as caring and warm, or serious and traditional. Companies ensure that their
images on Instagram and posts on Facebook convey the personality of its brand.
Authenticity and trustworthiness in social media helps to develop the brand’s
personality: authenticity, along with brand’s tone, will allow the company’s genuine
personality to shine through. It is worth mentioning that authenticity is a feature of brands or
persons and it actually comes through in a person’s or brand’s personality. If a brand lacks an
authentic personality, sooner or later customers would consider it as being fake, a jerk, boring
or contrived even when the brand thinks that it is getting away with it (Brennan & Croft
2012). Once a brand has built its personality via social media, it will need to sustain that
Authenticity and trustworthiness in social media builds trust: whenever the brand
shares truthfully and authentically, then consumers would without doubt pick up on it, ‘like’
the brand for it on Facebook and even more importantly the consumers would trust the brand.
Holt (2016) reported that trust is essential in every aspect of a brand – that is, between brand
and suppliers, between brand and staff members, and between brand and consumers – and is
the most important emotion that good marketers look for whenever they build a brand. In
essence, failure to be authentic and trustworthy could unravel any trust the brand has been
building for several years within just a second and when that occurs, it is a long climb back
for the brand. Authenticity and trustworthiness in social media helps to build a community: If
a brand has been authentic at all times with its online community and established the trust
amongst them, when the brand faces some challenges its online community would surely
stand by it (Kissel & Büttgen 2015). For instance, the Woogs World and Michelle Bridges
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 5
are great social media communities: these two support their brands enthusiastically and
passionately, which is really significant.
It is important for brands to boast and brag about their authentic side on social media.
In spite of what service or product the company offers, consumers are generally drawn to
brands which deliver on authenticity, honesty and trustworthiness. Brennan and Croft (2012)
reported that as people’s lives have become very much virtual and the financial instability
over the last several years have made people really critical and conscious, people’s hunger for
authentic and trustworthy brands has only increased. Brands should deliver on trust and truth
at all points in the social customer journey. Social media, as Watkins (2014) pointed out, is
all about managing the journey of the client from initial awareness to full engagement. Given
that social media is essential in ensuring that brands come through on that act of integrity, a
brand should engage in conversations with its existing and prospective customers to build
lasting relationships (Brennan & Croft 2012).
Most brands show off their authentic side using brand communications through the
following efforts or measures: (i) treat their customers like insiders – considering that today’s
era is regarded as the age of the customer, brands treat their clients as if they are insiders and
they do so by being as transparent as possible. Such brands show their customers that they do
not have anything to hide, since there is no better way of demonstrating that the company is
human and is ready to make that strong link or relationship with its audience (Kissel &
Büttgen 2015). Buffer, the social sharing firm, for instance disclosed the pay structure of all
its workers including the pay of the company’s Chief Executive Officer, which led to an
increase in new applications (Kissel & Büttgen 2015). Be it through webinars, blogposts,
tweets, or any other sort of brand communication on social media channels, a company
should ensure that it is a true problem-solver even before clients choose to work with it.
Given that they are equally armed with information these days, customers only expect to
receive that invaluable, insider treatment.
(ii) Empower the company’s brand advocates and employees – Coleman, Chandler
and Jian (2013) reported that when it comes to authenticity, a number of brands focus
particularly on employees and advocates given that they play an essential role in building
companies that are authentic and trustworthy. For instance, staff members have the closest
connection and engagement rate with an organization. As such, employees become the
brand’s ultimate social representatives by providing them a means of recognition that is
straightforward and tangible. Moreover, brand advocates are credible game-changers who
love that brand very much and speak well regarding their brand experience in social media
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 6
channels. The powerful voice of brand advocates resonates with the audience of a brand since
they hold the most trust (Vernuccio 2014). On the whole, there is no better way for a
company’s brand to be authentic than to have the social support of its brand advocates who
are at all times ready to get involved and affirm the company’s brand message.
(iii) Thirdly, companies deliver on authenticity by demonstrating that sharing is caring
– companies show their authentic side by means of quality social sharing by becoming the
go-to source for a wide range of topics on the industry. This could be in many different
forms. For example, some brands share wonderful articles in the industry with their social
following. Some companies choose to engage with their audience and offer them the
company’s knowledge on the topics which the company actually knows everything about. In
spite of which social media channel the conversation actually occurs, the brand should ensure
that it is an easily accessible and valuable source for information which simply oozes
personality (Coleman, Chandler & Jian 2013). (iv) The brands own up to their mistakes –
some brands develop authenticity on social media through admitting mistakes instead of
hiding them. If the brand has truly made a mistake, it may post an apology on Twitter or
Facebook. The brand may as well contact the clients who have posted their complaints on
social media. In the year 2007 for example, when JetBlue airline utilized videos on YouTube
to make an apology to travellers who had been stranded on the airport tarmac for a number of
hours, it branded itself as an authentic airline (Kissel & Büttgen 2015). Currently, this airline
has more than 1.75 million followers on Twitter which is one of the largest compared to other
airline companies since customers expect this brand to be helpful and clear-cut by means of
the social media channel.
(v) The brands are clear about their values – brands show clients what they value by
means of social media channels. The brand may post articles on Facebook with regard to a
vital issue. The brand may as well voice its viewpoint regarding a current event on Twitter.
For example, Zady the online retailer is usually considered as an authentic brand due to its
commitment to fair labour practices and hand-crafted apparel. Zady makes use of its Twitter
feed in reinforcing its values, posting about the significance of craftsmanship and
transparency in the apparel industry (Watkins 2014). (vi) The brands are honest on what they
deliver – customers generally view the brands which communicate openly and honestly about
their services and products as being authentic. Since customers seek authenticity and honesty
from brands, companies should communicate honestly regarding their services and products,
and strive to act with integrity always. Brands which try to establish an authentic presence on
social media in general consider whether or not they are actually delivering what they
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 7
promise their consumers (Coleman, Chandler & Jian 2013). Furthermore, such brands are
cautious about links and headlines they place on their social media pages. In order to develop
authenticity, brands try to be honest and they do not over-promise their customers what they
are going to deliver.
To sum up, social media without doubt enables and accelerates the social construction
of brand meaning. This is because social media humanizes the brand, helps to drive traffic
and can provide pertinent insights. Customers these days want authentic, transparent and
open communications from brands regarding different things such as the way in which
products are sourced and produced, although some consumers believe that quite a few brands
at the moment deliver in this area.
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCELERATED SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF BRAND MEANING 8
Brennan, R, & Croft, R 2012, ‘The use of social media in B2B marketing and branding: An
exploratory study’, Journal Of Customer Behaviour, 11, 2, pp. 101-115, Business
Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 May 2016.
Coleman, L, Chandler, K, & Jian, G 2013, ‘Social Media — A Moving Target’, Journal Of
Marketing Development & Competitiveness, 7, 1, pp. 73-77, Business Source
Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 May 2016.
Holt, D 2016, ‘Branding in the Age of Social Media’, Harvard Business Review, 94, 3, pp. 40-
50, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 May 2016.
Kissel, P, & Büttgen, M 2015, ‘Using social media to communicate employer brand identity:
The impact on corporate image and employer attractiveness’, Journal Of Brand
Management, 22, 9, pp. 755-777, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed
15 May 2016.
Vernuccio, M 2014, ‘Communicating Corporate Brands Through Social Media: An
Exploratory Study’, International Journal Of Business Communication, 51, 3, pp.
211-233, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 May 2016.
Watkins, B 2014, ‘An Integrated Approach to Sports Branding: Examining the Influence of
Social Media on Brand Outcomes’, International Journal Of Integrated Marketing
Communications, 6, 2, pp. 30-40, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed
15 May 2016.
Yan, J 2011, ‘Social media in branding: Fulfilling a need’, Journal Of Brand Management,
18, 9, pp. 688-696, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 May 2016.