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Brand communities, fans or publics? How social media interests and brand management practices define the rules of engagement

Georgia-Zozeta Miliopoulou (Department of Communication, DEREE – The American College of Greece, Athens, Greece)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 20 September 2021

Issue publication date: 23 November 2021




This paper aims to examine brand-generated communities from the community managers’ point of view and investigate how social media influences managerial perceptions, attitudes and practises around brand communities.


The literature review examines the most prominent constructs describing consumer groupings around brands. It then focuses on how the term “brand community” has evolved throughout the years and transformed in the social media environment. Research involving one survey and one focus group among agency-employed brand community managers was conducted to explore and interpret their views and their work.


Brand community managers aim to increase platform metrics. They encourage interaction between each user and the brand, but not between users. While they execute pre-planned content calendars handling comments, they do not have the experience and autonomy to foster a communal environment. Finally, managers rely on extrinsic incentives, and even antagonise users, regarding control over the community.

Research limitations/implications

The sample covers the majority of agency-employed brand community managers in one country: Greece. The findings call for a re-examination of the construct of brand community, as well as for a new assessment of groupings consumers form around brands in social media.

Practical implications

For actual brand communities to emerge in social media, community managers should have more training, experience and initiative to tailor content and metrics, use intrinsic incentives and propose engaging activities. The quest for platform-imposed measurements inhibits this opportunity, and so do centralised processes that define global brand management.


The managerial aspect of brand-generated communities is understudied, especially when management is outsourced. This paper provides insight on how platform priorities and managerial practises dilute expectations that consumer-generated communities have created.



The author wishes to thank the Hellenic Association of Communication Agencies for their support.


Miliopoulou, G.-Z. (2021), "Brand communities, fans or publics? How social media interests and brand management practices define the rules of engagement", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 12, pp. 3129-3161.



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