I wrote my thesis about consumer/brand collaboration in online brand communities. My case study was about lomography. Here is an overview of my results.
Over and out. I cannot express the release I felt be finishing my studies. The last months of studying, aka “thesis writing time” were the toughest. I think flirting with Mr. Theory got harder after my internships. This post is about the result of my last months of being a Master student in Communication sciences.
I decided to write my thesis about consumer-collaboration in online brand communities. A big chunk of the work was dedicated to writing a digest of the previous research in this field. I will spare you the hefty foot notes and just go on with exposing my case study. My case study was about the interactions that take place on the Lomography.com community.
I based my practical research on the knowledge I had beforehand of the website as a user myself. This knowledge was completed with some systematic observations, questionnaires and interviews. I will keep this light and spare you the methodological aspects.
Thanks to: @anum @appelmoes @asharnanae @bruna-me @cfib @dianae @dreamzeequence @fish300 @flashstalker @fruchtzwerg_hh @fuckdaniels @imyeh @jack-l-orange @jimjimm @koduckgirl @lakritz @lauramericana @lauraprime @lgcorporativo @lomodesbro @lostlittlekid @maelae @majoo @maryjane @metal_guru @noly @peteparker @sabassist @sebastianlund @sicoactiva @spidey27 @stuckintraffic @sweetyyydreams @tesatscad @tomkiddo @Toshi @treesandairplanes @violeta @violhaine @wil6ka
First things first, when I sent out the questionnaires I used the random button. I also took note of ever Home’s statistics. I have to say it took me quite a few hours to get at the end of sending them all. Every new home is an invitation to go have a look at new photos, different lifestyles and unknown places. I guess you know what I’m talking about. I had to swallow down my curiosity and admiration, but did jot down some Homes for a later visit. I sent 225 questionnaires this way.
The first remark I had about this sampling is that I had a very low response rate, 20%. Having a low response rate is not unusual in social sciences. However there is another explanation concerning Lomography.com. When writing the Thesis in December 2012 I then compared the actual statistics with the ones I had noted down in June. This showed that only 22% of the sample had been actively working on their Home. In other words most of the homes on Lomography.com are what I’d like to call “ghost Homes”, they’re simply inactive. When I asked Gaby Salas, Lomography’s Chief of Online magazines about this she told me: “Obviously we want people to come back to Lomography if they’ve abandoned their Lomohome we think that at one point they’ll come back”.
What the questionnaire enabled me to see is:
- Lomography has a very good brand image for you.
- You participate in very different ways. However there is a participation hierarchy raging from activities that demand little time and effort: likes, uploading pictures; to activities that gobble up more time and energy: writing comments, blog post and articles.
- The main motivational factor to your participation is expressing your creative skills. The participation seems to be motivated by passion rather than an economical interest (so piggy points don’t seem to be a reason to participate more but are very welcome as a reward to your participation).
- You are conscious of the added value your participation brings to the platform.
I have to thank all the people who took the time to answer my questions in a Skype interview. I won’t name anyone here because the answers were treated anonymously. Besides I am giving you a very brief overview so no place for too many details.
From the interviews I learned that:
The biggest reward to your participation is getting called “LomoHome of the day” or having your photos published in a Lomography book.
I asked what made you participate to competitions. Most of you tend to participate to competitions only if you already have photos suited to the theme.
You usually don’t participate to get piggy points, however several of you write articles to extend your piggy points life.
- PARTICIPATION VALUE
You love having feedback about you pictures, and moreover that this feedback is made by people all around the world with all sorts of backgrounds. This feedback seems to help many lomographers build confidence in themselves as photographers but as people as well. I guess you can all give yourselves a pat on the back :). Your participation is of course a big plus for Lomography who doesn’t do any advertising, by participating you are building lomo’s backbone and keeping it strong. Though you admire Lomography you do stay critical and there is a friction between the Lomo lifestyle and Lomography as a commercial company.
- RELATION TO LOMOEMPLOYEES
I wanted to know if you had contact with some employees and if yes what kind of contact. Many of you have contacted the after sales department often with a very positive outcome. Other contacts are about spams in your Homes or for “private messages” sent publicly.
A few of you are confused about some other user’s status as user or employee, but most of you appreciate that the employees are also part of the community and have their own homes.
Only 3 people I interviewed had taken contact with the employees to suggest collaborating for a project linked to Lomography.
Cocreation is the collaboration between a company and consumers in all the steps of product development. Though Lomography doesn’t have a cocreation policy, although the company does collaborate with some core users in the testing of camera’s, I asked you what you think about it. Many of you are enthusiastic at the idea of some sort of collaboration. I heard many suggestions to improve the community and the cameras. However none of these ideas have been sent because you’re not sure if it’s really worth sharing them.
Only one person I interviewed expressed a critical view of this type of collaboration. According to this Lomographer: “I think it’s much better for each person to do their own thing by themselves, and not telling a the company this is what I want to buy; because the company gets the money for that. What do you get? You get a product. But it was actually your own idea.”
By now you have a global idea of what I learned about Lomography in the course of writing my thesis.
If you are wondering what I’m up to now. Well, I had a really good mark at this. I travelled in Bolivia and the south of Peru for a month. Now, I’m back in Gent and looking for a job (most probably in Brussels). Thanks for you help, thanks for making this a great community and thanks for reading this post.
Cheers to all!