Saturday, May 3, 2014

Three Key Findings from Recent Research in Social Media Marketing

This spring at the +Marketing Management Association Conference March 26-28 at the Palmer House Hilton,  The conference featured several sessions on social media marketing.  Researchers looked at a social media networks and social media marketing's influence on brand equity, compared usage of social media sites by large brands and explored how particular brands appeal to their female customers on social media. This post explores the highlights from each presentation.

Attitude toward Social Networking Pages are Related to Brand Equity

The first presentation at the Friday 9:30 am session was titled, “Exploring the Impact of Social Networking Sites on Brand Equity.  The presentation was made  by researchers +Tiffany Machado Blanchflower and Kittchai Watchravesringkan from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.  Not surprisingly, using the hierarchy of effects models and studying brand relationships across firms on Facebook, the researchers demonstrated that (just as attitude toward the brand influences brand equity) attitude toward the brand page in social media also influences brand equity.  The aspects of brand equity affected in particular are brand awareness, perceptions of quality and brand loyalty.

Customers on social media also like to be entertained which is also  related to a positive attitude toward both the social networking site and the brand page.  New forms of media can provide both information and entertainment. The positive consumer attitudes that result from this activity can have a long term effect on brand equity.  As indicated from the research, brand pages really help reinforce brand relationships but may not be the best place to build a brand relationship. In addition, while new forms of media can influence attitudes toward a brand and long term value, once brand equity is lost it can be difficult to maintain.

Social media marketing, brand equity.
Social Media' Marketing's Relationship to Brand Equity

Coke vs. Pepsi:  Who Wins on Social Media?

Another set of researchers, Ainswoth Bailey and Colleen Slattery from the University of Toledo, compared the usage of both Coke and Pepsi in terms of social media sites.  These are both high involvement brands that have younger consumers in their target market.  Baileyand Slattery found that Pepsi lags behind Coke in social media usage.

 A comparative analysis of Coke and Pepsi's social media usage as  part of its communications strategy showed Coke is doing a better job of engaging and getting customers to their social media sites.  Coca-Cola is brand people have rallied around.  The brand is more communal.  Pepsi might be another type of brand that is perhaps more disengaged.

For example, Coca-Cola reached out to consumers who started a brand page on Facebook and incorporated that page into their social media strategy, in a clear signal that the consumer is in charge of brand conversations.  Not only is Coca Cola known for its community of fans pushing messages, but Coke wants to have a strong content marketing strategy based on brand stories that are 'liquid and linked' together.  I teach in my social media class that Coca-Cola  wants to have stories that can be shared easily and that have a lasting impact.  The stories are liquid because they are constantly changing and linked because they are related to brand strategy.

This research showed that although Pepsi is supposed to be targeting the youth market, the firm is not using social media to its advantage in the beverage market.  For other products, such as Doritos, social media has been quite effective for the company.   Perhaps this result indicates just how strong the fan base must be to energize a social media campaign.  You can't force 'buzz.'

'Instamarketing' Toward Women and the Impulse Buy  

Another researcher, Areej Hassan from Minnesota State University-Mankato, studied  'instamarketing', comparing the usage of Instagram in marketing in brands targeted toward women up to 49 years of age such as  Zara, and  Forever, 21.  She analyzed persuasive messages in Instagram from brands targeted to younger women versus brand with a larger audience.  Messages in brands that targeted these women tended to be more emotional and persuasive than other brands.   The research found that companies that target women use a different social media approach than the general population.  These messages to women tend to target specific purchases, encouraging impulse purchases and also use celebrities in the images.  Women seem to want to engage more than men on social media and may be more prone to impulse buys.

What we can Take-Away

In summary, the key take-aways from these talks were:
1) Social media usage can enhance brand equity and build customer relationships but is not necessarily suited to building brand awareness.
2) Customers drive social media efforts, as evidenced by Coke vs. Pepsi.
3) In social media, women appear to respond to emotional appeals targeted at impulse purchases.

We have a lot of research to conduct in social media but these three presentations made an excellent start in helping practitioners understand what can be effective on these platforms.

By Debra Zahay-Blatz.
You can find Debra on  and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.
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