Research Proposal: Social Media Marketing

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Social Media Marketing

From the first use of online communities decades ago through dial-up connectivity to the rapidly growing base of social networking platforms and applications that are delivered on broadband networks the galvanizing concept between all of them has been the ability to connect with, trust, and share information with others. The first online communities were dominated by early adopters of consumer electronics and technical professionals (Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, Gremler, 2004). Today however social networks are dominated by consumers who are freely sharing their opinions of brands, companies and world events (Bernoff, Li, 2008). The catalyst of this transformation from online communities to the more collaborative platforms of social networks was the definition of Web 2.0 technologies (O'Reilly, 2006) and their widespread adoption in an entirely new class of social networking applications. Please see Appendix A for a map of the Web 2.0 design objectives and Appendix B for a table of social networking applications. All of these factors combined have led to an online revolution where customers now are in control of brands (Bernoff, Li, 2008) yet face the paradox of having to share private information to be more credible, trusted and persuasive over time (Leader-Chivee, Hamilton, Cowan, 2008). In so doing consumers run the risk of identity theft (Quicke, 2007) and has been the case on Twitter, sharing vacation plans only to find their home was broken into when they were gone (Bradley, 2009) and many, many cases of predators with one estimate being of over 90,000 on MySpace alone (Guo, 2008) (Herbeck, 2008). For all the euphoria and hype over social networking the stories of child sexual predators on MySpace are chilling (Herbeck, 2008) and reason enough to education consumers about the many risks of being online. Paradoxically however for Social Media Marketing to be effective there must be accountability, trust and transparency on the part of companies using these relative new social networking platforms. The intent of this analysis is to evaluate the importance for firms of social media marketing, its positive and negative impact on consumers, predictions as to the future of social networks and their impact on social media marketing and finally an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the dominant platforms and applications used for executing these strategies.

Social Networking and Trust as an Accelerator

Even before the Internet were widely available, fans of different technologies, companies looking to connect with service departments of their customers, mostly in Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce, and groups of widely varying interests used bulletin board systems (BBS) and newsgroups (Lally, 1995). These online communities were the precursors to the more real-time, interactive online communities that social networks have nurtured and developed (Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, Gremler, 2004). The maturation of online communities is critically important for online marketers who are creating social media marketing programs to appreciate and understand. First the lessons learned of how critical it is for a brand or company to be egalitarian, not elitist online cannot be stressed enough. The reason is that egalitarianism is a powerful catalyst of implied credibility (Jedd, 2008) and when combined with accountability and transparency, makes a brand and its marketing strategies online believable and credible. Without credibility and social media marketing strategy is dead (Cheung, Lee, Rabjohn, 2008). This is because for a social media marketing strategy and the brands that seek to benefit from it both from an electronic word-of-mouth standpoint (Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, Gremler, 2004) and also from competitive positioning perspective (Leader-Chivee, Hamilton, Cowan, 2008) be to believable they must be real, truthful, honest, transparent, authentic. Nothing happens on any social media marketing strategy until the brands initiating the strategies and tactics are seen as more interested in solving others' problems than hyping their brands. Consider Twitter and its exponential growth and the growing pains it has had with scalability of its service, the laxness on content where spammers freely get access, if even for a short period of time, and boorishly blast their message to the world. For the social media marketer watching these many spam accounts rise and fall, some in the span of just a few days, there is a cautionary tale of credibility.

Social media marketing, to be effective for the firm using it, must strive to create conversations of relevance and value to prospects and customers (Bernoff, Li, 2008). By definition to create a conversation through social media marketing the focus needs to be on listening more than speaking, evangelizing or just blasting e-mails and messages throughout social networks. For firms to be effective in their social media marketing strategies they need to listen thoughtfully, and with insight offer up their knowledge and intelligence to benefit prospects and customers even if it doesn't lead to a sale or any additional revenue (Zhang, Daugherty, 2009). As incredibly counterintuitive as this many be, offering up intelligence and knowledge even if it doesn't mean a direct impact on revenue, it is precisely what firms are doing in the service of their customers and the solving of complex problems for prospects that are accomplishing the most on social networks (Bernoff, Li, 2008). The aspect of reciprocity is critical to the development of trust on social networks, and also further provides firms with the ability to be accountable, authentic and transparent as well. In short, on social networks in general and in social media marketing, you get what you give (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Many firms struggle greatly with this concept of apparent altruism, yet the more a company online willingly dives in to social networking with a deliberate strategy to enrich prospects and customers alike with information and useful knowledge, the more successful they will become. The reciprocity aspects of social networks also favor those firms that seek to be egalitarian in how they treat customers and prospects alike. It is for example priceless to see Sir Richard Branson of Virgin shining the shoes of Guy Kawasaki, former Apple evangelist, while both spoke at an event in Moscow. Guy Kawasaki posted the pictures on his Twitter account and later Richard Branson took to Twitter on the Virgin America Twitter account to invite everyone down to see Virgin America jets land at San Francisco Airport. While Richard Branson is as much of the brand of Virgin as the many companies it represents, it does show how to use social media marketing extremely effectively to get the word out of his new American-based airline, Virgin America. The result was that over 300 of the top bloggers, start-up CEOs and social networking industry leaders showed up along with several thousand other people to see the jets. Richard Branson had in an act of humility, to get Guy Kawasaki to try his airline for shining his shoes, catapulted his brand to the leading subject on Twitter for three days, which is priceless for any social media marketing strategy.

While the example of how effective Virgin America was in orchestrating their launch into the United States relied heavily on their CEO and founder's celebrity, it defies traditional Return on Investment (ROI) metrics. The ROI of social networking in fact defies the traditional definition of the term and instead makes sense only when seen in the context of return on relationship and reciprocity (Fisher, 2009). Look at the brands that excel in their social media marketing strategies and there are success stories of how Comcast Cable has created exceptional increases in customer satisfaction as a result of responsiveness through blogs, and heavy emphasis on Facebook and Twitter (Bernoff, Li, 2008). There are also the success stories of how Southwest Airlines has taken customer listening to a radically new level by allowing the Tweet stream of anyone on Twitter wanting to post a message to over 300 Southwest executives at their annual management meeting to be shown on a 20-foot tall projected screen in front of the entire room (Jansen, Zhang, Sobel, Chowdury, 2009). For the managers running the social media marketing at Southwest Airlines this was like getting a peer review, in real time, from the over 800,000 followers they had on Twitter at the time. For the managers of the social media marketing strategy at Southwest this was an act of extreme trust, only possible if they had overbalanced the scales of providing exceptional service and problem solving to followers on Twitter. Southwest sees trust and authenticity as accelerators of their value proposition or market message, and invest heavily in creating a collaborative environment with prospect, customers and the general public online (Bernoff, Li, 2008). All of these factors taken together illustrate why it is so critical to build social media marketing strategies with clear objectives of who the strategies will serve, how and why this will be accomplished, with measures of performance more focused on building communication and collaboration first. Firms that survive recessions do so because they are trusted, and in that fact is why social media marketing strategies need to focus on unmet needs and overbalancing the scales in terms of insight, intelligence, knowledge. And customer service.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Social Media Marketing.  (2009, November 27).  Retrieved November 12, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/social-media-marketing/23017

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"Social Media Marketing."  Essaytown.com.  November 27, 2009.  Accessed November 12, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/social-media-marketing/23017.