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An investigation into how social media consumer engagement can be used by e-SME brands to develop trust and build brand reputation, with new and existing customers.

Connolly, Barry (2015) An investigation into how social media consumer engagement can be used by e-SME brands to develop trust and build brand reputation, with new and existing customers. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Social media is an ideal environment for online small to medium sized enterprises (e-SMEs) to build and develop brand communities. However, there is currently limited research investigating how initial and continual consumer trust is formed through this type of engagement for new and existing e-SME customers. Conducted from three data sets (an e-SME social media netnography, key informant and consumer interviews) this thesis investigates this issue by developing a framework highlighting how engagement within social media brand communities can influence e-SME brand trust. The findings identify eight core trust themes which positively influence initial and continual consumer trust, expanding the existing online consumer trust literature. The increasing role of engagement is also investigated with strategic avenues identified, as well as the influential effect engagement can have on loyalty and trust. This thesis also investigates how e-SMEs can identify business value from the use of social media and increase corporate reputation through social media brand communities. Business value through social media brand community engagement is found to lie primarily in the lasting relationships developed and trust created for consumers. This thesis provides an important contribution to knowledge by increasing the theoretical and managerial understanding of social media brand community engagement for e-SMEs, and how the effects of such engagement can influence consumer trust and reputation.

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