The Power of Social Media: A Case of Kentucky Fried Chicken in China

January 26, 2015

Written by Wanyi Wang

Introduction

In China, recent developments in web and Internet technologies produce some new things for people. The most popular online content, applications and services called social media which has changed people’s life. A lot of people are toward the use of social media. For example, “5,700 China’s Internet users have found that 95 percent of them are registered on a social media sites” (Chiu, Ip & Silverman, 2012 [1]). Social media is a developing phenomenon in today’s marketing. (Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012) Companies are beginning to use the fashionable tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in marketing strategies and campaigns. The use of traditional media has decreased since marketers have turned their attention to social media. (Akar & Topsu, 2013) It is necessary to state that China’s social media have something different than Western. No Facebook and Twitter, people use China’s social media such as Qzone and Sina Weibo. (Chiu, Ip & Silverman, 2012 [2]) Recently, there is a hot topic discussed on China’s social network and many people reblog it. The author would analyze why most companies shift their attention from traditional media to social media through the hot topic.

 

The purpose of this paper is to understand the power of social media. More specifically, the author using a case of Kentucky Fried Chicken (China) to analyze why companies display online marketing campaigns can create more value than traditional media.

 

Literature Review

In the past, consumers accepted messages from traditional magazines, radio, television and direct mail. The product-focused one-way interruption mass communication gives a lot of trouble and inconvenience to receiver. Some consumers do not trust the information which provides by traditional media. (David, M. Scott., 2007) The new types of social media named Web 2.0 which including many different types such as social networking sites, blogging platform, social search applications and social coupon sites(Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012). According to Chiu, Ip and Silverman (2012 [2]) describe, the most popular China’s social media sites are: Qzone, Sina Weibo and Renren. The basic function is the same as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The new online technology Web 2.0 has grown to a scale. (Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012) With the rise in social media, consumers are beginning to talk about brands and products. Social media produce the opportunities to people communicate and exchange information with each other. Consumers also can get information from social media, and then they can instantly give feedback or share their ideas without any technical knowledge. (Akar & Topsu, 2013)

 

Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden (2011) mention that “traditional media is all about reach which can be achieved in large numbers and it often does not translate into a true marketing exchange.” However, social media has changed the traditional mode of market information, consumer changed from passive roles to an active role in the marketing process. “They simultaneously act the initiators and the recipients of information exchanges.” (Kietzmann, et al., 2011) The interactive digital media sites allow consumers connect, share and create information and fundamentally changed the way marketers control marketing activities (Hanna, Rohm, Crittenden, 2011).

 

As Hansen, Sheiderman and Smith, (2011) describe “billions of people create trillions of connections through social media each day.” Social media is a powerful and effective medium to communicate with millions of potential consumers for companies. Hence, companies who use social media may gain a chance of reaching a wider audience. (Bamford, 2012) Meanwhile, social media can help a company build a good relationship with consumers. Business uses two-way communication may provide an intimate and warm feeling for consumers. (DiPietro, et al., 2012) Moreover, consumers toward the use of social media in creating and exchanging message in today market. The message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication. (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012) When looking at the word-of-mouth effects, the effects of social media last longer than the effects of traditional marketing (Trusov, Bucklin, & Pauwels, 2009). Social media often has higher credibility and trust than traditional media (Akar, & Topsu, 2013). In addition, social media offer increased traffic and improved search rankings for a company or a brand (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). It means the exposure also increases. All the power of social media may lead a good consequence to sales (Dyer, 2013).

 

Case Analysis

Kentucky Fried Chicken is a fast food restaurant chain which famous for fried chicken and it also provides hamburgers and French fries etc. After KFC reach China market, it is intended to become the first fast food restaurant. In order to achieve the goal, KFC adjusts some products according to Chinese taste preferences and obtains consumers’ praise. In order to gain consumers’ attention and attract them to patronage, KFC promotes itself through making a series of advertisings and activities in Chinese markets. (KFC China, 2012)

 

In the past, KFC (China) devoted time and money to offline marketing such as TV advertising and posters etc to promote its products. Along with the social media is widely used and a large number of people fall into the trend. KFC is beginning to use social media as the communication tools. Recently, FKC (China) Company used social media to communicate a message and simultaneously involving the consumers in the campaign. (http://kfcpk.qq.com/) This message told consumers that, the classical “Original Recipe” stop selling five weeks in KFC China market from 30 December 2013. The new product “Extra Crispy” instead the “Original Recipe” is provided in this period. Consumer can join the campaigns to vote “the favorite fried chicken” to decide whether the “Original Recipe” will continue to sell in KFC China market. (KFC, 2013) KFC uses China’s social media sites Sina Weibo, Renren and QQ to develop the message.

   
  
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   谁能代表  KFC   (Who can represent KFC)

谁能代表KFC   (Who can represent KFC)

Figure.1 Who can represent KFC (KFC, 2013)

 

In the past 43 days, more than 13 million people vote for the KFC campaigns through social media. This result is not the final result and the number of voting people continues to grow. As Hansen, Sheiderman and Smith (2011) mention social media have the unique charm of billions of people create trillions of connections through each day.”In view of the large number of Internet users registered on a social media and be active in social network. KFC (China) decided to create an online marketing campaign and using social media to touch millions of potential consumers quickly. On the other hand, KFC’s main targets are young people in China. Most users of social media such as Qzone, Sina Webo and RenRen are precisely young people. Hence, creating and exchanging message through social media helps KFC accurately aim at its target group.

 

In this period of doing the campaign, consumers simultaneously act the initiators and the recipients of information exchanges through social media (Kietzmann, et al., 2011). First of all, consumers receive the message and then who like the new product “Extra Crispy” may offer a positive evaluation in social media sites. Then, they are willing to share the positive information and recommend the new products for their friends through the social media. This interactive communication provides an intimate and warm feeling for consumers, then building a good relationship between company and consumers (DiPietro, et al., 2012). From the recipients’ perspective, they are more likely to believe information which provided by friends than a marketer. Hence, a company use consumer as the recipients can bring higher credibility and trust (Akar and Topsu, 2013).

 

Of course, social media cannot avoid negative evaluation. Some consumers think the classical “Original Recipe” is the soul of KFC. They do not support using new fried chicken instead of the classical one and they hope to enjoy it unceasingly. Some of consumers hope KFC keeps both “Original Recipe” and “Extra Crispy” in market. As Papasolomou and Melanthiou (2012) describe the message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication. More than 40 days later, many consumers still discuss this topic. Some consumers are waiting for a result of the campaign. Like Trusov, Bucklin and Pauwels (2009) mention, the effects of social media last a long period of time than traditional media. Launching the campaign only uses one day, but consumers’ discussion leads the campaign exists in people’s mind for a long time. However, if launching the new product through TV advertising. The effects will disappear with the stop of the advertising.

 

No matter the positive or negative evaluation provided by consumers through social media. The campaign “Original Recipe PK Extra Crispy” causes a fierce discussion. The hot topic increased KFC exposure and also improved search rankings (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). The results prove that consumers accept the interactive communication and willing to join the campaign. Consumers are beginning to contradict the traditional one-way communication which companies tried to control and decide how their products should be perceived by the customers. Sometime, consumers dislike the feeling that advertisings interrupt them when they watch TV or listen to the music.

 

From another aspect, social media can help the company improve sales (Dyer, 2013). No matter consumer tries the new product for the campaign or fierce discussion makes consumers want to try. A sustained rise in the sales of “Extra Crispy” from the campaign obtains consumers’ attention (CYOL, 2014). Consumers will continue to patronage the new product if they love the product. It also has opened the door to the sales of products in the future.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the power of social media is obvious through analyzing the case of KFC (China). The cheap social media create a great value for KFC not only result in sales, but also involve many aspects. First, social media provide a chance of reaching a wider audience for a company or a brand (Bamford, 2012). Second, social media help company to build a good relationship with consumers (DiPietro, et al., 2012). Third, the message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012). Fourth, social media involve higher credibility and trust (Akar, & Topsu, 2013). Fifth, social media offer increased traffic and improved search rankings for a company or a brand (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). All these benefits from social media let companies shift their attention from traditional media to social media.

 

Social media have begun to explore a location in online marketing and have influenced companies and consumers to a large extent. Companies now pay attention to social media marketing. It is worth reminding, social media is a two-edged sword. We cannot say social media is a flawless approach. To be sure, companies need to consider both advantages and disadvantages of social media in the future. Using it in the correct way will bring more value to a company.


References:

Akar, E., & Topsu, B., 2013. “An examination of factors influencing consumers’ choice of social media marketing”, Journal of Internet Commerce, 10(1), 35-67.

Bamford, N., 2012. “Why you should consider using social media”, Money Marketing (online edition), pp.8.

Chiu, C., Ip, C. & Silverman, A., 2012. [1] “Understanding Social Media in China”, Mckinsey quarterly, 2, pp.78-81.

Chiu, C., Ip, C. & Silverman, A., 2012. [2] “China’s Social-media Boom”, Mckinsey quarterly, [online] Avaliable at:< http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/chinas_social-media_boom> Viewed: 11 Feb 2014.

CYOL, 2014. “Consumer support the new product ‘Extra Crispy”. [online] Avaliable at:< http://roll.sohu.com/20140117/n393688672.shtml> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

David, M. Scott., 2007. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly”, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

DiPietro, R., Gustafson, C., Strick, S. & Crews, T., 2012. “The use of Social Networking Sites in the Restaurant Industry: Best Practices”, Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 15, 3, pp. 265-284.

Hanna, R., Rohm, A., & Crittenden, V., 2011. We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem, Business Horizons, 54, 3, p.265-273.

Hansen, D., Sheiderman, B. & Smith, M.A., 2011. Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights froma a connected world, [Electronic Resource], n.p.: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, A-Z Resources.

Hoffrnal, D., & Novak, T., 2012. “Toward a Deeper Understanding of Social Media”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26, 2, pp. 69-70.

KFC China, 2012. “About KFC in China”, [online] Available at: <http://www.kfc.com.cn/kfccda/about.html> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

KFC, 2013. “Who Can Represent KFC: Original Recipe PK Extra Crispy”. [online] Avaliable at:< http://kfcpk.qq.com/ > Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P. & Silvestreet, B.S., 2011. “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media”, Business Horizons, 54, 241—251.

Papasolomou, I. & Melanthiou, Y., 2012. “Social Media: Marketing Public Relations’ New Best Friend”, Journal of Promotion Management, 18, 3, pp. 319-328.

Trusov, M., Bucklin, R. & Pauwels, K., 2009. “Effects of Word-of-Mouth Versus Tranditional Marketing: Findings from an Internet Social Networking Site”, Journal of Marketing, 73, 5, pp.90-102.

Dyer, P., 2013. “The Top Benefits of Social Media Marketing”. [online] Avaliable at:< http://socialmediatoday.com/pamdyer/1568271/top-benefits-social-media-marketing-infographic> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

A Facebook guide on web 2.0

January 8, 2015

Written by Mathias Miller Thorneman

Abstract

The web has changed dramatically from web 1.0 to web 2.0. The change has been rapid, and has implicitly and explicitly implied a plethora of changes for both consumers and marketers. The consumer has been emancipated, given a voice and has consequently become a force, which has dethroned the marketers, and deprived them of their dominance. The tools that made this possible were the advent of social platforms that exist in variations on web 2.0. The various platforms offer a differentiated utilization scheme; herein the social networks are of particular interest. Based on the particular interest on social networks a Facebook guide is constructed to allow an eased and more successful employment of the social network.  The Facebook guide employs specific emphasis on understanding how the media functions, but also to development and control of posts and content.

 

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to shed light on what the Internet is today and to explore and understand the platforms web 2.0 offers. Hereafter the article will address and act as a guide for construction and development of social media communication with a particular focus on the platform Facebook. To accommodate the questions at hand in an optimal manner the composition of data for this article is based on academic litterateur, journals, blogs and lastly examples are applied to illustrate and underline points, in particular for the Facebook guide.   

 

The birth of contemporary Internet

Since the birth of the Internet the online aspect of our lives have become evermore consuming, and far reaching. The impact of the Internet has without doubt left deep marks, and forever changed the way we communicate, shop, work, and search for information. Norms that existed for millennia evaporated at the speed of light with the introduction of web 1.0 (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011), and a new era proclaimed it’s importance by the introduction of communities (Seraj 2012), blogs, micro-blogs and social networks (Weinberg & Pehlivan 2011), namely a era characterized by a reciprocal flow and co-creation of information (Singh & Sonnenburg 2012). In geeky circles this era is referred to as web 2.0 (Weinberg & Pehlivan 2011).  Collectively this myriad of platforms wherein co-creation (Singh & Sonneburg 2012, Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011) takes place is referred to as Social Media. Within these social media platforms consumers are now advocating events, brands, products and experiences though an electronic word-of-mouth (eVOM) which have become significantly important (Akar & Topcu 2011). Thereby, emancipating the consumer and empowering him/her to play a decisive role in the success or failure scenario, which unfolds before the marketer on the web 2.0 (Papasolomou & Melantbiou 2012). By understanding, listening and co-creating knowledge and content with consumers through social platforms marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to strike gold, eureka!, by meeting consumer needs (Chrisodoulides 2009, Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011).  Consequently this has let consumers to expect that they will play an active part in the media process (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011), and left the marketer in a role where he must fit in rather then dominate (Deighton & Kornfeld 2009).

 

With an understanding of what contemporary Internet offers consumers and marketers, focus is directed towards the platforms that facilitate the revolution web 2.0 ushered in. Therefore a closer examination of the platforms is conducted.

 

Flourishing platforms on web 2.0

The many platforms web 2.0 offers segmented into four primary categories, namely blogs, communities, micro-blogs and social networks (Weinberg & Pehlivan 2011).  Although the platforms operate and co-exist simultaneously on web 2.0 the purpose of the user and marketer utilization of the platforms differ dramatically. In the box below utilization purposes are displayed.

The box above is based on Seraj 2012, Weinberg & Pehlivan 2011.

 

As exhibited in the box above, there are various overall and sub decisions to be made prior to engagement of web 2.0. The importance and the potential of these platforms are becoming widely recognised, as they offer a unique opportunity to monitor, engage, share, collaborate with, which in turn hopefully leads to (brand) evangelism (Weinberg & Pehlivan 2011). But what is it these platforms offer the consumer on web 2.0? In accordance to Deighton & Kornfeld (Deighton & Kornfeld 2009) a five category scale is suggested, wherein one factor is of particular interest, namely Cultural Exchange. Cultural Exchange implies that the marketer aspires cultural production, which is then incorporated in groups or by individuals (Deighton & Kornfeld 2009). A recent example of this is Coca Cola’s online ‘Share a coke’ campaign which has been widely spread throughout all of the four platforms: micro-blogs, communities, blogs and social networks. Through the campaign users are encouraged to share a digital Coca Cola with friends.

 

A phenomena like Facebook is perceived to one of the most potent social media platforms as Facebook in particular enables cultural exchange, and functions as a facilitator of identity projection, and collective ascription of meaning and identity (Deighton & Kornfeld 2009).  

 

In sum, this article has suggested that web 2.0 have catapulted consumers and marketers into a more egalitarian paradigm that is nourished and rejuvenated through various platforms. In addition, it was suggested that especially platforms that presented possibility of cultural exchange were in particular potent. To provide a deeper understanding of the utilization of a potent platform (Deighton & Kornfeld 2009) in praxis the following section will function as a guide to social network platform, namely Facebook (www.facebook.com).

 

The Facebook guide will serve for inexperienced and novice marketers to avoid the contemporary pitfalls on Facebook and to seize and obtain most possible “bang for your buck”.

 

The Facebook guide

The focus of this guide will be on Facebook as it is the largest, and the most utilized platform, in addition Facebook is subject to increasing utilization from users (Bayer 2014). Furthermore, consumers on Facebook who becomes fans/followers tend to be more loyal; more open for information, visit the brand store more and generate (e)VOM (Vries, Gensler & Leeflang 2012). Having underlined the importance of the platform the Facebook guide will now proceed to examine a number of considerations a marketer will have to be aware off when interacting with future fans and followers.

 

Understanding Facebook

The first step of the Facebook guide is to develop an understanding how Facebook functions. With Facebooks new algorithm brands can no longer rely on somewhat random fans or followers (Pedersen 2014). The new fan or follower must now live up to a complex range of criteria, which will make Facebook rate the fan/follower interested in your brands material. In short, although your fan-base may be 10.000, only 1.000 may actually see your post, as Facebook estimates the rest to be uninterested in your post (Pedersen 2014). This Facebook guide therefore suggests and underlines the importance of intense focus on content that will intrigue your brands loyal fans/followers (Magid 2014).  Furthermore, the algorithm also emphasizes the importance of shares, likes and comments of your post. By having your fan/follower base share, like and comment on your post Facebook will perceive your post as more important and relevant and hereby increase the posts range. This fact becomes particular interesting when taking Metcalfe’s law into consideration. Metcalfe’s law suggest that the value of a social network increases in proportion to the square of its connections (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011).

 

Adding ‘likes’ to your post

In accordance with quantitative research the number of likes on your post can be affected by the vividness of the post (Vries, Gensler & Leeflang 2012). By submitting content in the form of an embedded video (Magid 2014) or more participation oriented material, such as a contest. Another mean of attracting ‘likes’ to your post is by making it more attractive, by trying to get positive comments on the post (Caballero 2014).

 

Adding ‘comments’ to your post

An effective method of comment generation can be by taking advantage of the intuitive human, simply by posting a question many are drawn to provide an answer. Regardless whether the post reply is positive or negative the amount of post interest is believed to rise (Vries, Gensler & Leeflang 2012). In addition, it is advised that the marketer remains in sight for the fan/follower, and encourages and acknowledges the fan/follower with incentive, whether it be a ‘thanks’ or a ‘giftcard’ (Sandes & Urdan 2013).

 

Content control

An important aspect of this Facebook guide is how to manage your post content. Without a prober post content management one can rapidly experience hijacking or harsh critique (Singh & Sonneburg 2012). In layman terms a notion of ‘tension’ between marketer and fan/follower is suggested, wherein personal, internal and external tension exist (Singh & Sonneburg 2012). The essential outcome is to aspire a captivating brand by continuous re-assessing bonds of tension, and utilizing more types of tension simultaneously. In example this entails providing excitement, provocation and challenging the fan/followers perception, hence adding to the cultural exchange (Deighton & Kornfeld 2009).

 

Aber dabei….

Ironically, what makes your post more attractive to ‘likes’ consequently decreases the attractiveness in relation to ‘comments’ and vice versa. As such the marketer must be aware when designed posts, will the post be ‘like’ or ‘comment’ oriented? Perhaps a combination between the two can work? Regardless of choice the marketer must be conscious about the potential a well designed post has, raising the correct question, attracting your brands core fans/followers and seeing your message spread like rings in the water. Moreover this process allows for collection of data and increased understanding of your audience (Chrisodoulides 2009, Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011).  Conversely the marketer most also be aware that receiving negative comments is not necessarily equal to failure or misunderstanding of this Facebook guide. Through negative comments much can be learned about thoughts, desires and feelings about your brand. It is therefore paramount that negative comments are not perceived as a failure or irrelevant and annoying noise, but rather as a chance to learn and collaborate with your fans/followers (Vries, Gensler & Leeflang 2012). It is only a failure if you fail to learn from it! Moreover, marketers whom decide to apply facebook must also consider that the platform is relatively often subject to algorithm alteration, which explicitly manifests itself as re-strategizing for marketers. Thus it is a media that requires continuous care and attention to remain valid.

 

Conclusion

The consumer have been emancipated and given a voice on web 2.0. The marketer is now dependant on sharing, listening and collaborating with the consumer. An array of opportunities has arisen for the consumer, but also for the marketer. In effect these opportunities unfold upon platforms on web, and in this article the social networking platform Facebook was targeted due to its relevance, popularity and unique features for content. Through the Facebook guide it was concluded that an understanding of Facebook as a platform is paramount in order to launch a successful campaign. Moreover there was shed light upon the do’s and don’ts when marketers are aiming for ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and content control and the oxymoron it is to master all at once.  Lastly it was concluded that negative fan/follower ‘comments’ are opportunities for further learning about your consumers.

 

Reference list

Articles

Akar, B, Topsu, (2013), “An examination of factors influencing consumers’ choice of social media marketing”, Journal of Internet Commerce, 10(1), 35-67.

 

Chrisodoulides, G. (2009), “Branding in the post-internet era”, Marketing Theory, 9, 141.

 

Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L. (2009), “Interactivity's Unanticipated Consequences for Marketers and Marketing”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 23, p. 4-10.

 

Hanna, R., Rohm, A. and Crittenden, V. (2011), “We’re all connected: the power of the social media ecosystem”, Business Horizons, 54, 265-273.

 

Papasolomou, I.  & Melanthiou, Y. (2013), “Social Media: Marketing Public Relations ‘New Best Friend”, Journal of Promotion Management, 18(3), 319-328.

 

Sandes, F.S. & A. T. Urdan (2013), ” Electronic Word-of-Mouth Impacts on Consumer Behavior: Exploratory and Experimental Studies”, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 25(3), 181-197.

 

Seraj, M. (2012), We Create, We Connect, We Respect, Therefore We Are: Intellectual, Social, and Cultural Value in Online Communities, Journal of Interactive Marketing 26, 209–222. *

 

Singh, S. & S. Sonnenburg (2012), Brand Performances in Social Media”, Journal of Interactive Marketing 26, 189–197.

 

Vries, L. & S. Gensler & P. S.H. Leeflang, (2012),” Popularity of Brand Posts on Brand Fan Pages: An Investigation of the Effects of Social Media Marketing”, Journal of Interactive Marketing 26, 83–91.*

 

Weinberg, B.D. and Pehlivan, E. (2011), “Social spending: managing the social media mix”, Business Horizons, 54, 275-282.

 

Web pages 

Bayer, Jay. (2014). 3 ways to fight facebooks algorithm and customize your feed. Available: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/facebook/3-ways-to-fight-facebooks-algorithm-and-customize-your-feed/. Last accessed 13-02-2014.

 

Caballero , Luis. (2014). marketers make facebooks algorithm. Available: http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/marketers-make-facebook-s-algorithm/291050/. Last accessed 13-02-2014.

 

Magid, Larry. (2014). Facebook tweaks newsfeed algorithm again .Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrymagid/2014/01/21/facebook-tweaks-news-feed-algorithm-again/. Last accessed 12-02-2014.

 

Pedersen, Hedegaard Lars. (2014). Fusk med Facebook annoncer. Available: http://markedsforing.dk/artikler/digitalt/fusk-med-facebook-annoncer. Last accessed 14-02-2014.

How Social Media Investments Can Increase Purchase Intentions among Consumers – A Four Step Approach Addressed Brand Managers in the Fashion Industry Part 1

October 9, 2014

Written by  Masters Student at Lund University

PART I

THE NEW ERA

The many and comprehensive developments within the technology sector are something that has had a tremendous effect on how individuals and firms live and work today (Wind, 2008). We have been able to see a new marketing era and it has become a rule rather than an exception for fashion brands to invest and focus in social media activities (Winer, 2009) where established accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and blogs are the new common used communication tools (Phan, 2011). Even if theorists seem to advocate social media investments as a recipe for success, I know of companies operating in the fashion industry who do not know how to succeed with their social media activities. Scandinavia’s largest fashion PR agency is a good example of this, where I as an intern, early noticed the bureau manager’s lack of knowledge concerning how to manage their social media investments in order to increase purchase intentions among consumers.

This paper is therefore devoted to answer this question. By presenting relevant theory which subsequently will result in my own analytical recommendations, fashion managers will be inspired about how they can progress with their social media investments.

 

BRANDS, INTEGRATION AND COMMINICATION IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA

The Brand

It has been investigated among theorists that social media investments generate increased purchase intentions with consumers (Kim & Ko, 2012; Themba & Mulala, 2013; Wang et al. 2012). Even though, the customer’s intention to buy increases only if the brand achieves to deliver an added value to the customer, and even more so if the brand in question have transparent and strong values from the beginning- namely through value equity and brand equity (Kim & Ko, 2012).  Even if the fashion brand is highly present in the social media world and constantly updating and communicating in new creative ways, about 35 % of the respondents still perceive the brand as old- fashioned (Phan, 2011, example Burberry). This really demonstrates the strong correlation between a liking of a certain brand and the purchase intention. Therefore, there is no impact of social media investments on the purchase intentions if the customer does not like the brand from the beginning (Phan, 2011). Additionally, the perception a customer gets from different buzzes in the social media, is based on already existing thoughts and perceptions of the brand (Powers et al., 2012).

Recommendation #1:  Examine your brand

It is important to remember that an investment in social media activities will not increase purchase intentions if a consumer do not like the brand from the beginning, and that new information received will be based on already existing thoughts of the brand (Kim & Ko, 2012; Phan, 2011). It is therefore crucial that the brand image is the same perceived in the consumers’ eyes and in the brand manager’s. If the manager believes that the brand stands for good products and values but the reality occurs to be the reverse, the social media investments will be vain. I therefore have faith in building a clear image where the brand strives to be in the future and compare it, with the help of customer surveys, how they are perceived today. By doing this, the managers know in what areas they have to improve and where the major gaps are between the customer’s and manager’s brand perceptions. Managers must know what they have to work with and what negative rumors they might have to counter in order to be successful in their social media activities. It is essential to build a good image from scratch.

Interaction and e-WOM

The interaction and communication between consumers in the social media is something that has been investigated deeply and broadly (Wang et al, 2012). The research have contributed to the insight that  the way consumers interact with each other in Social Media forums, affect the way the consumers think in their purchase decision (Wang et al. 2012). The social media forums works as a kind of market place where the communication between individuals helps people correspond and argue with each other which further often leads to changed attitudes of brands and products (Wang et al, 2012).

A developed and established concept in the area of online communication is “e-WOM”, electronic word of mouth (Henning et al. 2004). It is a good idea for fashion retailers to invest in social integrated activities since it could be an easy way to create positive e-WOM traffic (Henning et al., 2004). Since e-WOM has been found to be a trustworthy source for information-seeking consumers, it is important that businesses in the fashion industry realize the importance of it (Themba & Mulala, 2013). Noteworthy is also that when a fashion retailer wants to intensify the spread of positive e-WOM, they must reflect upon the commitment of the customer in relation to the brand as well as the consumer’s commitment to fashion overall. If a customer is highly committed to a certain fashion brand, then his or hers engagement in social media activities in relation to that brand will increase (Wolny & Mueller, 2013). Furthermore, customers who have a high need of social interaction in general, are those consumers who are more collaborative in the social media than others (Wolny & Mueller, 2013). The more a brand manages to create a positive and comprehensive e-WOM related to the brand or to the product, the more the purchase intention from that consumer will increase (Themba & Mulala, 2013).

Communication Through Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are a part of the interaction era we experience today and are often to be found in different social media forums, in one way or another. It is important to not underestimate the impact of the reviews, since a positive customer review in some social media can affect the purchase intention among other consumers (Park et al., 2007). The reviews have a function of being both informative and recommendatory and are therefore playing an important role in the customer purchase decision process. The more and the better the reviews are, the more they have an impact on others (Park et al., 2007). One exception is consumers who are highly involved with a brand and its products. Those customers only learn and take note from it when he or she perceives the quality of the review to be rewarding (Park et al., 2007).

One could find it hard to understand that individuals, who are reading reviews online, are so credulous. It has therefore been discussed and investigated if it is good or not to reveal the demographical characteristics of social media engaged customers (Naylor et al. 2012). Does the disclosure have an impact on the purchase intentions and brand opinions of future potential customers or not? The results reveal that even if the presence of those social media involved individuals is virtual and sometimes not very active, their demographical characteristics do have an impact on another customer’s purchase intention and brand evaluation (Naylor et al., 2012). This could be an interesting angel for managers to discover in the quest to reach out to their target markets as well as in business comparisons with competitors (Naylor et al., 2012).

 

Recommendation #2: Create the right image

Since e-WOM is to be considered to be a trustworthy source when it comes to the consumer’s purchase decision process (Themba & Mulala, 2013), it is important for fashion managers to try to control and make sure that positive buzzes and perceptions about the brand are created and spread from the start. To spread a good brand image and to get new customers, I suggest that fashion managers should turn to their already existing customers, who are highly active in Social Medias, but also who have a strong predilection for that particular brand. In this way, the spread will be broad and the message will be positive. I also think it will be a good idea if managers additionally choose to reveal the promoting customer’s demographics, since the whole investment and activity will be even more trustworthy (Naylor et al., 2012). I believe that consumers, who experience detection and identification, are more likely to trust the reviews and also spread the buzz further. By doing this, it will attract like-minded audience and it gets easier for the fashion brand to reach out new target customers and to increase purchase intentions

END PART I

Which social media forums will be chosen and why? How can managers know if the investment has been profitable? For answers to those questions, look in part two where I also present the central conclusion. 

 

What motivates consumer participation in social networks and how can brands benefit from it?

September 18, 2014

Written by Corinna Jürgens 

With the rise of the internet and accompanied by the formation of social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, consumer participation has become more proactive.  Consumers have now the opportunity of sharing their lives and experiences with friends and family and even strangers online through social networks (Kosonen and Ellonen, 2012).

Many companies try to become part of this interaction by being active in social networks in order to create and foster a social network around their brands (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). Consumer participation in virtual worlds offers the opportunity for companies to promote their brands and increase purchases, provide information, and conduct market research (Eisenbeiss et al., 2012; Hutter et al., 2013). But what drives consumer participation? Why do they share their opinions and experiences in social networks? Consumers do not get any privileges for sharing their thoughts and promoting brands or companies. So what is it that motivates consumer participation in communities in general and in a brand community in specific?

 

Consumer participation in social networks

The important aspect for consumer participation in social networks is the need for social interaction with like-minded people as it gives them a feeling of belonging (Eisenbeiss et al., 2012; Guosong, 2009; McKenna and Bargh, 1999; Porter et al., 2011). The internet offers consumers the opportunity of finding those like-minded people more easily and allows them to share their interest and identity (Dholakia et al., 2004; McKenna and Bargh, 1999). Consumers use social networks to talk to people, interact with strangers, and even make new friends (Eisenbeiss et al., 2012). This makes clear why online communities have such high levels of consumer participation.

                                                                                     

First of all, we need to understand what a (brand) community is and how it is built. What makes it so special? A community is based on social relationships and forms around a shared admiration for a matter of mutual interest. In the case of a brand community the brand itself represents its centre. Members of such social networks develop a shared consciousness of kind, rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility for each other and the brand (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001).

The motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson is a illustrative example for a strong brand community. It provides different communication platforms for Harley-Davidson customers and admirers such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and a website-based brand community (see image 1 and 2) (Harley Davidson, 2014). Over time, a whole subculture developed that influences the daily lives of Harley Davidson motorcycle owners (Schouten and McAlexander, 1995).

 

   
  
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   Harley Davidson brand community

Harley Davidson brand community

Image 1: Focus on sharing the spirit and being part of the brand community

 (Harley Davidson, 2014)

   
  
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   Harley Davidson Social Media

Harley Davidson Social Media

Image 2: Social networks for brand admirers

(Harley Davidson, 2014)

 

The difficult path to brand-related consumer participation

That sounds all very well, but is difficult to achieve. In order to take advantage of consumers’ behaviour in social networks and to foster their brands some steps need to be taken. As a first step the company has to analyse what consumers’ needs and wants are and what motivates them. As stated before, individuals who are part of a brand community share a consciousness of kind. This means that they have a shared identity with other members of the brand community and can therefore truly understand each other (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001; Porter et al., 2011). As a consequence, they develop a feeling of belonging to that brand community and to one another (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001; Porter et al., 2011).

 

Once this first phase is completed, companies need to find a way to foster consumer participation and to motivate interaction in a virtual brand community. The aim of this step is not to create value for the company, but to fulfil consumers’ needs. There are different ways to achieve this: By encouraging consumers to create their own quality content, by creating a positive attitude towards the brand community, and finally by connecting and encouraging interaction amongst its members (Porter et al., 2011).

 

Some consumers do not only participate in social networks by commenting or sharing other people’s content, but also by creating their own content. These consumers want to express themselves through their creations. They want to increase their self-activation in order to shape their own identity (Guosong, 2009; Dholakia et al., 2004; McKenna and Bargh, 1999; Eisenbeiss et al., 2012). The role of a company in this case is to support their self-expression. It might lead to less control over brand-related content, but at the same time gives consumers more freedom to express themselves within the brand community (Cova and Pace, 2006).

Companies can make use of this consumer creativity by involving them in their branding and product development process. They can try to give them an incentive to produce brand related content for their own benefits. In the last few years, many companies have tried to increase consumer participation in brand-related social networks by motivating consumer interaction. Procter & Gamble’s razor brand Venus Gillette encouraged consumers to post pictures of bad weather of their home in Sweden via Instagram in exchange for a trip to a sunny destination for the best picture (Think with Google, 2013).

 

As a final step, consumers need to be motivated to fulfil not only their own needs, but also to add value to the brand (Porter et al., 2011). By providing information that outsiders do not get access to or by providing first-hand information before anyone else, companies put an emphasis on the importance of their brand community. At the same time, they foster the sense of belonging and a feeling of being special in its members (Porter et al., 2011). In addition, companies need to bind their members and encourage participation in value creation. A good example for this value creation is the ‘Got an idea?’ campaign by Starbucks which created the Mystarbucksidea.com brand community (see image 3). The brand community aims at giving consumers a platform for sharing their ideas for the brands future and interacting with Starbucks employees (Porter et al., 2011). In the first year, 70,000 ideas were shared. In the end, 94 of those ideas were put into action and 25 were launched (Porter et al., 2011).

   
  
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     Starbucks consumer participation

Starbucks consumer participation

 Image 3: Interactive platform to encourage consumer particiation

(MyStarbucksIdea, 2013)

 

Challenges and opportunities of consumer participation

Consumers are the ideal partner for companies to promote their brand, particularly because those who participate in social networks genuinely belief in brand e.g. Harley-Davidson owners. However, companies need to keep in mind that consumers do not want to interact with the brand in the first place. A study by IBM from 2011 confirms that only 23% use social networks in order to interact with brands, while 70% state that they primarily use it to connect with friends and family (IBM report, 2011). As discussed before, companies therefore have the difficult task of providing a platform for consumer interaction with like-minded people rather than having a commercialised brand community only aiming at propagating the company’s message.

 

In addition, (electronic) word of mouth represents one of the most effective ways of promoting brands as consumers trust each other more than they trust the brand promise in commercials (Blackshaw and Narazzo, 2006). For companies it is interesting to see that, while searching for information, consumers prefer user-generated media if they can choose between user-generated media and information provided by an organisation (Gousong, 2009; Blackshaw and Narazzo, 2006). According to a study conducted by Nielsen BuzzMetrics user-generated media implies high levels of trust, with 60% of consumers trusting posts made by fellow consumers (Blackshaw and Narazzo, 2006). This confirms the importance of interaction with consumers through social networks and supporting the creation of user-generated brand-related content. Research also showed that consumer participation in social networks can lead to higher purchase intentions and can therefore enhance brand value, if perceived as positive by consumers (Hutter et al., 2013).

 

Even though consumer participation in social networks and user-generated content provide a great opportunity for brands, companies always have to be prepared for negative statements about their brand. Just like brand communities, anti-brand communities are formed by like-minded people and centred around a common interest, in this case brand aversion (Kucuk, 2008; Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009). The stronger a brand, the more likely are negative comments in social networks and anti-brand communities (Kucuk, 2008; Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009). One illustrative example for this movement is Starbucks with a forum called I hate Starbucks that is based on a consumer initiative (I hate Starbucks, 2014).

   
  
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   Starbucks Anti-brand community

Starbucks Anti-brand community

 Image 4: Anti-brand forum (I hate Starbucks, 2014)

 

All in all, the degree of consumer participation depends on the platform that is provided, as consumers want more than just a brand platform that informs about the latest products. First and foremost, they care about their social life and need to interact with others, either directly or through social networks and virtual communities.

By providing a brand community for like-minded people, companies can try to become part of this interaction and consequently reach higher levels of brand awareness and increase purchase intentions. The main question is whether this is achievable for all kinds of brands, regardless of how much consumers are actually interested in them, such as every day products.

 

REFERENCES:

Blackshaw, P. and Nazzaro, M. (2006). Consumer-generated media 101: world-of-mouth in the age of the web-fortified consumer. Available online: http://goo.gl/xuAL8U [Accessed 10.02.2014]

 

Cova, B., & Pace, S. (2006). Brand community of convenience products: new forms of customer empowerment–the case “my Nutella The Community”. European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40, No.9/10, pp. 1087-1105.

 

Dholakia, U. M., Bagozzi, R. P., & Pearo, L. K. (2004). A social influence model of consumer participation in network-and small-group-based virtual communities. International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 21, No.3, pp. 241-263.

 

Eisenbeiss, M., Blechschmidt, B., Backhaus, K., and Freund, P. A. (2012). “The (real) world is not enough:” Motivational drivers and user behavior in virtual worlds. Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 26, No.1, pp. 4-20.

 

Guosong, S. (2009). Understanding the appeal of user-generated media: a uses and gratification perspective. Internet Research, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 7-25.

 

Harley Davidson (2014). Homepage of Harley Davidson. Available online:

http://www.harley-davidson.com/en_US/Content/Pages/Community/community.html?locale=en_USandbmLocale=en_US

[Accessed online: 09.02.2014]

 

Hutter, K., Hautz, J., Dennhardt, S., & Füller, J. (2013). The impact of user interactions in social media on brand awareness and purchase intention: the case of MINI on Facebook. Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 22 No.5/6, pp. 342-351.

 

IBM Global Business Services Executive Report (2011) From social media to Social CRM - What customers want. Available online:  http://www.google.de/url?sa=tandrct=jandq=andesrc=sandsource=webandcd=2andved=0CC0QFjABandurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.dhe.ibm.com%2Fcommon%2Fssi%2Fecm%2Fen%2Fgbe03391usen%2FGBE03391USEN.PDFandei=vMv7Ut7iCMPEtQb4oIGQBwandusg=AFQjCNEebZFYaFUyi0yaqQ5pxjSJri5SSgandbvm=bv.61190604,d.Yms [Accessed 10.02.2014]

 

I hate Starbucks (2014). Logo of the blog. Available online: http://www.ihatesbux.com/forum/ [Accessed online: 12.02.2014]

 

Kaplan, A. M., and Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons, Vol. 53, No. 1, pp. 59-68.

 

Kosonen, M., and Ellonen, H. K. (2012). The Business Value of Consumer Participation through Social Media. International Journal of Interactive Communication Systems and Technologies (IJICST), Vol. 2, No.1, pp. 1-17.

 

Krishnamurthy, S. S., and Kucuk, S. U. (2009). Anti-branding on the internet. Journal of Business Research, Vol. 62 No.11, p. 1119-1126.

 

Kucuk, S. (2008). Negative Double Jeopardy: The role of anti-brand sites on the internet. Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 209-222.

 

Muniz Jr., A. M., and O'Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand Community. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 412-432.

 

McKenna, K. Y.A. and J. A. Bargh (1999), Causes and Consequences of Social Interaction on the Internet: A Conceptual Framework, Media Psychology, Vol. 1, No.3, pp. 249 – 69.

 

MyStarbucksIdea (2013). Facebook ‘Anti Starbucks’ keyword search. Available online: http://www.starbucks.com/coffeehouse/learn-more/my-starbucks-idea 

[Accessed online: 12.02.2014]

 

Porter, C. E., Donthu, N., MacElroy, W. H., and Wydra, D. (2011). How to foster and sustain engagement in virtual communities. California Management Review, Vol. 53, No.4, pp.80-110.

 

Schouten, J. W., and McAlexander, J. H. (1995). Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Bikers. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 22, No.1, pp. 43-61.

 

Think with Google (2013).  Tag the Weather. Available Online: http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/campaigns/venus-tag-the-weather.html [Accessed online: 14.02.2014]