Exploring audience-brand relationships on social media platforms: A case study of The Guardian brand on Facebook.

Authors: Ramjaun

Start date: 12 June 2014

With the rising popularity of social media platforms, newspaper brands have been exploring the potential of social media as a means to attract and maintain online audiences (Hong 2012). With the growing interest by newspapers to provide content through to multiplatform digital models (Picard 2013), there is a need to better understand the relationship that audiences develop with each of these platforms. Many newspaper brands have been experimenting with social media platforms like Facebook (Ju et al. 2014) and have developed a presence on such a social platform where people can ‘like’ the page with the result of having posts from the newspaper brand on their newsfeeds. The unique nature of Facebook is such that is allows the “consumer and brand form a connection and this connection is visible to other members of the customer's network” (Wallace et al. 2012) and it has also been suggested that consumers ‘like’ a brand on Facebook also as a means to define themselves since their ‘likes’ are made public to their personal network (Wallace et al. 2013). Facebook is also considered nowadays as an important social media platform by brands to develop a more intimate relationship with their target audience (Helme-Guizon and Magnoni 2013). Therefore while social media platforms are not revolutionising the way users access media content, they are indeed providing “different methods for participating and receiving communication” (Picard 2000, p. 60). This study aims at exploring the relationhip between a newspaper brand (The Guardian) and its ‘fans’ through a social media platform (Facebook) from a user perspective. The most active ‘fans’ engaging with the newspaper brand through this platform will be interviewed to gain insights on the following: (1) How do active fans of the brand on Facebook perceive their relationship with the brand through this platform? (2) How does a Facebook relationship effects on the relationship that the user has with the brand on other platforms? A qualitative approach will be used with in-depth interviews carried out with 10 of the top ‘fans’ of the brand on Facebook as per ranking made available on the social media platform itself.

Established in 1821, The Guardian is one of the UK’s most established newspaper brands. During recent years, there has been a strategic move by management to develop a digital strategy due to losses incurred from traditional operations. A major brand advertising campaign was launched in 2012, which emphasized on the role of social media in audience participation. In line with the brand’s new strategy of increasing revenues from digital platforms, the brand’s CEO ammounced his commitment to a ‘digital first’ strategy with a view to double which digital revenues would double to nearly £100m by 2016 (Sabbagh 2011). The brand has develop its presence on social media platform Facebook during recent years with an estimate of around one million ‘likes’ as at November 2013, mostly popular among the 25-34 age group.

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