Written by Pamela Lozano
“The web was created not to sell branded products, but to link people together in collective conversational webs … The technology that was supposed to empower marketers has empowered consumers instead” (Fournier & Avery, 2011, p.193)
The phrase above reflects in a general overview the analysis that will be presented in this paper.
The active role that nowadays customers have on the online environment is challenging the traditional Branding strategies. In accordance with a Digital Consumer Index Report by Euromonitor International (2016), the number of people who use internet has doubled over the last seven years globally and it is estimated that approximately 43% of the world population use internet as of 2016. Indeed, it is expected that by the year 2020 almost half of the world population will be using internet. Moreover, according to a publication by Deloitte & Touche (2016), it is estimated that 0.56 of every dollar spent in a store in the United States is influenced by a digital interaction as of 2016 (Simpson, Ohri &Lobaugh, 2016). This increased digital connectivity is undoubtedly transforming the traditional ways that Brands have used to connect with their customers, especially in the social Media environment.
Nowadays, it has become more urgent than ever that companies adapt and implement online engagement strategies without affecting their Brand Promise (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). The pace of digital connectivity and the emergence of more smart products have allowed that customers can get easily connected to the online environment. Given these facts, now customers are not anymore only passive recipients of the Brand Promise as it was in the traditional Branding. Customers have gained power by becoming co-creators of branded content and by having the possibility to share their own Brand experiences with other customers (Fournier & Avery, 2011).
II. Purpose / Question
With the rapid growth of digital technology and the social communication revolution, it is no longer a debate if companies should have a social media strategy. The debate is now focused in how companies could make the best use of social media to benefit their Brands and to engage customers. Therefore, this paper aims to contribute to this new debate by doing an analysis based in a theoretical approach and a case analysis.
First, this paper aims to further analyze theories of Open Source Branding and Consumer Empowerment in order to have a better understanding of how Brands are fostering the creation of online open spaces in order to have more interaction with their customers. Second, the concept of social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and User Generated Content (UGC) are explained with the purpose of exploring the importance of developing social media customer engagement strategies, especially by facilitating that customers become co-creators of Brand content. Third, the case analysis of the GoPro phenomenon has been taken into consideration in order to illustrate the theoretical concepts presented in this paper.
b) Research Question
According to what is mentioned as the purpose of this paper, this analysis is based on the following questions: How Brands should adapt their social media strategies in order to engage customers? What can be learned from the GoPro success in social media customer engagement?
III. Conceptual Framework: From Open Source Branding to Social Media CRM
a) Theories of Open Source Branding and Consumer Empowerment
The high success of internet and social media has changed dramatically the way Brands interact with their customers. According to Christodoulides (2009), the one sided communication model of traditional Branding is no longer applicable on the online environment. While traditional Branding is focused on passive customers, branding on the internet allows them to be active participants around the brand and also allows them to be co-creators of brand content (Christodoulides, 2009; Fournier & Avery, 2011). Moreover, Brands are becoming Open sources, by ceding some control, with the purpose that customers can have more space to interact, participate and co-create in social media (Vernuccio, 2014, p.217).
The consumer empowerment phenomenon, enabled by the Social Media connectivity, has not only enhancedconsumers ability of self-expression but also has allowed consumers to influence markets (Labrecque, Vor dem Esche, Mathwick, Novak & Hofacker, 2013). In this context, the levels of Influence and expertise are considered important assets for social media participants in order to gain power in the online environment (Labrecque, Vor dem Esche, Mathwick, Novak & Hofacker, 2013). Customers could gain this power from distinct sources such as demand, information, network and crowd, and at the same time these sources can complement each other, which will add value to the consumers’ online actions (Labrecque, Vor dem Esche, Mathwick, Novak & Hofacker, 2013).
b) Theories of Social CRM and User Generated Content
The importance of building relationships and engagement with customers has always been at the core of Brand Management. In a traditional framework, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is defined by Reinartz, Krafft & Hoyer (2004, p 295) as a “Process that entails the systematic and proactive management of relationships as they move from beginning (initiation) to end (termination), with execution across the various customer-facing contact channels”. However, the high speed of social media is challenging this traditional means of engaging and building relationships with customers.
According to Greenberg (2010), there is a new social customer who is frequently connected on the web and via their mobile devices, and who expects to have information from their Brands on demand. In this new scenario, the concept of CRM 2.0 appears as a“Philosophyand a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative interaction that provides mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment” (Greenberg, 2010, p.414).
Furthermore, Malthouse, Haenlein, Skiera, Wege & Zhang (2013) even propose a new model, called the social CRM House, in order to have a better understanding of social media customer engagement. This new model focuses on the online activities that companies need to develop in the three dimensions of CRM - Initiation (acquisition), maintenance (retention) and termination – and needs to be applied considering the customers levels of engagement in social media. Indeed, according to this model, the Content Marketing strategy is an important component of Social CRM. This engaging content can be created by the same company, employees, customers, among other stakeholders. Since this paper will analyze the case of GoPro, the focus will be on explaining the concepts related to User Generated Content (UGC) which has been a key asset for the success of this Brand.
User–generated content (UGC) can be understood as the means that customers use to express, interact and communicate with other customers and their Brands in online social platforms (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). In accordance with Smith, Fischer & Yongjian (2012, p.104), Brand centrality, factual information about the brand and Brand sentiment are three of the six important dimensions of brand related UGC. Moreover, while it is important for marketers to have as a core the Brand Value, it is also important that they have a special focus on the UGC created in social media platforms and the online environment since this UGC can potentially influence other consumers’ perceptions about their Brands (Smith, Fischer & Yongjian 2012).
IV. the success of gopro in social media
“Our customers are some of the most creative people on the planet. A key component of our programming strategy is user generated content… GoPro Awards creates exciting opportunities for our customers. Whether it’s helping them monetize their content in the form of financial rewards, helping to license their content to other businesses, or helping them get more exposure through our global social and media distribution channels, we’re dedicated to sharing with our community”.
- Nicholas Woodman, GoPro’s founder and CEO (GoPro, 2015)
Nicholas Woodman, who is GoPro founder and CEO, has been ranked by Forbes (2013) as one of the youngest billionaires of 2013 with a net worth of $1.3 billion and has transformed the action camera industry in the last years. Indeed, the post above expresses the Brand essence of a company which vision is to offer a unique value proposition to its customers. As Nicholas Woodman explained in an interview (2011), with a GoPro camera everybody can be a hero by capturing and sharing important and meaningful experiences. With more than 2 million subscribers on the GoPro YouTube Channel, 521 million views on their website and with around 6000 videos shared per day on Youtube with the word GoPro (Landau, 2014), this company has become a role model in managing consumer social media engagement.
But why the GoPro has been so successful? Is it only the the camera what most attract its customers or is it the possibility to be a hero by sharing your meaningful personal experiences in social media? In the following lines, the success of the GoPro action camera will be analyzed having as a base the conceptual framework presented in the first part of this paper.
Go Pro is a Brand that has gone beyond the open source branding framework by empowering its customers to create an opened worldwide community. By motivating their customers to become active social media participants and to self – express themselves (See picture 1), GoPro has opened its boundaries allowing high levels of interaction with their customers (See picture 2). Given this, customers have become empowered and engaged with their Brand, and this has led GoPro to be a success in social media channels such as facebook which currently has more than 10 million fans. Also, this Brand has created various Fan Pages according to specific countries so that customers can interact in their own language and share content related to their country.
Moreover, GoPro has become a good example of how a Brand can build an engaged audience by implementing social CRM especially by using User Generated Content strategies (UGC) and by publishing engaging content. For example, GoPro has recently launched an award campaign in order to give cash awards, which in total will sum up to $5million annually, to the best videos and photos shared by customers on their social media platforms (GoPro, 2015) (See picture 3 and 4). By allowing customers to become social media storytellers, GoPro has been able to attract and build solid relationship with them. Even more, GoPro has created the Fetch which is a dog harness that makes possible to attach a GoPro to the back or chest of a dog (See picture 5) so that customers can also capture and share their pets’ experiences.
The stiff competition Brands are facing nowadays and the active role customers have on social media are urging Brands to develop new engagement strategies. Companies need to adapt Open sourcing Branding strategies, and deploy resources across social media platforms in order to explore new ways of attracting and retaining customers. User Generated Content is a good example of how to engage customers, gain their trust and turn them into Brand advocates. As the growth of digital technology increases, Brands need to become more innovative in order to adapt rapidly to their customers.
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