Written by a Master's Student of the Lund University School of Economics and Management
A short introduction
With the emergence of social media the marketing landscape have changed, and marketers have to develop a new approach to there marketing strategy. Traditional media such as TV, radio and newspapers are now challenged by social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and YouTube. Social media has also enabled consumers to be more interactive through different platforms, where they create and share information, opinions, thoughts and experiences about a specific brand or in a consumer community with other consumers. This paper will highlight how consumers now have more power to influence marketing activities and what marketers should do to better adapt to this new marketing landscape.
The question: Social media has changed the marketing landscape, and consumers interact more with marketing activities – what can marketers do to better adapt to this new landscape?
Social media, marketing landscape, interactive consumers, brands, collaboration
Social media takeover
Over the past few years, social media has captured market share from traditional media and the time people used to spend on traditional media are today used on social media (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011). In the article from Armelli and Villanueva the Oscars is used as a good example of how people use social media to interact by sharing their thoughts, opinions, criticism and suggestions rather than just to watch. The 2011 Academy Awards had four million fewer viewers than the previous year. However, thousands of viewers used especially Twitter to broadcast live how impressed they were with the show (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011). Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have changed the marketing landscape, and the social media platforms have transformed the Internet from being a platform for information to a platform of influence (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011).
The change of communication
Social media has brought interactivity into the marketing landscape and that has made it possible for consumers and companies to directly communicate with one another without thinking of distance and time (Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L., 2009).
As mentioned social media has made a significant change to how the communication is between companies, individual consumers and online consumer communities. Today, companies have to deal with consumers that no longer just want to be talked to. Instead, consumers want companies to listen, properly engage and respond in the conversations they are having about them online (Kietzmann et al., 2011). With social media the traditional Word of Mouth (WOM) has been changed to online Word of Mouth (e-WOM), which is instant and interactive and has made it possible for marketers to be involved (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011). The advantage of e-WOM for companies is that consumers are freely talking about their brand, although one drawback from this is that marketers cannot control what the consumers are saying. However, the power of e-WOM is almost unbeatable compared to traditional media when it comes to how consumers can influence and convince other consumers (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011).
The power of communication has been taken from marketers by the consumers and the online communities were they share and create information about brands. With the rise of social media communication about brands happens with or without companies permission. So, it is now a crucial time for marketers and they have to decide if social media is going to be a part of the marketing strategy and if the brand is going to join the online conversation with its consumers or ignore it (Kietzmann et al., 2011).
Understanding the new landscape and its interactive consumers
If a company decides to bring social media into the marketing strategy they will have the benefit of acquiring the real value of social media, and that is to learn more about the consumers (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). Before, market research was centred around the brands and not on the consumers. Today, marketers use market research to understand how the brands can fit into consumers’ lives. Through social networks marketers are able to take the market research a step further, as it provides them with a great new way to explore what thoughts, opinions and feelings consumers have about their brand. Through the different social media platforms, marketers have the capability to gain rich and direct consumer insights (Barwise & Meehan, 2010).
Social media has changed the marketing landscape to a 24/7 collaborative world with endless source of information and connectivity (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). With a marketing landscape changed by social media marketing can no longer only be about capturing consumers’ attention through reach, marketers should focus on capturing but also continuously create attention by generating engagement with the consumers. In order to do so, it is important that marketers use a combination of traditional media and social media (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011).
Social media centres a lot on the consumer experience. “Social networks aren’t about Web sites. They’re about experiences” (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). To create this experience marketers should incorporate reach, intimacy and engagement into the marketing strategy and use the combination of social media and traditional media. Marketers must look at their approach to social media as an integrated strategy that brings the consumer experiences to the forefront. Furthermore, when companies use social media as part of their marketing activities consumers expect to be active participants in the process and for marketers this requires a new approach to the marketing strategy. It is important that social media does not replace the traditional media that the company use, but rather expand the marketing alternatives in order to capture reach, intimacy and to create engagement with the consumers (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011).
With marketing through social media, marketers must have in mind that it is less about having control and more about fitting in (Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L., 2009). In social media, marketing are most effective when it is in line with what the consumers are already trying to do and for example on Facebook consumers are communication in a certain way, they share information with friends and they learn about what their friends are doing (Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L., 2009). So, at a platform like Facebook marketers should try to communicate their activities in the same way as consumers are communicating with one another. However, it is important that the brand is accepted and trusted by the consumers in the online community before it can join the conversation.
Collaboration can be king
Lego is a great example of a company that really has taken advantage of the Internet, in a way that it enabled the company to interact and collaborate with its consumer communities online. Lego’s adult fans have a long tradition of sharing their innovations with each other. The Internet made it possible for Lego to take part of the fans shared innovations and many of them improved and extended the Lego building system, or introduced new ways to use it, which aligned well with Lego’s strategy (Antorini, Muniz & Askildsen, 2012).
In the article by Antorini, Muniz and Askildsen, Lego’s CEO stated his thought that collaborations with the consumer communities would be unique, “We think innovation will come from a dialogue with the community” (Antorini, Muniz & Askildsen, 2012).
By collaborating with its consumers Lego discovered that it offered substantial benefits; it brought energy and ideas (Antorini, Muniz & Askildsen, 2012). Even though, Lego’s adult fans was committed to the Lego brand and the bricks, they were still very involved in the online consumer community were they shared their experiences with other adult fans. If marketers can learn something from Lego and the interactive collaborations they have with consumer communities is that it is important to remember that consumer communities is not an extension of the company, but rather a group of independent individuals that must be treated as passionate and talented consumers that gives new input and ideas to the company. Consumer collaborations should be a balance between the needs of the company with the needs of the consumers (Antorini, Muniz & Askildsen, 2012).
In a marketing landscape changed by social media, marketers should reflect on their approach to the marketing strategy in order to benefit from adding social media to it. With social media consumers are “always on”, which keeps them always in the market, always available to be communicated with (Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L., 2009). However, marketers must remember that consumers today do not want to listen to all the information that is sent out to them through different media channels. Consumers want to be active participants and interact with the marketing activities by sharing thoughts, experiences and opinions with the brand and other consumers.
Social media is about creating, influencing and sharing information and for companies it can have a significant impact on their performance online (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). Therefore, if marketers want to grasp the opportunities of social media they should develop a social media plan, and think through some points before going viral on social media. Marketers must be aware and listen to what consumers say about their brand on different social media platforms, and appropriately adapt their marketing activities to consumers’ behaviour in the different networks. It is also important for marketers to make an analysis of the brand to make sure that it is capable of attracting the consumers it wants and that it can survive pressure and negative feedback from consumers as they start to share their experiences and thoughts about the brand online. Another essential point for marketers to consider is to decide what the brand wants to achieve in social media, what platforms to use and what they want to communicate to the consumers (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011).
A last note, marketers should also remember that with the use of social media decisions is no longer always dependent on them, it is more dependent on whether the consumers like their product or brand or not (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011).
Antorini, Y.M., Muniz, A.M., Askildsen, T. (2012),”Collaborating with customer communities. Lessons from Lego Group”, MIT Sloan Management Review, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 73-79.
Armelli, G. and Villanueva, J. (2011), ”Adding social media to the marketing mix”, IESE insight, no. 9, pp. 29-36.
Barwise, P. and Meehan, S. (2010), “The one thing you must get right when building a brand”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 88, no. 12, pp. 80-84.
Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L. (2009), “Interactivity's Unanticipated Consequences for Marketers and Marketing”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 23, no 1, pp. 4-10.
Hanna, R., Rohm, A. and Crittenden, V. (2011), “We’re all connected: the power of the social media ecosystem”, Business Horizons, vol. 54, no. 3, pp. 265-273.