Sharing as “frands”: Personified branding strategies on social network sites in China

Hua Wang, Jingbo Meng, Fan Dong


Prior research on social network sites (SNSs) has focused on interpersonal communication on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Much less is known about the use of SNSs beyond the individual level and outside of the American context. This study fills in the gaps by offering insight into the personified use of interactive features on SNSs by organizations in China for branding purposes. Based on the notion of the social affordances of technologies, we conducted a content analysis of the presence and activities of 98 organizations on a popular Chinese SNS and identified 15 interactive features, including profile related features (e.g., status updates, discussion board, message forwarding) and social game related features (e.g., game players, raffles, virtual goods). The results of our statistical analysis indicated that the more interactive features that an organization used, the more page visits and fans it attracted and the more electronic word of mouth (eWOM) behavior occurred. All of these interactive features helped personify the organizations as friends to their fans, followers, service users, and potential customers, which created a new form of organization–public communication: sharing as “frands.”


social network sites; brands; organizations; affordances; communities

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