This paper aims to focus its inquiries on the parasocial interactions (PSI) and relationships (PSR) consumers form with personae in online social media communities. The authors extend the marketing literature on parasocial interaction/relationship beyond brands by focusing on personal social media accounts (public student-athletes).
The authors adopt a grounded theory methodology (Glaser and Strauss, 2009) triangulating observational netnographic data (Kozinets, 2010) of 49 public student-athlete accounts on Twitter (34,500 tweets) with in-depth interviews. The findings emphasize that PSI/PSR occur not only from interactions with brands but also through personal accounts on social media platforms.
The investigation reveals that through such social media platforms, PSI/PSR influence consumers cognitively, affectively and behaviorally. In terms of cognition, the data suggest that PSI/PSR can influence opinion, interests, attention allocation and construction of relations, specifically through the availability of in-depth knowledge about the social media persona. Additionally, the research findings indicate that affect-laden messages from persona can alter emotion and mood, induce empathetic reactions and trigger inspiration, especially in relation to the shared interest of the online community of the social media account. Behaviorally, the findings suggest that personas’ messages can direct and inspire both online and offline actions through endorsed behavioral parasocial interactions.
This research focused on one specific social media platform, Twitter. Twitter was specifically chosen, because it is a popular social media platform and allows non-reciprocal relationships. Although the authors feel that the findings would hold for other social media platforms, future research may be conducted to see if there are differences in PSI/PSR development on different types of networks. Additionally, the authors focused on a specific type of personal account, student-athletes. Future research may wish to extend beyond this population to other personal social media accounts, such as fashion bloggers, diy bloggers and others.
This research reveals that PSI/PSR can occur not only from interactions with brands but also through personal accounts on social media platforms. The findings give support for the value of brand spokespersons and brand ambassadors and suggest that brands should take careful consideration into who is chosen to represent the brand.
The authors would like to thank the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for their financial support. The first author was among the recipients of the 2012 NCAA Graduate Student Research Grant when she was pursuing her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received funding for her proposal, “Tweeting for Alma Mater: the Impact of Student-Athlete Accounts on Social Networking Sites”. This funding was used during the data collection process.
Yuksel, M. and Labrecque, L.I. (2016), "“Digital buddies”: parasocial interactions in social media", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 305-320. https://doi.org/10.1108/JRIM-03-2016-0023Download as .RIS
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