The role of social capital in shaping consumer engagement within online brand communities

Jana Bowden, Jodie Conduit, Linda D. Hollebeek, Vilma Luoma-aho, Birgit Apenes Solem

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


In contemporary, increasingly interconnected environments, consumers are no longer merely passive recipients of incoming brand‐related cues, but are proactively shaping and cocreating brand communication and meaning. In particular, online brand communities (OBCs) provide platforms for consumers to articulate their views, opinions, and feelings relating to brands. For brands, this produces an opportunity to create and maintain social capital (i.e., the collective value of social networks and the norms of reciprocity that arise from these networks; Putnam, 2000) for the purpose of shaping consumer engagement. OBCs have thus been identified as useful platforms to foster and maintain consumer engagement with focal product and/or service‐based brands in both the profit and not‐for‐profit sectors.

The emerging literature addressing consumer engagement in OBCs has focused on the occurrence of positively valenced expressions of engagement resulting, predominantly, in favorable brand‐related outcomes, including enhanced customer brand loyalty and commitment. However, little is known about the characteristics and outcomes of negatively valenced engagement within OBCs . In addition, research is yet to explore the interrelationships between positively and negatively valenced engagement, their potential coexistence, and the focal engagement objects with which these may emerge and/or differ.

In this chapter we provide a critical review of the literature on engagement within OBCs and in particular, we examine three distinct engagement‐based issues. First, we argue that consumer engagement may involve both positively and negatively valenced expressions. Second, we explore how these engagement valences may manifest with distinct focal engagement objects, including the focal brand, and the OBC. Third, we examine the potential spillover effects between positively and negatively valenced engagement with these particular engagement objects. A conceptual model is developed, which illustrates important context‐driven antecedents, derived from social capital theory, for positive and negative engagement with the OBC and the brand, as well as the manifestations of this engagement valence duality with these particular engagement objects. The chapter concludes with an overview of key managerial implications arising from our analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe handbook of communication engagement
EditorsKim A. Johnston, Maureen Taylor
Place of PublicationHoboken, NJ
PublisherWiley-Blackwell, Wiley
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781119167525
ISBN (Print)9781119167495
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameHandbooks in communication and media


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