The following is a reflective account for a debate which took place at Kingston University – Kingston Hill.
The Motion discussed: The problems caused by social media outweigh the benefits to marketeers.
With the support of academic articles a debate was generated in order to discuss whether the problems caused by social media outweigh the benefits to marketeers. I was initially against the motion as my concluding judgement from research was that consumers openly communicate with brands, allowing the opportunity for invaluable information from customers to improve companies (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). I believe this benefit outweighs many of the issues marketeers face with social media and indicates why this resource has become highly popular for brands to utilise (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234).
Social media has caused a communication revolution and has changed the way we communicate between companies and consumers (Kietzmann, Hermkens and Bruno, 2011, p. 250). Online communities present the opportunity for a valuable alternative to traditional research methods, which has been suffering from declining response rates (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). Additionally, listening to customers online could lead to product success, although some researchers state that listening to customers is relatively expensive (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). However, a debater argued that social media allows brands to communicate with consumers in a sophisticated manner allowing marketeers to save time and costs (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). As marketeers are no longer required to conduct phone calls to increase the number of respondents and booking locations for research (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). Although from my own research I would critique that social media is not a perfect substitute for traditional marketing, and is not a “one size fits all” technique for companies to use (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011, p. 276). However, marketeers should use tried and tested methods which allow for predictable responses from associated social media related actions, in order to create marketing objectives such as awareness, recall and purchasing (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011, p. 281).
Conversely, a debater argued that although social media gives consumers a voice and can be used to achieve marketing objectives, there is a lack of control over social media from marketeers (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 194). For instance, it was argued that online platforms allowed consumers to relegate the role of brand marketeers, as consumers control the reach of marketing communications (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 194). This was supported by evidence that consumers use websites such as “Digg.com” in order to share content which is based on a consumer’s volition to do so (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 194). Another debater supported this argument by stating that there is a lack of control over consumer comments which could damage a brand’s equity (Kietzmann, Hermkens and Bruno, 2011, p. 242). For example, a debater stated that United Airlines chose not to respond to unfavourable comments which were in relation to a disappointed customer who uploaded a video online, and received almost 14.5 million views on YouTube (YouTube, 2009). It was argued that these negative comments still have damaging effects on the brand today, as they can still be viewed through search engines (Kietzmann, Hermkens and Bruno, 2011, p. 242).
From this argument, I agree that marketeers have a lack of control of over what is being said about their brand online (Kietzmann, Hermkens and Bruno, 2011, p. 242). Although I believe that in the case of United Airlines, I believe the company has the opportunity to both listen to their customers and address the negative portrayal of their brand, and possibly improve their customer satisfaction (Kietzmann, Hermkens and Bruno, 2011, p. 242). Additionally, I agree with John Hayes – the CMO of American express who states that although companies have a lack of control over social media, it is a risk brands must take in order to become successful and of which they should be accountable for, whether positive or negative outcomes arise (McKinsey Quarterly, 2011, p. 5).
This view was supported by a debater that argued companies can use customer complaints as learning opportunities, which could build brand equity (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 200). For example, Domino’s received negative feedback regarding their ingredients, and as a result the company redesigned their marketing campaign (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 200). Consequently, with the use of social media supported with traditional advertising, the brand were able to design an award winning campaign (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 200). Furthermore, a debater made a contrast to United Airlines, stating that JetBlue Airlines also had disappointed customers, however the company sent a public apology on social media and monitored comments and with the use of a mechanical system they were able to give attention directly to distressed customers (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 200). The success of addressing negative comments on social media resulted in the brand receiving an improved customer satisfaction score of 810 out of 1000 (Jet Blue, 2008).
As a result of this argument, I believe the continuous theoretical and empirical research used by debaters against the motion allowed them to be more persuasive as their arguments concluded how issues of social media such as complaints, could possibly be utilised in order to improve the performance of a company (Fournier and Avery, 2011, p. 200). Therefore this argument in particular persuaded me to believe that the benefits of social media outweigh its issues.
Final implications focused on social media analytics, which enable companies to gain an insight into consumer behaviour with the permission of consumers to analyse their personal details (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). A debater argued that although this allows the opportunity for brands to become personable with their consumers, it is not ethical for companies to take the information of young children who may be unaware of companies who can legally access their details (O’neill, 2013, p. 253). In opposition, it was argued that companies can overcome this issue through social websites such as Facebook which allow age restrictions to become a member (Facebook, 2015).
In conclusion, it was evident from research that consumers want to be partners with marketeers, rather than being solely targeted at with social media marketing (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). I believe this was a key point missed in the debate which could have impacted the overall discussion. Additionally, it could have been discussed whether the information provided by consumers on social media is more credible than traditional media, as consumers have been found to feel more comfortable online to speak openly about their preferences and problems about a brand (Patino, Pitta and Quionnes, 2012, p. 234). This could have provided the opportunity to discuss the credibility of comments on social media.
Furthermore, I would critique that occasionally both sides did not directly focus on the issue of the motion, and often diverted into a discussion as to whether social media would be recommended to marketeers, and discussed general advantages and disadvantages rather than outweighing issues against benefits. Additionally, some arguments made by the supporters of the motion were clearly stated to be opinions, which could not be validated and therefore affected their credibility.
Lastly, from the debate I believe that many of the issues of social media did not outweigh its benefits when being contrasted. Many issues could have been prevented before companies engaged online through legal implications and thorough planning, utilising approaches such as the honey comb model (Kietzmann, Hermkens and Bruno, 2011, p. 243). Therefore, without an analysis of social media issues which were evidently difficult to prevent or solve and of which significantly outweighed benefits, my position on the motion did not change and my stance is now even stronger.
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Fournier, S. and Avery, J. (2011) ‘The uninvited brand’, Science Direct, 54(1), pp. 193-207.
Jet Blue (2008) Investor. Available at: http://investor.jetblue.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=131045&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1166808 (Accessed: 27 January 2015).
Kietzmann, J., Hermkens, K. and Bruno, M. (2011) ‘Social media? get serious! understanding the functional building blocks of social media’, Science Direct, 54(1), pp. 241-251.
McKinsey Quarterly (2011) ‘How we see it: three senior executives on the future of marketing’, Marketing and Sales Practise, 1(1), pp. 1-11.
O’neill, B. (2013) ‘Who cares? practical ethics and problems of underage users on social networking sites’, Ethics and Information Technology, 15(4), pp. 253-262.
Patino, A., Pitta, D. and Quionnes, R. (2012) ‘Social medias emerging importance in market research’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 29(3), pp. 233-237.
The Wrap (2010) Ipsos OTX Study: People spend more than half their day consuming media. Available at:http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/people-spend-more-12-day-consuming-media-study-finds-21005/ (Accessed: 27 January 2015).
Weinberg, B. and Pehlivan, E. (2011) ‘Social spending: managing the social media mix’, Business Horizons, 54(1), pp. 275-282.
YouTube (2009) United breaks guitar. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo (Accessed: 27 January 2015).