What do we know about brand communities on social media?

In Harvard Business Review, Henry Mintzberg advised, “If you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help paint your house”. The idea of community has a long history in sociological and marketing research. Regardless of context, we apply this term where there is a specific type of bond between people, including consumption communities such as beloved Harley-Davidson and Star Trek.

Digital Marketing Convention at NZIE

But what do we know about brand communities on social media? This is a question I decided to discuss with NZIE digital marketing students during our termly convention. I’ve been researching social media since 2010, focusing on the nature of consumer-brand relationships. I was happy to share with students the results of my ongoing project – the model of brand values on social media that illustrates the importance of functional, emotional, self-oriented, social, and relational brand experiences.

Interestingly enough, I did not feel stressed when I presented my research at the First European Conference on Social Media in Brighton, but it seems to be a different story when you share your research with your students. I hope that some students who attended the convention will take full advantage of social media in building communities, others will get inspired to go beyond their study program and one day conduct a research on social media.

NZIE Digital Marketing Students

Images by Naida Rasch

What did you study in high school?

While preparing an application for PhD, I came across my high school academic records. My memories of military classes are still very vivid – we were taught how to survive nuclear war. And before you ask – yes, we had exams. One of the assignments was to assemble a Kalashnikov; I was awarded “A”. In other words, I was able to complete the task within 25 sec Lol

Anyway, it seems like I’m very well equipped for any sort of situations. What did you study in high school?

High School Academic Records

New Year New Studies

Ok, it is almost 2019 and it’s a great time to reflect on the year that has passed.

As a marketer I like Key Performance Indicators. My marketing students know about this and they also know that I like specifics 🙂 So, let’s be specific. It has been a very interesting and big year. Books published – 1, new jobs – 1 (I’ve returned to teaching!), research proposals – 1, family businesses – still 2 (new one is being planned & I still need to learn how to prioritise and delegate work), overseas trips – 1, (Singapore, I’m yours forever), family weekends and holidays – 1, catch-ups with friends – 2 (I made it!!), morning walks with my Jack Russell Moscow – 365, best student feedback – “I want to be her friend forever”.

A long time ago I realised that I can’t make a choice between running a business and teaching. After a few attempts to focus on either business or teaching, I gave up and decided to get the best of the both worlds. It really helps to stay current when it comes to teaching as well as to grow my business (simply because the beauty of being a teacher is never-ending learning).

This year after a long break I returned to teaching. I’m still in the process of getting to know my new colleagues, a new culture (every institution is different), and my new students. The new term starts just in a couple of weeks so I have something to share based on my experiences as a student (and I still am, doing my DPP ) and as a teacher:

1. From time to time you may think that skills you gained and knowledge you learned in the past will never have a use or have anything to do with your career plans. This is far from the truth. At the Far Eastern State Humanitarian University I studied Medieval Literature, History of Religion, Political Science and even Dramatic Reading. Like anybody else I often questioned the content of my programs, but surprise, surprise… later on I recognised the value of ALL of the subjects I studied. It’s not just about advancing your general knowledge – that I’m sure will pay off at any given point in your career – but more importantly, it’s about advancing understanding of the complexities of connections between different disciplines/concepts/theories, etc. This skill is very rare nowadays, trust me!

2. From time to time the concepts you learn can be repetitive. For example, in all marketing papers (even in social media marketing) you will apply, again and again, the marketing mix, servicescape model, marketing research, etc. And this is fine because, 1) you have a chance to master your skills, 2) challenge existing approaches and come up with something new, and 3) experiment with traditional concepts in a new domain (online).

3. Make the most of your study experiences. I always tell my students to create a portfolio of what they have done and studied in class (presentations, group and individual projects, etc). By the end of your studies you will be able to show a company you would like to work for your capabilities and knowledge, and have the evidence to support it. LinkedIn and industry-related networks are great places to share your portfolio.

That’s all for now. I wish you the best of luck for 2019! Happy New Year guys. The photos were taken during the end-of-study Christmas party at NZIE by Leonardo Falasca. I hope they will make you smile!



Not just a new book on social media

Hi everyone! A book I have been working on with my co-authors, talented teachers and learning designers from Unitec has been published!

Global Perspectives on Social Media in Tertiary Learning and Teaching: Emerging Research and Opportunities by I. Piven, R. Gandell, Maryann Lee & A Simpson is a scholarly publication that introduces digital and online learning tools to best support teaching practices. A range of topics includes collaborative learning, innovative learning environments, and blended teaching. This book might be helpful for educators, academics, researchers, and professionals within higher education.

Each book chapter got a thumbs up from reviewers which is encouraging!

“The topical nature of the subject matter is tremendously appropriate for educators who find themselves in a global teaching landscapebook on social media in education where culturally relevant practices are essential to student engagement and success”.

“The issues, problems, and trends are given appropriate emphasis, particularly in terms of presenting the overall idea of social media as a key component of emerging pedagogies in post-secondary education”.

“The book is very strong when it addresses specific practices associated with the use of social media to enhance a class. Inclusion of specific recommendations and responses of both students and instructors provided clear illustration of the concepts and practices…”

“Specific responses and reactions from those participating as designers or consumers of the teaching practices provided strong support for the positions taken in the book. The use of research studies also moved the book into the realm of current science, making the book timely and topical”.

That said, it’s time to plan a new book on social media in education! I welcome your ideas and suggestions on topics that you’d like to see in the new book.

Social Media and Brand Communities

Before social media, marketing communications was a relatively stable and predictable business; the traditional approaches generally worked, keeping advertisers and PR managers satisfied. The emergence of social media has flipped the marketing world on its head. Suddenly, businesses start questioning whether social media is the best channel, as so many suggest, to reach consumers.

At Otago Polytechnic (Auckland campus) I taught marketing courses. The entire point was to get my students to develop a habit to scan everything when it comes to marketing – from a company’s day-to-day operation to its social media presence. As you may guess, social media remains one of the most popular topics in my classes. From my students’ perspectives, business on social platforms should be working towards one big idea – building a community. The idea isn’t new. However, whether businesses are capable of building a community on social media or not is debatable.

In a publication by Harvard Business Review, Henry Mintzberg advised, “If you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help paint your house” (2015). There is also no agreement between academic and marketing practitioners regarding whether brand communities emerging on social media should be seen and treated in the same way as traditional (face-to-face) ones.

It seems that Giapo Ice Cream shop and Mr Vintage t-shirt company (Auckland) are not aware of this debate. They somehow know how to develop a highly participative brand fellowship off and on social media. This is what my research participants say about them:

Giapo Ice Cream, Auckland. Photo credit: Zomato, NZ

He [Giapo] has created his following, and the other day he is like ‘ok, I need feijoa leaves; who’s got feijoa leaves?’ and everybody offered feijoa leaves, and he got them for free. This way he has made Twitter feel like they are a part of his endeavour. (*feijoa – an evergreen shrub or small tree that bears edible green fruit resembling guavas. It is native to tropical South America and cultivated in New Zealand for its fruit).

 Mr. Vintage has done a really good job building a brand around themselves as a cheeky kind of company that uses the community they’ve created really well… they’re always producing t-shirts that people have suggested. 

Hamiltron’ by Mr Vintage, City of the Future. Photo credit: Mr Vintage for grabonestore.co.nz

If you still think that all electronic devices can do is to put people in touch with a keyboard, ask your Facebook friends to help you with your house renovation. I’m sure they will.

My happily-ever-after in business

Quite some time ago I came across a brilliant book called ‘Mischief Marketing’ by Jean-Luc Ginder. While it was full of simple and often trivial advice, there was one thing that helped me make sure my business wasn’t boring… and that I wasn’t getting bored of it either.

One of the essentials for finding your happily-ever-after in business is to enjoy the process. Believe me, having a sense of enjoyment and excitement when it comes to your business is by far more important than your results in finance, marketing and management…however in saying that, before you get too comfortable, having impressive results definitely doesn’t hurt. At the end of the day, if you want to make your customers fall in love with your product/service, become the most devoted fan of your company first. Experiment with your business processes, play with design and constantly look for new ideas.

I have plenty of examples of New Zealand companies who stand out of the crowd. They offer experiences that no one else would offer. If you are going to Dunedin, have a cuppa in  the cosy and welcoming atmosphere at Modaks, the most popular hipster cafe. They have hundreds of old gig posters and Ryan Gosling pics instead of traditional table numbers 🙂modaks_2

It’s never too early to learn barista skills

Adler is such a star in the making. A 3 years old barista was discovered by the popular coffee blog from beanhunter.com While searching for the best coffee spots all over the world, they came across Bindle Coffee located in Fort Collins, Colorado.

According to their website, Bindle Coffee provides a space and environment that gives people room to breathe, to dream and to enjoy beautiful food & coffee. Bindle is the forging of artistry and ritual. It is restorative and comforting. And it is also adorable. Have a look at how Adler makes a decaf cappuccino under his dad’s supervision. So cute:)

You can also share your best coffee shops/cafes’ experiences using Beanhunter app. The video was made by Benjamin Dinsmore.

New Zealand retailers know how to grab passers-by’ attention

Funny Display in New Lynn Mall

I have a lifelong habit – collecting funny/smart/interesting/weird business-related bits and pieces. New Zealand businesses seem to know well how to capture attention of passers-by without traditional “SALES” and “50% OFF” displays. Well, it is simple – you need a content customers can relate to and may be inclined to publically share. It’s also well known that consumers are more likely to feel emotionally connected to a brand if elements of humor and entertainment are incorporated into their brand experiences (Piven, I. & Breazeale, M., 2016). And yes, I’ve shared this display from New Lynn Mall on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… you name it.

Convenient Marketing & Technologies for Small Business. Digital Marketing Education