Social Media: The Power Shift

The era of Web 2.0 is an exciting time for marketing practitioners. Advancements in technology present opportunities for creative and highly interactive communication with increasingly engaged and sophisticated consumers.

This week I read Efthymios Constantinides’ journal article Foundations of Social Media Marketing. This article divides marketers’ use of Social Media into either a Passive Approach (‘listening in’ on consumer needs, experiences and trends) or an Active Approach (utilising Social Media as a communication or sales tool to attract, engage and retain customers).

Constantinides’ identifies four sub-categories of the Active Approach which illustrate some of the innovative ways that marketers are harnessing the power of Social Media to engage with consumers.

While researching these sub-categories I came across clever applications, such as Tourism Australia’s Virtual Reality 360-degree video which enables viewers click on a video and move it around to see it from all viewpoints. I uncovered case studies where promotions were used to encourage consumers to interact with a brand, uploading content and playing along with competitions such as Starbucks’ White Cup Contest.

I also found that inviting user generated content can go horribly wrong, as McDonald’s discovered via their Name A Burger promotion which invited New Zealanders to design a burger and upload it on Instagram. The promotion started out well with burgers called ‘Fryday’ or ‘Amburgular,’ but soon descended into a flurry of racist and offensively named burgers being uploaded on the site, which was promptly closed down.

Overall, I was astounded by shift in the power relationship that Social Media has brought about. No longer is communication a one-way street from the company via mass-media to the consumer, Web 2.0 has genuinely mobilised open two-way communication between the consumer and the company, and indeed between consumers themselves. Websites such as Tripadvisor.com (which enable guests to post or read reviews of accommodation, activities or restaurants) have even been extended to include the medical profession. While the rise of Social Media Influencers has empowered individuals to endorse or discredit a brand to millions of followers via a single blog, Instagram or YouTube post.

The greater transparency of the Social Media era has the potential to draw out some truly innovative marketing campaigns, however unless they are backed up by a strong product and excellent customer service consumers will soon see through the gloss.

 


11 thoughts on “Social Media: The Power Shift

  1. I feel that business is still really struggling with the whole Web 2.0 concept even though it has been around for well over a decade now. Many of the major brands still appear to be dipping their toes in the water and have yet to fully embrace, and /or understand it. Even well thought out Social Media campaigns or campaigns with good intent can seriously backfire as you have noted. It is certainly interesting times, and I’m still not sure who will end up owning this space, business or the consumer. I suspect the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Keith,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. It certainly is a very interesting time to be in the marketing space, social media in some ways has granted so much more power to the consumer – endless knowledge at their fingertips to enable them to research and compare not just products but also the brand personality, the way they interact with their existing customers and conduct themselves post-sale. But in other ways business have gained power in being able to better analyse and track their market, imagine what the early marketers would have made of being able to track not just consumer’s demographics, but when they are online, what they are following and which networks they are in?

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  2. I feel that business is still really struggling with the whole Web 2.0 concept even though it has been around for well over a decade now. Many of the major brands still appear to be dipping their toes in the water and have yet to fully embrace, and /or understand it. Even well thought out Social Media campaigns or campaigns with good intent can seriously backfire as you have noted. It is certainly interesting times, and I’m still not sure who will end up owning this space, business or the consumer. I suspect the latter.

    Keith Day

    Like

  3. What is really interesting to me about this topic is how a marketer balances being passive and active. When is it a good time to engage and take a highly active approach, and when is it a good time to actually sit back and listen?

    Strangely enough I actually had this debate with my housemate this morning – not specifically related to social media but in a broad sense. He believes we should always be engaged; constantly talking and interacting, that there is no sense in ever being passive. Whereas I believe that great revelations and insights can come from being passive. How can we truly take an intelligent active approach if we haven’t taken the time to first be passive and ‘listen in’?

    I also do really like some of the examples that you gave in relation to this topic, I had not heard of many of them. I especially like the Starbucks White Cup Contest. I think that is a really cool idea.

    You talk about consumer power further down in your post, but in many ways I think this contest also gives consumers some power. For one, they could write whatever they wanted on those cups and use the hashtag. I don’t care that they had design and contest rules, Starbucks put a lot of faith in their consumers that they would actually abide by those rules. But secondly, if I were an artist or band, for example, I would definitely have entered that competition to try and promote myself to the thousands or millions looking up that hashtag! That gave consumers the power to try to ultimately leverage their brand of the Starbucks name.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Bec,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and comment on it. I also find it interesting that both the Starbucks contest and the McDonald’s Name-A-Burger promotion asked consumers to contribute their content and use a hashtag to communicate it online. I wonder why it is that McDonald’s promotion backfired with crass, racially offensive burger names while Starbucks did not. Perhaps it is because Starbucks asked for ‘doodles’ rather than text? Or perhaps it is an insight into the type of consumers who interact with each of these brands – ie their age and other demographics? Or the level of respect that the consumers have for the brand?
      Either way, I do think that the very public nature of social media marketing is what is most daunting for businesses – a mistake or embarrassing outcome is more difficult to shrug off when it has been enjoyed by millions of people.

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      1. That is a really interesting point, that people were able to maintain respect for Starbucks. Maybe the company have better monitoring systems in place – I don’t know if that’s possible, but I feel like anything is possible in today’s digital environment!

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  4. “Advancements in technology present opportunities for creative and highly interactive communication with increasingly engaged and sophisticated consumers.”

    Indeed, with social media being almost accessible by all and companies started using it as their “bowl” of everything!

    I remember when websites used to have “Contact Us” or “Feedback” page and i used these to ask questions about some product that they sell and got response in 2x24hrs but in their Facebook page? in MINUTES! Facebook now even have “response rate” feature in pages that shows how fast Page owners “replies” to your questions by private message.

    but then, i also agree with Bec Foulston’s first paragraph

    “When is it a good time to engage and take a highly active approach, and when is it a good time to actually sit back and listen?”

    and i think, it might be good to “just stand there, do some post and when people ask you something irrelevant to that post, just ignore it”. I personally think, that a clear scope is required for the Social Media Managers out there to limit the interactions between the company (that it represents) and the likers (who might even not the customer/consumer of that company’s product, hey, haters everywhere).

    After all, it’s social media right? a wrong reply could lead to the wrong “Share” button and the rest is? disaster.

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    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for reading my blog, and taking the time to comment too. I think the issue of engagement that you raise is one of the more difficult challenges faced by Social Media Marketers – How often to post? What to post about? Which comments to respond to? How to deal with negative interactions?
      Bec raises the question of when it is better to listen. I think that when a business is following community forums, interest groups or (obviously) competitor pages then it is often better to sit back and absorb the information, rather than asserting themselves and being seen as jumping in and spamming. Although, I do think that when the conversation is taking place on their own social media platforms it is important that the business acknowledges comments, thanks their followers for positive feedback, assists with product information and deals with negative comments promptly before they gain a life of their own!

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      1. “when the conversation is taking place on their own social media platforms it is important that the business acknowledges comments, thanks their followers for positive feedback, assists with product information and deals with negative comments promptly before they gain a life of their own!”

        there it is!

        I just remembered a line that read from certain book (or might be a lecture slide) two semesters ago, that was about “interest group” or you can say a certain group which members are interested in certain topic or so.

        that particular line said “sometimes, problems, arguments and negatives is what keeping that group alive”.

        i can’t imagine a Social Media Marketing page full of positives and no arguments (excessive comment deleting maybe?). but still, the Social Media manager still need to have certain control on those negatives as well, “before they gain a life of their own”.

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  5. I find you writing is very thought-provoking. Totally go along with what you are saying that Social Media has empowered organizations or companies to develop a two-way communication to interactively engage with the customers, as well as an innovative way of doing promotional activities.

    Seeing from the examples you have given, especially the Virtual Reality 360-degree video from the Tourism Australia have brought advertisements into a whole new level. Customers will be able to see through what kind of experience they are expected to have in a virtual way with this technology advancements. It actually gives both companies and customers the benefits of having an outlook beforehand.

    Though a lot of marketers these days has utilized the Social Media in a reprehensible way such as faking comments by saying that the product or the service is really good, where actually there is no real person saying those things. It brings me to find Social Media as incredible sources of information. Nonetheless, overall, it is still a very useful tool for marketers in this digital era to compete in the business environment.

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    1. Hi Jody,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog, I really appreciate your interest. It is interesting that you raise the issue of marketers using Social Media to fake comments or mislead consumers, an interesting case of this was Lonelygirl15, whose hoax presence on YouTube stripped away some of the innocence of the internet back in 2006 (http://mashable.com/2016/06/16/lonelygirl15-ten-years-later/#PYWod7GueEq2)

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