Written by Pernilla Arbajian
According to Chrisodoulides (2009), the way in which companies communicate their brands and their name has changed throughout the past years. Communication has shifted from a “one-sided communication model” in which the company decides on the image it wants to portray to the market to a “many-to-many communication” model (Chrisodoulides, 2009) in which the company has limited or no control over its image. This shift started a few years ago with the development of the web 2.0 (Akar, 2013). Today everyone has the ability to post “text, images, audio and videos” on the internet without encountering difficulties: the different social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and others) enable people to easily communicate their opinions and thoughts with others (Akar, 2013). As stated by Akar (2013), this new marketing technique has “higher credibility and trust than traditional media”; people are highly influenced by what they read, what others have said about a product and what products competitors have to offer; today all this can be found online. Thus, it is mandatory for companies to develop their social media presence and increase “visibility on the Internet for the purpose of presenting its products and services” (Akar, 2013). Companies with a strong social media presence can “boost brand awareness, trial, and ultimately sales” (Barwise and Meehan, 2010). In addition their strong social media presence is beneficial for customers who are thus able to find the needed information on a specific brand/product (Akar, 2013). In short, other than online marketing, social media presence “is about relationships”; it is being talked and read about on the different social media platforms (Arnelli and Villanueva, 2011). Despite its various benefits, social media presence can be disadvantageous especially for the “strong brands” (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009) that are highly involved in social media platforms.
From manager’s control to audience power
Online word of mouth (WOM) marketing has “gained even more credibility” since companies and customers started to use the Internet and thus started to use the two way online communication model (Sandes and Urdan, 2013). Online WOM has also gained more “trust than traditional media” (Akar, 2013). “Information users on the Web” take into account the online reviews and posts provided by those who participate in the two way online communication, they use the information found online to judge “the quality of the information they are looking for (Winer, 2009). Online information flows at a spectacularly high speed. This allows information seekers to easily and quickly access what others write about specific “products, brands or companies, and these comments have become a reference for more and more people” (Sandes and Urdan, 2013). There are several social media platforms from which “products, brands or companies” can gain social media presence: blogs, social networking sites, photos sharing sites and others (Akar, 2013). This is the reason why marketers are unable to escape the online word of mouth. As mentioned by Weinberg and Pehlivan ( 2011) transparency is a key element in the “media process”; today companies or brands that have social media presence are unable to hide information about them. The Internet enables anyone to get the information posted online, no matter if it is negative or positive. In consequence, “information flows out of a business’s control” (Akar, 2013). Since, as mentioned above, customers rely on others reviews, “peer opinion becomes a major influence on buying behavior” (Akar, 2013). Social media presence has shifted the communication control from the company to the audience.
The social media platforms allow anyone to participate in the two way online communication including “customers, competitors, observers, employees, and interested collectives” (Muniz and Schau, 2011). People interested to participate in discussions about a specific product, brand or company have formed online “brand communities” (Muniz and Schau, 2011). These groups include “product evaluation forums”, “online product reviews” and others; they permit people to contribute beneficial information about specific products (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009). On the other hand, some people participate in “anti-brand sites” (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009) by giving negative reviews on products, brands and companies. In addition, boycotting communities have emerged on the internet through the different social media platforms; these communities also try to demolish the reputation of the brand, product and company (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009). Competitors also exist on the social media and as in the real life; they try to gain the most market share. Competitors tend to communicate negative information about the others even on those social media platforms (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009).
Due to transparency on the Internet, companies are unable to stop the anti-branding communities to communicate on the social media platforms. Unfortunately, “negative identity created by anti-brand sites is likely to lead to degradation of consumer attitudes, change in behavior and finally, a drop in brand value” (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009). Finally, as mentioned by Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, (2009), customers tend to give more importance and time for the negative reviews. In consequence, information seekers will pay less attention to the positive reviews.
Time and money loss
As previously mentioned, companies compete in order to gain as mush market share as possible. Today, with the development of the web 2.0, companies participate in the competition by communicating with their audience on the social media platforms; in consequence increasing their social media presence (Akar, 2013). This way of targeting customers requires “a time commitment” (Arnelli and Villanueva, 2011). In addition to time, a certain amount of money is needed for companies that try to gain a strong social presence and for the ones that want to make it to the top pages of the internet search. Companies have come up with several ways to obtain a good image online and to compete with other companies. Some managers hire companies that are specialized in posting virtual positive posts, others pay people to write negative reviews about the competitors and most of the managers who want to be found on the Google search need to spend money on the Google Ads. Unfortunately, if this is not studied well, companies can be spending too much time on the online marketing and forget about the offline marketing that is also important for the company’s communication (Breuer and Brettel, 2012). The companies may also inefficiently allocate “the marketing budget” and spend more money than what is needed. Sometimes, even if they pay less, they maintain a strong social media presence and they appear on the top of the search (Breuer and Brettel, 2012). Managers need to plan when, what and how much to communicate.
Too much social media presence on the social media platforms
“In order for social media marketing to be realized [and in order for social media presence to increase], user participation is needed” (Akar, 2013). According to Arnelli and Villanueva (2011) it is important for managers to know the market they need to target on the social media platforms and it is also important for them to know what they are looking for. Companies should know how to use online communication since if it is used in a wrong way, it might induce a negative ROI (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). According to Winer (2009) over-commercialization can occur.
In order to measure the success of the online marketing, companies cannot use the “traditional metrics”. Google analytics provides the number of visitors and tracks the visitor’s activity but this is not enough to track a company’s success on the social media platforms. It is not clear yet how to measure “the impact of, say, money spent on social networking sites alongside the amount spent on the traditional media” (Winer, 2009). According to Winer (2009) the metrics for some social media platforms such as MySpace still need some clarifications.
After understanding how the audience has become “empowered” with social media marketing (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011), what anti-brands are, how the companies can be financially affected, when they fail in the measurements and how they turn a good thing into a bad thing, it is important to see how these findings are interconnected and can act against the company. When a company loses control in communication, it cannot stop the negative reviews it gets (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009). And since people are more likely to search and discuss the negative reviews (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009), the more the company has social media presence the more the negative reviews will appear when the audience looks for specific information about this brand/product/company. In order to cover the negativity of the audience and attract customers, the company might want to spend even more money and time on the social media platforms without being able to measure how much this effort has benefited (Winer, 2009).
In this case, a company would prefer to have less social media presence in order for the negative reviews not to go viral and to loose brand values and brand loyalty from customers (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk, 2009).
Conclusion and Discussion
The more people hear about a brand, product or company, the more curious they get about it. To have a strong social media presence means that the company is the topic of different online communities and other social media platforms (Breuer and Brettel, 2012). Despite what one would think, a strong social media presence is not always good. Some weaknesses can appear in such situations. The company is thus unable to control what is communicated about it, some online communities would act against it, the company can lose money and time, it might not be able to measure the strategy’s success and it might just annoy social media platforms’ users.
In conclusion, all of these weaknesses are interrelated and magnifying one weakness when having a strong social media presence can ruin the company’s reputation on social media platforms.
The second part of this blog post and the bibliography will be published on 11th of August.