Consumer Literacy in Virtual Brand Communities: Dimension Exploration and Scale Development

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Consumer Literacy in Virtual Brand Communities: Dimension Exploration and Scale Development


Virtual brand communities are a new type of brand community born with the rapid development of Internet technology, in which consumers communicate information, express their views and opinions, and express their love for a specific brand [15]. At present, several scholars have conducted rich exploratory studies on virtual brand communities, but have not yet reached a consensus on the definition of the concept of virtual brand communities. Kozinets [16] first defined the concept of the virtual brand community, which, according to him, is an online platform for members to communicate brand experiences and share brand attitudes. The study by Amine and Sitz [17] points out that a virtual brand community is a platform for brand experience and sharing of brand knowledge, values, etc., among enthusiasts of the same brand online, without geographical restrictions, using Internet technology. There are two main types of virtual brand community, the first one is initiated and established by companies [18], where members can exchange relevant content about the brand on the platform provided by the company. The second type is freely formed by brand enthusiasts or third parties [19], an online community that is not limited by geographical scope based on social relationships among consumers [20]. The object of this paper is a company-initiated virtual brand community, which is created by a company to establish and maintain social connections with consumers and potential consumers, so as to obtain timely and effective feedback from consumers on brand products or services [21]. Among the studies on virtual brand communities that have been conducted, some scholars have pointed out that virtual brand communities provide excellent conditions for value co-creation. For example, Tang and Jiang [22] argue in their study that value co-creation behavior relies on the environmental characteristics of the platform (e.g., ease of use of technology) and the connection characteristics among consumers (e.g., the interpersonal network established by interaction with each other). Based on the above studies, it can be seen that virtual brand communities have the following points in common: (1) the Internet as a technological tool, free from geographical constraints; (2) interactive communication as a basic form; (3) participants share the same brand preferences; and (4) positive effects on both brand merchants and consumers. Therefore, this study concludes that virtual brand communities are a kind of online co-creation value platform established by companies or brand operators to provide interactive communication for consumers with the same brand preferences. Although virtual brand communities are typical platforms for value co-creation, they also provide opportunities for value co-destruction to occur [23]. Whether communities are value co-creative or co-destructive, the level of consumers’ own literacy plays a key role.

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