Going to an exciting party with friends, relaxing on a sunny beach, getting a new smartphone: Ever since social networks have given us a platform to upload images of happy events or the latest shopping bargain captured on camera, these are experiences to be shared with the world. On Facebook alone, members are posting millions of photos every day, including many which show products and brands. So what do these images say about attitudes to brands? Are they an indication of brand affection? It seems that people who post photos online particularly like the brands shown and consequently, are happy to buy and endorse them.
The wealth of pictures on social networks is overwhelming. For example, there are around 10 billion pictures on the photo sharing platform Flickr alone, while each day approximately another one million new photos are uploaded. The 1.39 billion Facebook users upload many millions of photos every day, so that in its entirety, by 2013, Facebook‘s photo database already totaled 250 billion images. In capturing these moments, it is not just the social life of Facebook users that is portrayed. In some photos, products and brands can also be seen – either being used or proudly shown to the camera. This willingness to post such photos is as much an expression of brand affection as it is a sign of great loyalty to the product. Anyone posting brand images is enthusiastically endorsing the particular brand on show. This is borne out by the findings of a recent survey carried out for the GfK Verein and the University of Michigan-Dearborn in May 2014, in which 255 German and 248 American Facebook users were questioned on their attitudes to ten different brands. The subjects, who were selected according to age and gender from the country-specific Facebook community, gave information on their current posting habits as well as on their future intentions to publish brand images.
Anyone keen on posting brand images on the net or planning to do so in future is also expressing his or her affinity: There is a strong to very strong level of brand affection among 71% of Facebook users who are highly willing to post images of a respective brand. This drops to just 4% of Facebook users with low willingness to post. For the group of respondents who expressed an average level of willingness to post, one in four respondents assessed their brand affection as strong to very strong.
Willingness to post brand images is not only a sign of brand affection, but also of heightened loyalty, testifying to a loyal attitude and a willingness to buy. In excess of two thirds of subjects with a pronounced willingness to post described their loyalty to the brand in question as high to very high. In the group with a medium willingness to post, the figure was a quarter, whereas it was just 4% in correspondents with a low propensity to post such images. Consequently, it can be said that photos posted on Facebook reflect attitudes to the brands examined.
The findings were similar when it comes to positive endorsements and doubts expressed concerning negative opinions (further endorsements). Of Facebook users with a pronounced willingness to post, 60% endorsed the brand often or very often. However, this applied only for 5% of Facebook users with a less pronounced willingness to post, while in the medium propensity to post group, just under one fifth of respondents could imagine endorsing the brand shown to friends and family.
This shows that photos posted on Facebook are more than just a snapshot or a record of the daily life of a member. This is further confirmed by an additional survey of around 45,000 photos posted by the survey subjects.
The conclusion is that the more photos of the brand posted, the more positive the image of the brand shown, irrespective of whether the photo was deliberately set up or the brand was coincidentally shown in the context of daily life. It therefore must also follow that the greater the affection for and loyalty to the brand, the more frequent the user endorsements. Many Facebook users are already confirming the working principle of American photographer Lisette Model long before like buttons and photo platforms came about, namely: Don’t ever take a picture of something that doesn’t interest you!
Source: GfK Verein and the University of Michigan-Dearborn; Survey May 2014
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