The impact of social media on customer communication and modern day marketing

Written by Lionel Joham

Introducing the purpose

The 21st century has been characterized by various developments, shifts and changes worldwide. Many of these shifts and changes, especially within a marketing context, have been fuelled by the nowadays omnipresent Internet and all the platforms and tools found within.  Businesses need to adapt their ways of interaction with their customers and clients. Here fore, several authors offer several approaches on which path to take in order to maximize the potential offered by the World Wide Web.

The purpose of this particular paper is to provide cooperations with a guideline through the rapidly changing web in order to seize opportunities and sustain long-term profitability, as being able to use social media to ones own advantage is crucial to succeed within todays highly competitive global business environments.

Grasping the development

Naturally, decades ago the advent of the Internet has revolutionized on how companies and cooperations of any kind deal with all their individual business operations, as it offered them completely new ways of representing themselves towards the entire globe. However, the introduction of social media has left another revolutionizing footprint within the present media landscape. Berthon et al (2012) defined this particular impact as Web 2.0. Hereby they state that even though social media creates communication paths between product/service suppliers and their clients, it mainly represents a matter forged and controlled by the customers themselves.

The authors additionally introduce the so-called “creative-customers”, basically undermining the previous statement about how social media is mostly controlled by the clients of any cooperation. They represent the driving force within various social platforms, while interacting with one another and thereby generating value. 

Companies need to grasp that, while the first step of going online with the help of the Internet focused upon a one-sided representation and communication of the brand and its products, Web 2.0 adds additional factors, which need to be considered.  One-way communication has transformed into direct interactions between customers and cooperations as well as within the clients very own personal network. According to Berthon et al (2012), marketers now also have to comprehend that the value creation is not a direct task of the company itself, but rather a responsibility of its customers.

This transformation is undermined by Hannah et al (2011), as they elaborate that this does not necessarily mean a replacement of old fashioned media, but represents an increase of communication opportunities, resembling an increase of important factors.

Magnifying the effects

One could argue that while the Internet itself has broken down global boundaries, social media has increased the impact ratio of the resulting two-way communication. While this means that enterprises can profit from social media within a very positive way, there is always a second side to the same coin. 

Barwise and Meehan (2010), therefore report that while such platforms may leverage customer satisfaction by significant levels, if the company performs well within its products and services, it will also raise negative publicity at an extremely fast pace and therefore can also very well backfire on the cooperation if they disappoint customers for whatever reason.

This particular view on the effects of social media is supported by Berthon et al (2012), who describe the fact that social media fuels the spread of information drastically, making it almost impossible for cooperations to cover up issues which may have only occurred within a local context. As a result, the authors state that nowadays it is more important than ever before to deliver on your promises to the customer and to fulfil their expectations while seeking continuous improvement as well as pushing towards innovation. Consequently, by getting these four  fundamental basics right, social media will leverage to your brand, its impact as well as its success.

Adapting to the new environment

Considering all the factors previously discussed, it is key for todays marketers to be able to adapt to those circumstances in order to remain competitive, not only in near the future, but also in the long-term. Generally speaking, according to Henning-Thurau et al (2013), due to the permanent interaction and two-sided communication patterns, cooperations are no longer in complete control of the results of their marketing actions. Furthermore, building upon the basic principles previously discussed by Barwise and Meehan (2010), modern day marketers need to approach certain tasks within different angles.

Brand management represents one of these particularly important challenges within a marketing perspective. Instead of shaping a one sided brand story created by the organisation and pushing it towards the customers, Genser et al (2013) suggest cooperations to let go of this approach. Instead, the author advises companies to make use of the interactions with their customer base in order to build and construct a brand story hand-in-hand with each other.

The co-creation process of brands naturally requires guidelines, steering the progression towards the desired direction. Hence, Henning-Thurau et al (2013) advice cooperations to take this aspect seriously as the right balance is crucial in order to build a successful brand story. The authors recommend seeking for just the right amount of control in order to maximize the customer participation while also being able to drive the story down the preferred path.

This moderation approach also includes monitoring activities of all the information created and spread by the customer base.  Hereby, both Schweidel and Moe (2012), as well as Peters et al (2013), anticipate to closely follow all the communication channels in order to be able to identify future opportunities as well as challenges and potential problems as early as possible.

Another task related to brands focuses on companies not solely interacting with their customers, but also bridging the very own brand and products to other companies in order to create complete systems for the customers. This strategy is described by Wind (2008), with the help of Apple and Nike. Both companies identified that various customers enjoy their favourite tunes while training and shaping their bodies, leading to the introduction of Nike+. This synergy enabled customers to post their personal fitness progress and achievements on social platforms.

Moreover, after being able to moderate and monitor communication flows as well as the generated content, marketers need to make the right usage out of all the information gathered. By these means Barwise and Meehan (2010) advise businesses to follow a certain strategy. Whilst they do mention that cooperations can distribute their products directly to the customers via social media, this should not represent the primary intended purpose. Instead, the authors state that they should be classified as tools which give marketers the remarkable opportunity of gaining valuable first hand consumer insights and understandings about their customer base.

Nonetheless, Wind (2008) additionally complements and expands this strategy by believing that marketers should not only make use of the all the data which can be gathered via social media, but also take advantage of other sources. One of these particular sources stated by him is Adwords. It is a helpful tool as integrates interesting features within its system such as the ability it to track customer dialogues for further analysis and research.

Insights gained with the help of such tools can enable cooperations to rethink and adapt their marketing strategy to the specific needs and taste of the target customers of any of their specific brands or products.  For this case, Wind (2008) offers excellent an example of how large enterprises have restructured their marketing activities from the ground up in order to hit the sweet spot within their target audience. The author describes how Toyota, presently the largest automobile manufacturer worldwide, introduced their daughter brand Scion. It was aimed towards the younger generation and thus also required a distinct tailored strategy in order to appeal to the youth. Therefore, instead of making use of conventional marketing strategies including conservative advertising, Kroft (2005) states that Toyota invested close to three quarters of its budget into the dedicated promotion of the youthful brand Scion through public events. Wind (2008) also clarifies that the rest of the budget was used to promote the brand within the World Wide Web, as this is the most popular form of media within the targeted youth audience. These practical examples perfectly showcase the necessity of modern marketers to be able to identify the right insights in order to provide an effective solution.

Concluding the Essence

In a globalized and connected world as it is today, marketers who are capable of delivering the competitive edge in comparison to others are of utter importance to any cooperation. They need to comprehend the development, which has taken place since the introduction of social media, and understand its impact on how the intercommunication with customers can magnify a brand substantially, both towards the negative and the positive. As a consequence, it proves to be crucial for modern day marketers to be able to involve the customer into the development of the desired brand while also gaining insights through the generated content in order to develop successful future marketing strategies.








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