Doctoral thesis

Relationship orientation in social media : construct, measurement and link to company performance


250 p.

Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2014 (jury note: Magna cum laude)

English Today, companies operate in a dynamic environment, characterized by fast technological development, vast competition and globalization as well as constant changes in the market which has led to the growing awareness of the importance of developing long term, profitable relationships with various stakeholders or partners. Combined with the emergence of social media during the 1990s that facilitate the development and maintenance of such relationships, the two concepts gain even more importance, and are often considered as crucial factors for a company's success. Moreover, both concepts have been referred to as new marketing paradigms that had a profound impact on marketing theory and practice. With the decreasing marketing efficiency of mass communication, the concept of relationship building in social media is becoming more appealing to marketing academics and practitioners. However, even though relationship building has been identified as one of the company’s main objectives in social media, it has not been conceptualized or measured adequately. On the other hand, existing conceptualizations of a more general relationship orientation, in addition to having certain conceptual and methodological issues, do not take into account the specificities of the social media context. For this reason, we argue in favor of the development of a new construct - relationship orientation in social media (ROSM), and its operationalization that would enable both academics and practitioners to measure the degree to which a company is oriented towards relationship-building in social media. The main focus of our study was to develop an understanding of the key features of ROSM. More specifically, our aim is to determine the domain and definition of the construct and its measurement. As a secondary objective, we aimed at developing an understanding of the impact of ROSM on company performance. Given the objectives defined, a mixed method approach was used. The literature review of relationship marketing, social media and strategic orientation, was used as the basis for the conceptualization of ROSM. The empirical research was conducted in several stages. First we conducted field interviews in order to develop a better understanding of relationship orientation and its specificities in social media. More specifically, the main purpose of this stage was to develop a working definition of the ROSM construct and a preliminary pool of items to measure it. Additionally, the insights from the interviews were used to identify the key outcomes and influencing factors of the ROSM-performance link. In the second stage we used the Delphi method to refine the preliminary pool of items, which resulted in the refined measurement scale. Finally, we conducted quantitative research to empirically test the new construct measurement and evaluate its psychometric properties. Our findings indicate Relationship Orientation in Social Media (ROSM) is a behavioral, process-based, multidimensional construct consisting of three dimensions: (1) Knowledge generation, dissemination and management, (2) trust and bonding and (3) interaction facilitation and management. As a result, the key features of our view of ROSM are (1) the focus on current and potential customers and their communities in social media, (2) continuity and process-based view that incorporate generation, dissemination and management of knowledge and (3) focus on specific activities rather than attitudes and beliefs. The construct can be measured with a multi- item scale, and has satisfactory psychometric properties. We also identified several business and customer-based performance measures and introduced environmental and internal factors that may influence the ROSM-performance link. The main contribution of the dissertation and research is the conceptualization of relationship orientation in social media (ROSM), the operationalization of the construct by developing a measurement scale and the exploration of the link between relationship orientation in social media and company performance.
  • English
Information, communication and media sciences
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