Written by Punyasooree Suwunphong
Certainly, the rise of digital media changes the role of how consumers and marketers interact in the market nowadays. With social media platforms, consumers enable to associate and share information with their family, friends and interesting communities. They have transformed into active participations which engage in the creation of brand equity from product design to promotional messages (Berthon, Pitt, McCarthy, & Kates, 2007). On the other side, the marketer’s role is also influenced by the change of these consumer behaviours (singh,2005; Walmsley, 2010). Nowadays, companies have to create their own platforms, such as blogs, mobile devices, location-based and Youtube, to drive sale and engage with their consumers. Needless to say, Social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, youtube etc. have changed the internet into a platform of influence (Crittenden, Peterson, & Albaum, 2010). Comparing to traditional media era, consumers’ power become more intense and marketers need to find proper platforms to engage with people from different segments. With the rise in social media platforms, Marketers might wonder how to leverage the use of social media in their marketing mix?
Effects of technology on consumer behaviours
With changes in technology and accompanied by the bottom up marketing (Karpinski 2005), individual consumers tend to perceive media messages strongly on their own opinions and their friends. Customers are not only passive recipients who will want to be influenced by the things companies provided. This is because the digital platforms are not only sources for useful information but it’s a place where people can interact and associate to the brand and other customers with the same interests. They will participate in many activities on digital platforms such as sharing experience on their status or comment on a video interview. They will become a part of media. This enables them to influence the market place in this highly interactive web 2.0 world. Obviously, in the rise of digital media era, there are two major changes in consumer behaviour which are actively engaged with the brand and stronger relationship within the community (Gensler et al, 2013).
With the rise in social media platforms, it increases the ability for customers to reach and engage with the brand. Consequently, technology makes it more convenient for customers to receive information. Comparing to traditional media, it empowers consumers to engage both directly and indirectly in the market place. Supported by Garretson (2008), which states that consumers use social media not only to find information about the products and services but also engage with the brand and people with common valuable interests. People desire to actively participate to be a part of media such as Internet based campaigns. Obviously, digital platforms enable them to associate and share their opinions with the world. It can go far beyond in terms of generating their own contents, which they will share brand and product experiences with their peers via platforms such as blog (Labrecque et al, 2013). This can result in how other people perceive the messages differently from the original one. This can effect on the consistency of how people perceive the core value of a brand.
Engage to build and strengthen relationship
The reason behind the facts that people become more engage with the brand is a relationship. According to (Piskorski, 2011) , people actively participate with the brand on social media platforms as to meet new people and enhance an existing relationship. In a traditional environment, it used to be difficult for customers to interact with new people in the society. However, with the rise of technology, it is now convenient to make new friends. Communities on the platforms enable them to generate new relationship by sharing ideas or experiences with people with common interests. Ricadela (2007) supported that the one of the best benefits of using the internet could be to strengthen relationships in social networks. The relationships become stronger as the platforms in the social networks allow them to keep the connection by communicating with their old friends. This results in higher power of customers as they become more connected to each other.
According to the change of consumer behaviours associated with technology change, it could be an opportunity for marketers if they combine social media with traditional media in proper ways. With the rise of technology, marketers can leverage the use of social media platforms in the way that benefits their products and services. Marketers need to carefully adapt to how people participate in the market place on social media platforms as consumers become more participate and collaborate. The following part will provide the ways that marketers can benefits from associating social media in their marketing mix.
Engagement with customers
According to Levine, Locke, Searle, & Weinberger (2001), markets are more about two ways of communication. It is not a place for giving only information. Importantly, customers now want to participate and become a part of the media. It is insufficient to use marketing only to create awareness within customers mind. In addition, marketers require reaching and maintaining attention through engagement with people. Comparing to traditional media, Steinberg (2010), indicate the example of Super Bowl which reaches many viewers, however it doesn’t imply the truly marketing exchange with the customers. With the change in behaviours, marketers should create community platforms which company can interact with customers from different segments. Another important thing is to be unique as customers will perceive you differently and your brand will stand out. This encourages people to electronically participate and associates with your brand (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).
Influence the relationship
Certainly, people engage in activities on the platforms to create and maintain relationships with other people. As a marketer, it is important that you establish strategies and activities that help people connect with their old friends, new friends and family (Piskorski, 2011). In this digital era, marketers require to understand and adapt to social needs of customers while maintain their business goal. There are four recommend strategies which marketers could use to identify the social needs of their customers which are to connect with strangers, interacting with strangers, re connecting with friends, and interacting with friends (Barwise & MeeHan, 2010). The company could use social media to provide messages that influence on the relationship of their target customers. This will generate the feeling of community of a brand in the customers mind.
Gain insights from the social media
Marketers can be benefits from the rise of customers’ engagement. This is because customers will share a lot of opinions and experiences toward the brand with their friends. It is convenient for marketers to gain insights from their target market as it is accessible and free of charge. Marketer can understand changes in brand sentiment and image by applying the netnography (Kozinets 2002). They can monitor on various media content on how consumers deserve attention from the brand (Gensler et al, 2013). Hence, the marketers should leverage on using the platforms by carefully navigate to understand differences among consumers in the ecosystem based on their social behaviours: creators (e.g., publish, maintain upload); critics (e.g., comment, rate); Collectors (e.g., connect, unite); and Spectators (e.g., read) (Li and Bernoff, 2008). With better understanding of consumer, company will be able to create an active engagement.
Clear strategies on social media
With a lot of platforms online, this can distract the company from maintaining their consistency of their brands. The company is at risk if the marketer didn’t clarify and manage their social media strategy. To be successful, marketers should relate each platform to the core value of their brands. So, consumers will perceive the brand in a consistent way. Moreover, marketers should clarify the strategies that they will use. They need to understand which platforms interact with customers from different segment. Moreover, brand stories that are shared need to be clear and connected to each other. This will create the consistent in the ecosystem (Hanna et al, 2011). Also, the brand should properly combine the use of social media with traditional one as it will enhance the core brand value. Marketers also need to leverage the use of platform while keep on their promises with the customers (Barwise & Meehan, 2010).
Maintain core value
Gensler et al (2013) states that strategic reaction will be effective if there are well integrate in brand management and individual customer management. In the era of digital media, it could be dangerous for the company if they fail to keep their promises. Bad experiences sharing online could go viral and harm the company more than you expected. As a marketer, you should provide your customers these four qualities to be successful (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). Firstly is to offer and communicate your clear promise to customers. Keep things consistent and make sure that customers perceive it the same way. Secondly, Building trusts by keeping on your promise. Deliver the services and products with the standard you promise them. Thirdly, to improve the promise by providing better offer. Lastly, seek further benefits by innovating.
In the rise of social media, the brand is directly affected by the consumer engagement. Consequently, Consumers behaviours have transformed from passive to highly active participants. Hence, it is important for marketers in this era to consider social media platform as part of their marketing mix. They can be benefits from leveraging the use of social media if they use it properly. However, it could be harmful to the brand as well if marketers fail to manage the platform. This could lead to inconsistent perception of customers. Obviously, social media can provide a lot of positive effects on the company. On the other hand, marketers also need to concern on the negative sides as well.
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