D2 For your initial post: 2 PARAGRAPHS 1. Read the article, Introducing COBRAs: Exploring motivations for brand-related social media use. (Estimated ti

D2 For your initial post:


1. Read the article, Introducing COBRAs: Exploring motivations for brand-related social media use. (Estimated ti

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For your initial post: 


1. Read the article, Introducing COBRAs: Exploring motivations for brand-related social media use. (Estimated time commitment: 1 hour)

2. Read A Marketer’s Guide to Using User-Generated Content on Social Media, which contains a number of examples of brands using UGC on social media. (Estimated time commitment: 20 minutes)

3. Recognizing (A) creation of brand-related content is the “ultimate level of online brand-related activeness” and (B) consumers trust one another more than they trust brands, find an example of a firm that has used user-generated video or images in its brand page post(s) on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or another social media platform. You may not use examples included in A Marketer’s Guide to Using User-Generated Content on Social Media.

4. Title your post: Brand Name UGC in Social Media

5. Within your post:

Use your text AND external research to formulate your thoughtful response. Write in full sentences. Cite sources like this(1) and this (2). Use language and concepts befitting your status as a business student. Include a References Section.

a. Embed (not attach!) a jpg of the post including the response tallies beneath (likes, favorites, retweets, etc).
b. Referencing your text book or other credible resources offering guidelines on how to effectively use photos and videos in social media, explain why you think the firm elected to use the UGC in a brand page post.
c. Describe consumer response – likes, favorites, shares, comments, etc – to the post, comparing it to the consumer response the firm receives when it shares content IT produces.


1. This is an example of how a numbered list of sources would look. Just provide a link to the information you sourced.

2. Another source link.

3. Another source link.

For your reply to a classmate:
Share an idea for a way the firm could leverage this consumer creation of brand-related content to get MORE consumers to create usable content that supports overall business goals. Want full credit? Cite industry or scholarly sources that support your recommendation and share a link with us. Use numbered in-text citations tied to numbered references, just as you did for your initial post.


I will use the FARM rubric to grade both your post and your reply. Your post has a maximum value of 1.5 points (1.5% of your grade). Your reply has a maximum value of 1.5 points (1.5% of your grade). To earn reply points, your must issue your initial post by the deadline. This ensures your peers have posts to which they can reply!

  • Fact-Based (F): Have you used specific information from the text or external research to support the assertions you are making?
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See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233894948

Introducing COBRAs

Article  in  International Journal of Advertising · January 2011




3 authors:

Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:

Packaging design and consumers’ product inferences View project

Multiscreening & Advertising Effectiveness View project

Daan Muntinga

University of Amsterdam



Marjolein Moorman

University of Amsterdam



Edith G. Smit

University of Amsterdam



All content following this page was uploaded by Edith G. Smit on 08 July 2015.

The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.

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International Journal of Advertising, 30(1), pp. 13–46
© 2011 Advertising Association
Published by Warc, www.warc.com
DOI: 10.2501/IJA-30-1-013-046

Introducing COBRAs
Exploring motivations for brand-related

social media use

Daniël G. Muntinga, Marjolein Moorman and Edith G. Smit
University of Amsterdam

Social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter provide unlimited means
for internet users to interact, express, share and create content about anything, includ-
ing brands. Such consumers’ online brand-related activities (COBRAs) have significant
consequences for firms. To effectively anticipate and direct these consequences, under-
standing people’s motivations to engage in brand-related social media use is imperative.
This article makes a first effort to come to such an understanding. Instant messaging (IM)
interviews were conducted with people engaged in COBRAs about their motivations to
do so. Reporting motivations for the full spectrum of COBRA types (consuming, con-
tributing and creating), the authors provide marketers and brand managers with valuable
insights into consumer behaviour in a social media-dominated era.


The rise of Web 2.0 technologies has led to a wealth of social media web-
sites, popular examples of which are YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
These platforms provide many opportunities for internet users to share
and create content about anything, including brands. Social media have
thereby transformed online consumer behaviour (Kaplan & Haenlein
2010), which has important consequences for firms, products and brands.
Depending more and more on each other than on companies for informa-
tion, consumers are becoming increasingly influential with respect to the
brands they are interacting about (Muñiz & Schau 2007; Cova & Dalli
2009). Moreover, their interactions with and about brands have a much
stronger impact on consumer behaviour than traditional forms of market-
ing and advertising (e.g. Chiou & Cheng 2003; Villanueva et al. 2008).



Scientists, advertisers and marketers who wish to keep pace with these
‘new forms of customer empowerment’ (Cova & Pace 2006) face the chal-
lenge of developing a good understanding of the appeal that such brand-
related interactions have for their target consumers.

Watching brand-related videos on Absolut Vodka’s YouTube chan-
nel, talking about IKEA on Twitter and uploading pictures of their new
Converse sneakers to Facebook are examples of consumers’ online brand-
related activities (COBRAs). We use this COBRA concept as a behavioural
construct that provides a unifying framework to think about consumer
activity pertaining to brand-related content on social media platforms.
under its sign, a wide range of consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-
brand behaviours are clustered. As such, it conjoins concepts that describe
idiosyncratic online behavioural phenomena. For instance, ‘electronic
word-of-mouth’ (eWOM) is associated with online consumer-to-consumer
interactions about brands, and the term ‘user-generated content’ (uGC)
is used for the content produced and uploaded by consumers rather
than companies. Moreover, the COBRA concept also encompasses early
typologies of consumer behaviour in computer-mediated environments,
such as Hoffman and Novak’s (1996) distinction between experience- and
goal-orientated activities – for instance, internet surfing and online shop-
ping respectively. Enveloping these concepts and the social media-based
brand-related behaviours they cover, then, the COBRA concept allows us
to collectively investigate and compare behaviours that were previously
investigated only separately.

While the impact of COBRAs on consumer perceptions and behaviour
is subject to an increasing number of studies (e.g. Shang et al. 2006; Duana
et al. 2008; Lee & Youn 2009), it is also important to examine COBRAs’
antecedents – in particular consumers’ motivations for engaging with
brand-related content on social media (cf. Rodgers et al. 2007). In the con-
text of media use, motivations are understood as the incentives that drive
people’s selection and use of media and media content (Rubin 2002).
They have been shown to influence website effectiveness, attitudes
towards brands and advertisements, and purchase behaviour (Rodgers
2002; Ko et al. 2005). To date, however, people’s motivations to engage in
COBRAs have been scarcely investigated (Burmann 2010). In addition,
no study has examined COBRAs and their motivations in the context of
other COBRAs. Consequently, we lack an overview of motivations for

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the full spectrum of brand-related social media uses, and we need such
an overview to fully understand and anticipate consumers’ online brand-
related activities.

The aim of our study was to provide a first, comprehensive understand-
ing of consumers’ motivations for brand-related use of social media. In this
article, we first present our COBRAs typology. We then move on to the
results of the instant messaging (IM) based interviews we carried out in
order to classify COBRA motivations. We close with a discussion on how
our findings relate to the literature on motivations for both general social
media and consumers’ online brand-related activities.

A COBRA typology

To facilitate the exploration of COBRA motivations, a COBRA typol-
ogy was developed. Existing typologies of online consumer behaviour
usually categorise behaviours into various user types that are associated
with specific behaviours. For instance, Mathwick (2002) developed four
internet user types, namely lurkers, socialisers, personal connectors and
transactional community members. While lurkers observe other people’s
conducts and contributions on online communities, socialisers engage
with other people, provide feedback and maintain relationships with
family, friends and other acquaintances. user typologies have also been
applied to social media. Li and Bernoff (2008) for instance distinguish six
types of social media users: inactives, spectators, joiners, collectors, critics
and creators.

user typologies, however, are limited in the sense that people often
engage in multiple roles. That is (applying Mathwick’s typology), depend-
ing on his or her motivations and goals, someone can be a lurker at a given
moment, and seconds later be a socialiser. While user typologies thus
are oversimplifications of reality, typologies that classify behaviour into
usage types are not, because they assume people to engage in more than
a single behaviour. However, usage typologies are far less common than
user typologies , especially when it comes to social media. An exception is
Shao’s (2009) theoretically derived typology of generic social media use.
Similar to Shao, we took the activeness of social media use into account
and developed a continuum from high to low brand-related activity.
COBRAs were categorised into three dimensions that correspond to a



path of gradual involvement with brand-related content on social media,
namely consuming, contributing and creating. These dimensions form the
basic units of analysis in our study (see Table 1 for several examples).

Consuming brand-related content

The consuming COBRA type represents a minimum level of online
brand-related activeness. It denotes participating without actively contrib-
uting to or creating content. People who consume watch the brand-related
videos that companies or other people create, and view the product rat-
ings and reviews that others post, and the dialogues between members of
online brand forums. In addition, they download branded widgets, play
branded games and send branded virtual gifts.

Table 1: COBRA typology as a continuum of three usage types – consuming,
contributing and creating

COBRA type Examples of brand-related social media use


l o








• Viewing brand-related video

• Listening to brand-related audio

• Watching brand-related pictures

• Following threads on online brand community forums

• Reading comments on brand profiles on social network sites

• Reading product reviews

• Playing branded online videogames

• Downloading branded widgets

• Sending branded virtual gifts/cards


• Rating products and/or brands

• Joining a brand profile on a social network site

• Engaging in branded conversations, e.g. on online brand community forums or
social network sites

• Commenting on brand-related weblogs, video, audio, pictures, etc.


• Publishing a brand-related weblog

• Uploading brand-related video, audio, pictures or images

• Writing brand-related articles

• Writing product reviews

Note: this list of examples of brand-related social media use is not exhaustive – COBRAs come in countless forms. The examples
mentioned are both literature (e.g. Li & Bernoff 2008) and author generated.

� 17


Contributing to brand-related content

The contributing COBRA type is the middle level of online brand-related
activeness. It denotes both user-to-content and user-to-user interactions
about brands. People who contribute to brand-related content converse
on a brand’s fan page on a social networking site, make contributions
to brand forums, and comment on blogs, pictures, videos and any other
brand-related content that others have created.

Creating brand-related content

The creating COBRA type represents the ultimate level of online brand-
related activeness. It denotes actively producing and publishing the
brand-related content that others consume and contribute to. People that
create write brand-related weblogs, post product reviews, produce and
upload branded videos, music and pictures, or write articles on brands.

Uses, gratifications and motivations

In our endeavour to understand the appeal of COBRAs for consumers, we
took a user-centric functionalist perspective on social media: uses and grat-
ifications (u&G). As opposed to effect-orientated research traditions that
take the view of the communicator, the u&G approach to communication
research examines media effects from the viewpoint of the individual user
(Aitken et al. 2008). Rather than being used to examine what the media do
to people, u&G has been employed to examine how and why people use
media (Katz 1959; Katz et al. 1974). Because u&G assumes that people are
active and selective in their media use, it is still considered a cutting-edge
approach for investigating the internet as well as social media use, as both
compel the active participation of their users (Eighmey 1997; Ruggiero

u&G researchers usually speak of motivations when describing why
people consume certain media and what satisfactions they eventually
receive thereof (e.g. Rubin 1984; Ko et al. 2005; Choi et al. 2009). However,
it has not always been clear what constituted a motivation in u&G research,
and the lack of a clear definition of a key concept has probably added to
the criticism that u&G has received for having a ‘vague conceptual frame-



work and a lack of precision in major concepts’ (Ruggiero 2000, p. 4). u&G
researchers have dealt with such criticism by establishing a line of research
that aligns more with other research traditions, and differentiates between
antecedents and consequences of media behaviour. While antecedents of
behaviour are referred to as ‘gratifications sought’, consequences of behav-
iour are referred to as ‘gratifications obtained’ (Rubin 2002). In addition
to this, u&G’s assumption of media use as goal directed reflects thinking
among psychologists and communication researchers of behaviour as goal
directed (cf. Kleinginna & Kleinginna 1981). Widely recognised as the key
driving forces behind behaviour (Dichter 1964; Joinson 2003), motivations
here are understood as gratifications sought: if media behaviour is a means
to attain a goal (i.e. gratifications obtained), then motivation is the activa-
tion of that goal-directed behaviour (Pervin 1989).

Social media use motivations

u&G is particularly appropriate for examining people’s use of new types
of media and content (e.g. Newhagen & Rafaeli 1996; Ruggiero 2000).
Since the arrival of social media in the early days of the 21st century, u&G
researchers have examined how and why people use this new medium
type. This has led to a body of literature on the motivations of various
social media uses. For instance, Bumgarner (2007) and Boyd (2008) exam-
ined motivations for using social networking sites, while Dholakia et al.
(2004) studied motivations for virtual community participation, and Kaye
(2007) explored people’s motivations to blog.

As new media and new content genres continue to emerge, and as each
u&G study yields its own schemes and terms for classifying motivations
(Katz et al. 1973), the list of media motivations and u&G categories carries
on expanding (Barton 2009). Many motivation classifications have been
developed for many media, genres and programmes. One of the earliest,
if not the earliest, dates back to 1948, as Lasswell posited that media serve
three functions: surveillance of the environment, correlation of the com-
ponents of society and transmission of social heritage. This classification of
why people attend to media has been refined, updated and revised many
times. Today, the most cited and widely recognised u&G categorisation
is that of McQuail et al. (1972), who distinguish four gratification catego-
ries: diversion, personal relationships, personal identity and surveillance.

� 19


McQuail’s 1983 categorisation is an updated version that takes precedent
literature into account. Although the category labels have undergone
slight changes, no great changes have been made to content: entertain-
ment, integration and social interaction, personal identity and informa-
tion. These motivations usually cover several second-order motivations.
Entertainment, for instance, covers motivations such as enjoyment and
relaxation. These are called ‘sub-motivations’.

McQuail’s (1983) four-category classification of motivations for gen-
eral media use has been found relevant and applicable to modern-day
media use, including the internet (e.g. Bronner & Neijens 2006; Calder
& Malthouse 2008; Calder et al. 2009; Malthouse & Calder 2010). In
addition, several social media motivations studies show that McQuail’s
classification is also applicable to social media. They are discussed below,
together with two extra motivations that emerged from general social
media motivations literature and that do not correspond with any of the
entertainment, integration and social interaction, personal identity, or
information motivations: remuneration and empowerment.

The entertainment motivation covers several media gratifications that are
related to escaping or being diverted from problems or routine; emotional
release or relief; relaxation; cultural or aesthetic enjoyment; passing time;
and sexual arousal. Entertainment has been mentioned by many social
media u&G researchers as an overall motivation – that is, not specified
into sub-motivations such as relaxation or escapism. For instance, Shao
(2009) found it to be a relevant motivation for consuming user-generated
content, and Sangwan (2005) and Park et al. (2009) found that participa-
tion in a virtual community or social networking site respectively is partly
driven by entertainment as well. As an example of aesthetic enjoyment,
Kaye (2007) found certain blog characteristics to be drivers of people’s
engagement with social media, while Courtois et al. (2009) found relaxa-
tion and escapism to be important drivers of uploading content.

Integration and social interaction
The integration and social interaction motivation covers various media
gratifications that are related to other people. Examples of sub-motiva-
tions are gaining a sense of belonging; connecting with friends, family and



society; seeking support/emotional support; and substituting real-life com-
panionship. Several social media researchers have identified motivations
that correspond with McQuail’s description. For instance, Kaye (2007)
speaks of ‘affiliation with like-minded others’ when investigating blogging
motivations; Boyd (2008) found social identification to play a major role
in people’s contributions to social networking sites; and Daugherty et al.
(2008) found that social interaction was an important motivator of creating
user-generated content.

Personal identity
The personal identity motivation covers media gratifications that are
related to the self. Sub-motivations include, for instance, gaining insight
into one’s self; reinforcing personal values; and identifying with and gain-
ing recognition from peers. Personal identity-related motivations are
abundant in social media motivations literature. For instance, Boyd (2008)
and Bum

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