To Share or To Not to Share: Exploring Consumer Empowerment and Disempowerment within a Green Clothing Online Community

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Abstract

The connectivity of the internet has allowed the rise of online communities (OC) that enable consumers to share their opinions and values, thereby facilitating a two-way conversation with organisations (Quinton, 2013; Labrecque et al., 2013; Quinton and Simkin, 2016). Such developments initiated the power shift from organisations to the consumer, resulting in consumer empowerment (CE) (Lim, 2009; Quinton, 2013). Despite the abundance of insightful conversations and behaviours displayed by consumers within an OC, there is a limited academic and managerial understanding about the drivers of CE and disempowerment in relation to knowledge sharing (KS) (Labrecque et al., 2013).
The evolution of CE is evidenced within Quinton and Simkin’s (2016) study, the third stage of the model labelled as “Travelling Companions and Communities” indicates a relationship between KS and CE (Quinton and Simkin, 2016). Further research is warranted to understand the connection between these concepts. This study aims to examine the interplay between consumers’ KS and CE, and to comprehend why and to what extent consumers are empowered within an OC to establish the drivers that lead to CE.
A multi-method qualitative research design was undertaken, entailing focus groups and semi-structured interviews, data was analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six steps thematic analysis.
The findings evidence empowered consumers whom share knowledge due to: past personal online experiences, green concerns, and online tools that facilitate their KS. Users’ disempowerment is further demonstrated, users are discouraged from sharing knowledge due to: past personal online experiences, reference groups, their professional role alongside employer’s restrictions, scepticism towards the reliability of content ‘posted’ and a lack of confidence.
Monitoring and filtering posts emerges from the analysis as a mechanism that reduces users’ anxiety of potential negative consequences online. The findings contribute to Stone and Cooper’s (2003) study that used the ‘self-standards model’ to explain users’ dissonance emerging when an individual self-evaluated their behaviour dependent on her/his personal standard of judgement. This study further provides a valuable insight into how users use monitoring and filtering to reduce online anxiety.
The findings show that users were disempowered to share their own views due to potential negative comments from ‘trolls’. The findings contribute to Sunstein (2009) evidencing users’ contribution to an echo-chamber with similar views (also in fear of online repercussions), rather than voicing opposing comments.
Reference groups influenced users’ disempowerment to share knowledge, such as friends and family. The findings contribute to a lack of understanding about the impact of reference groups on OC users’ deterred KS. Previous studies primarily discussed reference groups regarding the influence on consumers’ brand and service consumption (Bearden and Etzel, 1982; Childers and Rao, 1992).
The findings offer valuable insights to social media managers associated with a brand that prides itself of a sustainable supply chain and claims to encourage pro-environmental behaviour. For example, on how to harness an online community to empower users to share knowledge via the use of a gatekeeper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Marketing
PublisherAcademy of Marketing
Pages1
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2021
Event2021 Academy of Marketing Annual Conference: Reframing Marketing Priorities - Online
Duration: 5 Jul 20217 Jul 2021
https://www.academyofmarketing.org/conference/conference-2021/

Conference

Conference2021 Academy of Marketing Annual Conference
Period5/07/217/07/21
Internet address

Keywords

  • Consumer Empowerment
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • Online Communities
  • Disempowered Consumer

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