A critical review of literature on the importance of social media in branding
The aim of this chapter is to provide a broad overview of both literature in social media and the intended research. It offers a platform that would enable the reader understand the need for this research and also provides a gist about recent developments both in the industry and in research circles with respect to social media branding.
The rapid development of technology and the reach of such technologies at affordable costs have revolutionized the way businesses operate. The World Wide Web and the Internet are being used by millions of people today. These technologies have led to a paradigm shift in the way communication happens and most business reputation and presence in a market is more driven by ‘social media’. (Tuten, 2008)
It can also be noted that the shift and focus on social media has been drastic and many businesses were caught off-guard. However, the use of social media has created opportunities for online marketers to be able to engage with customers that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to using traditional methods. This reach though has posed many challenges to businesses that started looking at social media like other traditional media like magazine or television thus causing more gaps rather than bringing them closer to the customers (Qualman, 2012). On the contrary it can be said that more and more retailers and business are becoming increasingly aware of the social media and are waiting to exploit the potential that social marketing offers (Olivas-lujan, 2013)
Spend on social media by the businesses are on the rise. Recent study by the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) shows that in the first half of 2014 in the UK alone, there has been a rise of 53% in the spend on social media by businesses with a total contribution of ?242.5 million (Somerville, 2014). Another study by IAB on FMGC sector consisting of more than 4500 survey responses and 800 interviews showed that 90% of the customers would use social media to refer the brands to peers, 4 in 5 customers would buy products that have good social media coverage and 83% would be willing to try products that are popular in social media (Anon, 2013).
Similarly, a research conducted by Mass Relevance that provides social media curation platform to clients found that 59% of the consumers will more likely trust a brand that has presence in the social media and 64% of the consumers interviewed have already made purchases based on social media presence and reviews (Chaney, 2012). Appendix 1 shows the social media advertising effects on consumers (Source: Neilsen Survey: Anon, 2012)
From the above, it can be understood that social media has a profound impact on the consumers’ choice of brands and that it is key to engage effectively with customers. There is a lot of literature that discusses about the social media impact on consumers, why businesses should engage with customers, exploiting social media to provide value add etc. The main aim of this research is to look into various key researches in this area and to provide a critical review on the literature. The critical review aims to see if:
The problems are identified clearly
The literature provides a balanced view
There are gaps in the literature
1.3 Research Process
The success of the research is admittedly determined by measuring the extent to which each of the research objectives is met. The following steps are followed during this research to ensure its success. These steps are as follows:
Firstly, a background into the research and its motivations is given. Following this, the key literature in this area is thoroughly investigated. This is intended to ensure that all aspects of the research are identified and that the challenges or gaps in the current literature are clearly understood.
Next, the literature is critically analysed to see if the problems are identified and if it provides a balanced view of the topic. It also looks into the research methodology to see if the methods used are consistent with the qualitative and quantitative methods and also checks for what has not been provided.
Finally, this research concludes by providing a conclusion that is supported by evidence presented in the literature. It also makes recommendations where appropriate.
In summary, this chapter has provided a brief overview of the research, addressed the key challenges or gaps in the literature and justified the need to conduct this research. This chapter has also set the background and motivations for the research in order to enable the reader to better understand the subsequent chapters. The central question for the research has addressed here, and the reader now also understands the problem statements that have led to this research.
2.0 Literature Review
This research discusses about social media and its effect on branding and consumers. But what is social mediaThe term social media can be defined as “ Many online tools that allow people with similar interests to share information, learn from others, or network in an open process. The information found on these sites is commonly referred to as ‘user-generated content’, which means anyone is able to post with minimal restrictions or oversight.”(Wilson, 2010)
Drury (2007) discusses how marketers of various businesses can effectively engage in social media marketing. The paper gives a fairly comprehensive view on what social media is and the role of marketing in social media. It discusses about how social media can be monetised by the marketers. The paper lists out opportunities that can be tapped for commercial benefits and also emphasises on the mobile marketing strategy and describes the success criteria for measuring success. The paper however has the following drawbacks:
It is very much general and has no qualitative or quantitative measures to define the success criteria.
It gives a good overall picture but it would have been better if the context of the paper was more towards assessing the impact or the Return on Investment (ROI) of a specific sector or business. It lacks specific examples and also does not mention any strategy for implementation or even list challenges that organisations face while implementing good strategies for social media marketing.
Michaelidou et al (2011) in their research discuss about social media marketing’s impact on small and medium B2B brands. They discuss in detail the adaption of social media networking as a marketing platform to be able to achieve the brand objectives and also the perceptions around the barriers of using social marketing networks. The research paper makes use of email surveys to understand the usage of social media by small and medium scale businesses that operate in the UK and the main drivers that motivate SMEs to adapt to the new channel of marketing. It clearly states the motivation of the research, giving appropriate background to the research and the method used for the research is depicted concisely. The research analyses the findings from the email survey and discusses the methods used for analysis. It provides a broad range of information and also clearly identifies the shortcomings in the business implementation of social media networking practices. It discusses how these pitfalls can be overcome and provides details for further improvement areas and scope for additional research in the future. The drawbacks of the paper are:
Sample size: The sample size of the survey could have been more and also various other methods for obtaining the review could have been used. This would have ensured that the B2B base was thoroughly covered.
Focus: The focus is on B2B businesses alone. It would have been interesting to see the results if the research was extended to B2C as well for small and medium scale enterprises.
Some researches focus specifically on skills gap in digital marketing within specific industries. One such research concentrates on the communications industry (Royle and Laing, 2014). The research discusses the need for having the necessary skills in digital marketing arena and stresses on the growth and popularity of digital/social media marketing. The research explores the various gaps in the industry for digital marketing with a specific emphasis to communications sector and provides a best practice guide for the industry. It details the challenges that organisations face while implementing social media marketing and discusses the need to have evaluation criteria and metrics to critically analyse the success of social marketing strategies and campaigns within organisations. The paper talks about the key challenges that businesses face while trying to merge traditional marketing practices with that of social marketing. The rationale for the research is clearly mentioned and the literature review is comprehensive. The conceptual framework is clearly detailed and the methodology used for developing the framework is precise. The research makes use of focus groups and interviews to be able to gauge the skill gap in the industry. The drawbacks of this research are:
Limited sample size: The research could have used more samples to be able to analyse effectively the findings. Given that the research has already narrowed down by industry, it would have been good to get a more detailed view of the industry and a larger sample would have facilitated this.
A study by Harvard Business Review (Edelman, 2010) discusses how the internet and the social marketing has changed not only the way businesses operate but also how consumers choose their products. It takes the reader through the funnel metaphor which was earlier being used by marketers to understand how consumers choose their products and how this has moved to a more open-ended approach whereby consumers no longer follow a methodical approach of selecting products. It stresses how important it is for brands to be able to connect with the consumers and studied the consumers’ decisions across five different industries namely automobiles, skincare, insurance, mobile telecommunications and electronics in three different continents. Based on the results of the study, it proposed a four-stage model that focuses on today’s consumers using social media for advocating products and also purchasing based on the reviews and advocacy received. The research takes the reader through the entire customer journey and tells the businesses what it should not focus its energy and resources on. Providing statistical information about various surveys enables the businesses to identify the key areas that it should concentrate on to be able to build a good brand image online. Though the research is comprehensive it lacks in the following:
Framework: It does not suggest what needs to be done and a framework for implementing those. The key focus is on what not to be done and it leaves it to the businesses to work on the best strategy.
Sample size and analysis: The research does not disclose the sample size or indicate clearly the analysis method used to come to the conclusion.
This section worked on identifying key research in the literature and also provided a critical review of each of the researches identified.
Though there is a lot of literature on various aspects including but not limited to effects of social media on small and medium scale enterprises, identification of skill gaps in social media with specific emphasis to certain industries, general study on implementation challenges, perception of social media on businesses, barriers to adaptation of social media by businesses etc. it can be found that there is not much literature that specifically talks about a common framework for adapting to social media marketing along with the challenges that businesses might face and the evaluation criteria. Similarly while most of these researches make use of one or more methods for data collection, it is not very comprehensive. There is a gap in the current literature in terms of data collected from a wide range of sources using a bigger sample set. Given that technology has enabled a higher reach to customers, it would be good to get a larger sample to be able to effectively analyse the results. In many cases, the limitations of the research scope could be worked on to be able to get more information on the above mentioned areas. In short, it can be said that the social media marketing and the research around it are yet to attain the maturity level and there is a lot of scope for research that would aid businesses to effectively handle and manage social media marketing concerns and overcome challenges in a seamless and stress-free manner.
Tuten, 2008: Advertising 2.0: Social Media Marketing in a Web 2.0 world, Greenwood publishing group.
Qualman, 2012: Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business, John Wiley & Sons
Livas-Lujan, 2013: Social Media in Strategic Marketing, Emerald Group publishing limited
Somerville, 2014: 18 Digital Marketing Trends you may not have heard about, The Fresh Egg blog accessed at: http://www.freshegg.co.uk/blog/18-digital-marketing-trends-for-2014
Anon, 2013: IAB Social Media Effectiveness Research, IAB UK accessed at: http://www.iabuk.net/research/library/iab-social-media-effectiveness-research
Chaney, 2012: Brands should use social media to engage consumers, amplify messages and promote trust, Digital intelligence today accessed at: http://digitalintelligencetoday.com/brands-should-use-social-media-to-engage-consumers-amplify-messages-and-promote-trust-survey-says/
Anon, 2012: State of the Media, The social media report, Neilsen
Wilson, 2010: Social Media and Small Business Marketing, University Business Printing and press, USA
Drury, 2007: Opinion Piece: Social Media: Should marketers engage and how can it be done effectively?, Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice
Michaelidou et al, 2011: Usage, Barriers and measurement of social media marketing: An exploratory investigation of small and medium B2B brands, Elsevier
Royle and Liang, 2014: The digital marketing skills gap: Developing a digital marketer model for communication industries, Elsevier
Edelman, 2010: Branding in the digital age: You’re spending your money in all the wrong places, Harvard Business Review