An Exploratory Study of College Students' Fanning Behavior on Facebook

Article excerpt

This study examined variables that predict college students' use of Facebook as well as their motives to fan companies on Facebook. Also of interest were variables that contribute to students' decisions to fan, how students who fan differ from those who do not, and variables that predict outcomes of college students' decisions to fan. Data were collected from 343 students. Expression identity and market mavenism emerged as predictors of motives to use Facebook and motives to fan consumer goods companies on Facebook. Market mavenism also predicted college students' decisions to fan (or not fan) as well as the outcomes of their decisions to fan. Utilitarian motives also were strong predictors of both the product/brand consumption and company association (fanning) outcomes.

Keywords: Facebook, fanning, identity, market mavenism

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It is estimated that between 66%-96% of consumer goods companies have adopted social media, including Facebook, to connect with consumers and have done so for a variety of reasons, including the capacity to "tell a story" about brand identity or product development, to provide transparency about business practices, to establish connections with consumers, and to transform loyal customers into passionate advocates for the brand/business (Burson-Marsteller, 2010; "Marketers Engage," 2009; Swedowsky, 2009; Wong, 2009). Social media also offer consumers a way to provide or obtain opinions to/from others during the purchase process (Swedowsky, 2009), thereby amplifying the power of the consumer to exert influence through electronic word of mouth (EWOM) communication (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Young consumers, in particular, may play an important role in EWOM brand communications, partaking in the social diffusion of both positive and negative opinions about products and services (Needham, 2008). In turn, these opinions provide companies with valuable data that can be used to meet consumers' preferences and expectations (McKeefery, 2008). Further, it seems plausible that these opinions may impact consumer purchase intentions, as it has been suggested that consumers may perceive information shared among one another via social media to be more trustworthy than information generated and shared by companies (Lempert, 2006; Mangold & Faulds, 2009).

As a form of social media, Facebook, in particular, has been readily adopted by consumer goods companies for marketing purposes because it offers flexible utilities and a rich user environment through which to disseminate information about products and services, to build brand awareness, and to establish relationships with consumers. Facebook's "fanning (1)" feature allows consumer goods companies to engage consumers as "fans" and thereby to establish a connection with consumers by creating a virtual link between the company's brand profile page and the consumers' user profiles. In turn, this link affords the company an opportunity to target updates and communications toward a self-selected group of current and future consumers who have demonstrated interest and potential involvement with the company's product and brand. It also affords consumers the opportunity to gain knowledge of product attributes and sales promotions and share experiences relative to product satisfaction/dissatisfaction.

The purpose of the present study was to explore college students' use of Facebook to connect with friends and family as well as consumer goods companies. Specifically, this study was undertaken to examine variables that predict college students' motives to use Facebook as well as their motives to fan companies on Facebook. Also of interest were the variables that contribute to students' decisions to fan (or not fan), the differences between students who fan and those who do not, and the variables that predict the outcomes (i.e., attitudes and behaviors) of college students' decisions to fan.

Facebook

In 2004, Facebook was founded as an online platform to facilitate interpersonal communications among college students. …