September 22, 2014
Written by Nadezda Kaskure
In the times of globalization and technological innovation, the Internet has tremendously developed and so a role of consumers’ has been continuously evolving since social media platforms enabled consumers to become more engaged into a brand equity creation. Social media became more than socializing channel, it has grown up into an efficient marketing tool to expand brand and product recognition, increase profitability, generate higher sales and rouse loyalty (Divol, Edelman, & Sarrazin, 2012). Content marketing within social media became a currency in a digital world due to high involvement among the Internet consumers worldwide. As based on KPCB report (Meeker, 2013) 2.4 billion Internet users were recorded globally in 2013, out of which approximately 44 % spend time on user-generated social media marketing platforms (Richter, 2013). This definitely highlights potential of consumers, who are engaged into online media, and hence companies need to discover and capture opportunities and address challenges of user-generated content and social media to create a successful dialogue with consumers (French, LaBerge,& Magill, 2011).
In order to provide insights into mastering the new era of engagement in social media marketing the article is broken into three parts. Firstly, I am going to address the Internet development, define social media, and introduce the consumers’ role in social networking. Thereafter, I will address opportunities and challenges of user-generated content marketing in social media. Lastly, empirical example of a campaign will be presented and discussed.
Social media, the Internet development and consumers’ role in it
Experimentation with marketing and employing various tools to acquire customers developed the traditional concept of media. From advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing, the nature of communication has evolved into “hypermedia”, where social media platforms play an important role in strategies of enterprises (Winer, 2009). According to Tuten (2008, in Papasolomou & Melanthiou, (2013)) social media is
“synonymous with social networks, wherein consumers can produce, publish, control, rank and interact with online content.”
Corcoran (2009, in Hanna, Rohm & Critten, (2011)) classified social media into three media types: owned, paid and earned media, where user-generated content is considered to be a part of earned media. Shankar and Hollinger (2007, in Winer (2009)) elaborated that user-generated content is a type of new social media, which includes various platforms as, for instance, blogs, video sites, and rating or recommendation sites. These platforms are a confirmation that the Internet has evolved from one-way interaction into a dialogue space, offering online collaboration between enterprises and customers in social media, which affects branding and positioning of a value proposition (Filho & Tan, 2009, in Akar & Topsu (2013)). Such phenomenon has been named as the Web 2.0 era (Akar & Topcsu, 2013; Chrisodoulides, 2009), or, in other words, second generation of Web applications, where consumers take active participation in social media marketing as they create the online content through cooperation among the Internet users. According to Osimo (2008, in Akar & Topsu, (2013)), Web 2.0 is user-generated content or participatory Web, where consumers create and share information, therefore this era could be viewed as revolution of social media and media marketing since it empowers both marketers and consumers (Postman, 2008 in Akar & Topsu (2011)). Consumers simply expect to be actively enrolled into social media process (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden (2011). Ability to share, participate and collaborate with networks makes the Web 2.0 a powerful time for combining traditional and new marketing (Weber, 2007; Tomlinson, 2008; Carter, 2009; in Papasolomou & Melanthiou, (2013)).
Interaction through social networking enables cultural exchange since enterprises and consumers can contribute to collective value creation and development of identity projects. Muniz & Schau (2011) believed that collaborative relationships and long term marketing strategies of user-generated content strategies has value of extensive involvement of “creative consumers” (Berthon, Pitt, McCarthy, & Kates, 2006; Kozinets, Hemetsberger, & Schau, 2008, in Muniz & Schau (2011)). Social media became a stage of social and property exchange, where consumers can anonymously participate in exchange of goods and build their desired identities through expressing own beliefs and opinions (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009). Accordingly, social media enhances power of consumers as they become advertisers and marketers, and so consumers can affect enterprises in both positive and negative ways by creating user-generated content through engaging in question-and-answer-platforms, blogs, wikis, and social media posts (Roberts and Kraynak, 2008, in Akar & Topsu (2011); Hoffman & Fodor, 2010 ). The essence of user-generated content is to allow the Internet users to collaborate, be creative, connect and network with brand, products and other like-minded consumers through social media platforms, such as amazon.com, facebook.com, youtube.com, etc. (Filho & Tan, 2009, in Akar & Topsu (2011)). Within the context of free information flow in cyber space and no-ownership nature of online social networking, users, their actions and user-generated content play key role in success of applications within social media marketing, which again enhances power of consumers (Ahlqvist, Halonen, & Heinonen, 2007, in Akar & Topsu (2011); Hoffman & Fodor, 2010).
Opportunities and challenges of user-generated content within social media
Rapid development of the Internet and media shift from one-way interaction into a dialogue between two engaging parties bring on several challenges and opportunities within social media for both marketers and consumers (Varadarajan & Yadav, 2009). The main question is why to employ social media into marketing tactics, and what to consider when applying it?
1. Define sales leads
According to Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden (2011) it is possible to identify sales leads and increase acquisition rates since user-generated content platforms as, for instance, blogs and video platforms, enable consumers to engage, share and connect, therefore affecting marketing communication.
2. Leverage relationships
It is a way to establish and retain relationships (Ricadela, 2007, in Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden (2011)), understand consumers and create bonds with them (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2013).
3. Save resources
Since user-generated content is defined as e-word-of mouth (Smith, Fischer & Yongjian, 2012; Hoffman & Fodor, 2010), which is basically a free marketing to increase awareness among consumers. However, it might bring up not only positive, but also negative statements about a company or product.
How success of social media marketing should be measured and what analytics to perform in order to get reliable and valid results? Winer (2009) believes that by experimenting with social media metrics each company will define the most valuable measurements approach for them whether it is secondary research approach with measurements as budget spending, click per posts, volume of comments, visitors, or primary one with approaches as return on marketing objectives, cross media optimization study, etc. Hoffman & Fodor (2010) also addressed measurement issue, and they stated ROI of social media should be assessed not only from financial perspective, but also from consumers’ behavior point of view. Thus the key is to define the main outcomes and specify metrics based on the objectives at the planning stage, whether it would be direct orders per platform, brand mentions, clicks, etc. (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011; Hoffman & Fodor, 2010).
2. Planning and budgeting
Since there is no need for actual budget, when applying social media marketing, management needs to emphasize on communication strategy as it is an essential part of success in open market of social media. The starting point is to conceptualize the ecosystem, define objectives of the presence and create a definite story for audience (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). Winer (2009) argues it is also necessary to state specific objectives, define ROI and rate importance for each social media platforms as it becomes challenging to manage effective communication strategy across several platforms. Moreover, adopting new technologies and adjustment of enterprises towards new paradigm of marketing requires implication of organizational models since there is a need to ensure presence of academics and practitioners and create valuable ecosystem to share and diffuse up-to-date knowledge about possible shifts and development of social media and user-generated content (Wind, 2008).
3. Consumers behavior and brand control
Management is required to update their knowledge about social networking and media, audience behavior online, consumer insights and its impact on brand equity (Wind, 2008; Barwise & Meehan, 2010; Singh, Sonnenburg, 2012; Winer, 2009). Understanding of consumers’ freedom in social media is crucially important when applying user-generated content marketing.
User-generated content is a beneficial social media type
The Australian Tourist Board decided to apply a user-generated content marketing strategy in 2009, which cost them AUD $ 1 million. The objective of the social media campaign was to select an applicant for a six-month position as caretaker at Whitsundays of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with salary of AUD $150 000. All applicants were required to submit one-minute motivation video about why they should get the job (news.com.au, 2009). As the outcome, the marketing campaign has generated earning of AUD $ 368 million, 4 million click on the first day of the campaign, submission of 34 684 video applications, 8.6 million views of marketing campaign for the Great Barrier Reef, and high media publicity since the winner of the campaign got more than 100 interviews within 24 hours after the winner was selected (Queensland tourism, 2009). In 2013 another round of the social media marketing campaign was launched, which cost AUD $ 4 million. 330 000 applicants from 196 countries have applied for the position, and the marketing campaign has already led to more than 1 000 articles worldwide in nearly 200 countries (news.com.au, 2013). Moreover, 15 000 of the applicants revealed that 39% of those planned taking a working holiday in the next six months after the campaign ended, and 72 % considered to apply for working holiday visa (WYSE Travel Consideration, 2013).
Case of the Board is an example of a viral activity of the marketing campaign since the company had a great value equity, namely, the core value for the consumers was a position of caretaker with high salary, with add-feature as holiday, and valuable association of relaxing time at a beach and staying at an island for a period of six-months.
From applicants’ point of view, participating in the competition was more than the chance to get the dream job; it was part of self-identity projects since participants could present their desired identity, their values and beliefs through creating video and sharing it in social media. They could get famous for at least a minute through engaging in a viral marketing campaign, and also get “more popular” on personal social media accounts. “Getting noticed” could be considered as the main driver of participants.
The campaign was also beneficial to the board since it had high ROI, high consumer engagement and advocacy. It was a free, and highly successful, marketing tool, because e-word-of-mouth acquired new participants and attracted new visitors to Australia. Moreover, the Board engaged consumers by reacting to comments and posts, thus strengthening customer relationships. In such manner, the Board captured all three opportunities addressed previously. The success of the story also represents the Board’s readiness to face challenges of social media marketing.
Based on the discussed example above, I do believe that user-generated content is a chance to create desired self-identity for consumers and express themselves knowing that their input will be meaningful not only for them, but also for the company. Enterprises need to stay aware and assess consumers’ activities in order to capture social media opportunities.
Although social media is a free marketing tool once earned, it may require financial investments in the beginning. Challenges such as budgeting, knowledge sharing, metrics and measurements should be addressed in order to capture opportunities of decentralized social media approach or “bottom-up” marketing of user-generated content. Consumers play the key role in social media nowadays; therefore enterprises need to keep an eye on development of consumers’ behavior in order to uncover new opportunities. In addition, it might be also important to assess return-on-relationship of social media marketing, actual “freedom” within social media and its negative effects.
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