05 Jan De invloed van Social Media op het MKB bedrijf
In 2013 studeerde Christina af aan de Master of Media innovation. Haar scriptie is dan ook op verzoek te ontvangen. Hieronder vinden jullie de executive summary.
Considering that SMEs play an important role in most economies, it is vital for them to successfully adjust to the new communication and consumption landscape and the changed balance of power between consumers and suppliers. The small and medium-sized enterprises have unique needs and characteristics that differ from conventional marketing in large organizations. The common factor is however “Limited resources”, incorporating time and knowledge, a lack of specialist expertise, a fear of change and a mostly limited impact on the market.
While a vast amount of research and information is available, little research exists specifically on the influence of Social Media on the MARCOM performance of SMEs.
The objective of this research is to get a better understanding of the effect of Social Media on the MARCOM performance of an SME, captured in the research question:
“How can Social Media affect the MARCOM performance of an SME organization?”
Literature research has been done on general communication models, Social Media, SME MARCOM challenges and SME MARCOM performance. With the Honeycomb model as reference the following 7 aspects have been identified to evaluate MARCOM performance: Monitoring, Conversations, Word of Mouth, Cost Efficiency, Experience/Novelty, Networking and Brand Awareness.
Conclusions of the literature research were that communication still tends to follow the traditional model of exchange between sender and receiver, but Social Media has become a new and important channel through which this communication flows. It adds its own unique and valuable dynamics to the traditional communication model. In order to dispatch the most effective message to customers (MARCOM performance), the message must contain several aspects, so that it reaches the correct person, who will in turn share the message and pass it on. All these aspects have their own requirements.
In addition to the theoretical/literature review, practical research has been performed at SME management level to investigate SMEs’ current standpoint on the added value of Social Media, and in how far they are adopting and implementing Social Media.
Conclusions regarding communication in general are that social media now offer a multitude of possibilities for bi-directional communication instead of the traditional marketing masscommunication. But companies are still learning how to deal with this and how to capture this opportunity. This challenge is even greater for SMEs due to their limited communication and marketing resources. SMEs have the advantage of being closer to their customers but need to become aware of communication principles and must learn how to implement this in their Social Media channels.
Regarding SME marketing and MARCOM the conclusion is that adopting Social Media requires re-defining the communication strategy, but lack of skilled and experienced marketing resources is a bottleneck. Many marketing theories fail to account for the specific SME situation offer little help.
Conclusions on Social Media are that there are fundamentally different and more volatile opinion leaders than traditionally. Companies have less influence and control over online opinion leaders who add their own interpretation. SMEs are struggling with this risk and some still believe that simply not communicating online is a viable option.
The Honeycomb building blocks are neither mutually exclusive nor do they all need to be included within a particular Social Media context. However, they are a framework that allows managers and researchers to understand how different Social Media functionalities can be configured. The research carried out with SME owner-managers has proven that the Honeycomb building blocks also provide an excellent framework for explaining Social Media to people relatively uneducated on this front.
Below the conclusions on the 7 Aspects that determine the MARCOM performance, as derived from the Honeycomb model:
Monitoring: Companies must be able to monitor and participate in conversation regarding their brand and products, whether this is positive or negative. Social Media has new (unwritten) rules and dynamics and many companies are still trying to find their way with these. Specifically SMEs – with their limitations – are challenged by this.
Dashboards require advanced analysis or interpretation skills, as well as insight on how to generate the underlying data. From strategic, tactical and operational dashboards the latter is most appropriate for SMEs.
Online listening to customers, participating in conversation, capturing data and managing information through the use of dashboards are often unknown or underutilized concepts for SMEs due to insufficient know-how and lack of focus on strategic-conceptual thinking.
Conversations: Key element of Social Media is interaction and conversation but SMEs are not aware of the necessity and benefits of actually participating in conversations. SMEs are not fully aware that anything they share adds to their image and needs to be consistent and authentically. SMEs are struggling with this ‘transparency’and are afraid of negative exposure or disclosure to competitors.
Word of Mouth: Online price comparison and easy and cheap shipping methods make it very difficult for SME retail to compete, once a customer is dedicated to a specific product. They must react by creating added value of services related to the products, and emphasize the advantages of buying in a physical store. WOM is one the most important business drivers for SMEs. They are well-aware that WOM is executed by loyal customers and driven by positive experiences, but don’t know how to implement or influence this through social media.
Cost Efficiency: The most gain and effect of social media on MARCOM efficiency is reached by a combination of effective sharing (relationships, 2-step model), co-creation and webcare, resulting in a combination of cost efficiency and a wider and also better targeted reach of customers. SME owner-managers’ see Social Media as “free advertising” and not as a marketing strategy that requires a coordinated and consistent approach and appropriate resources.
Experience/Novelty: Currently, it is the company that has the responsibility to ensure that customer can and will find them online. This can be achieved by a high level of Social Media presence and building strong relationships with the target audience. SMEs need to realize this requires constant effort and maintenance.
Networking: Companies must provide a good reason and incentive to individuals before they grant access to their network. SME owner-managers are well aware of the value and necessity of personal networking, but are struggling with the concept of online networking.
Brand Awareness: The nature of creating a brand image has changed with the rise of Social Media. Reputation can be earned through Social Media by sharing content, expressing thoughts, likes and dislikes. Social Media provides easier access for spreading a message, while at the same time enabling the company to monitor the impact by finding out what is being said online. SMEs have a rather subjective idea about their brand awareness and it should become an explicit topic on the management agenda now social Media provide the tools for driving and monitoring it.
Most recommendations focus on removing roadblocks for SMEs to adopt social media, caused by a lack of awareness, knowledge, resources or focus. Even when some or all of the recommendations would be implemented it’s still doubtful that SMEs will have the capability to make a successful step into social media. They are faced with the realistic bottleneck that they don’t have the scale to afford the overhead for strategy, marketing and social media. Larger companies have the critical mass to be able to afford the dedicated specialists and investments.
SMEs could create this critical mass if the required overhead could be shared between many smaller companies.
“ Christina Elenbaas-Acda”