Reputation interrupted : microblog eWOM brand image disruptions in a shareworthy world

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The management and preservation of a corporate reputation is an ever-increasingly difficult proposition in today’s environment where organisations’ stakeholders have access to unprecedented levels of information at their fingertips. Advances in digital technologies, and microblogs such as Twitter, have influenced a massive shift in how stakeholders not only absorb information about products and services, but also how quickly they share their experiences of organisations with others. Managing and maintaining a consistent corporate reputation for today’s stakeholder has thus become an increasingly difficult challenge for organisations.Although the power of social network site users has been highlighted extensively within the literature, there is a surprising dearth with regard to the impact that shared positive and negative brand experiences within microblogs could potentially have on receivers.For example, it is not known whether any change of perception of an organisation’s reputation takes place once receivers have been exposed to a positive or negative brand experience within microblogs such as Twitter – termed Microblog Electronic Word-of-Mouth (MeWOM) brand image disruptions in this thesis. MeWOM brand image disruptions have been defined as eWOM in a microblog that either positively promotes the course, progress or transmission of a brand’s image, or eWOM in a microblog that interrupts the course, progress, or transmission of a brand’s image. Further, upon exposure to MeWOM brand image disruptions, the factors that influence a change in reputation remain unclear. It is important that we expand our knowledge and understanding and explore the potential risk that microblog users pose to reputations and the factors that could influence a change in a corporate reputation upon exposure to a MeWOM brand image disruption.The overall purpose of this study is to further existing empirical knowledge of the concepts of corporate image and corporate reputation in today’s microblog landscape.To achieve the objectives of this study, two phases of research were involved. Phase 1 comprised an exploratory qualitative study where 10 practitioners from various industries of type and size were interviewed. Phase 2 involved a two-stage explanatory study comprised of a quantitative study followed by a qualitative follow-up study. The quantitative study was comprised of an experiment where 372 Twitter users in the United States were exposed to positive and negative Twitter posts about airlines in an experiment setting. The experiment was designed to examine whether MeWOM brand image disruptions in Twitter had any impact on the participants’ perceptions of the airlines’ corporate reputations and the variables that influenced a change in corporate reputation if one took place. Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling was employed to demonstrate the variables that predicted a change in corporate reputation from the receivers’ perspective. Stage two of the explanatory study was a qualitative study involving 14 participants who took part in 14 semi-structured interviews.This phase of the study focused on the provision of explanatory data for the significant variables found in the quantitative phase of the study.For the academic community, this research furthers existing understanding and knowledge of the theoretical concepts of corporate image and corporate reputation and provides new empirical data to enhance theoretical assertions made within the literature. For practitioners, the findings from this project deepen the understanding of receivers of MeWOM brand image disruptions and the factors that predict a change in corporate reputation upon exposure to a MeWOM brand image disruption.
Date of Award1 Jan 2016
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorAlan Wilson (Supervisor) & Spiros Gounaris (Supervisor)

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