Companies being responsible on social media

Companies that attempt to use social networking to communicate ethical messages of corporate responsibility to consumers are wasting their human resources and money if they do not engage with users directly, according to research published in the International Journal of Business Information Systems.

Reza Jamali of Tarbiat Modares University (TMU), in Tehran, Iran, and colleagues have undertaken a qualitative study of documents in the public domain published by fifty Fortune global 500 companies. The analyzed the terms and statements that the companies used to describe their social responsibility policies and identified the types of social media they used as part of their efforts. The team also surveyed almost 1300 consumers who used at least one of those fifty companies for their interests and preferences.

Their results indicate that common “digital strategies” failed to meet the objectives of the companies in disseminating information about their corporate social responsibilities activities. Fundamentally, the team suggests that the main reason underlying this failure is that consumers are constantly bombarded by such messages but have little interest in them. Moreover, consumers seem to prefer video and photo messages whereas the majority of messages are coming from corporate websites and the company social network page. “Using social media without engaging users cannot be considered a success and should be considered an expense with no return,” the team reports.

At least three quarters of Fortune 500 companies are officially on Twitter and more than two thirds on Facebook page, the team adds, and yet, consumers do not perceive the presence of these companies as being effective in communicating with them, despite the companies themselves imagining that social media is an effective tool for them. Businesses that demonstrate social responsibility attract more supporters, that much is clear. However, the research suggests that companies in “broadcast” mode, simply churning out information is generally not listened to. The team concludes that a modern “digital strategy”, or in the parlance of the research literature, “social strategy”, must take into account the needs of customers almost at the individual level and must create interactions as if between friends or at the very least acquaintances, rather than between consumers en masse and the opaque company profile.

Jamali, R., Moshabaki, A. and Kordnaeij, A. (2016) ‘The competitiveness of CSR communication strategy in social media’, Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp.1–16.

Tourism tweets

Twitter engagement in the tourism sector

Tourism and travel companies hoping to gain traction and credibility and likes on social media sites, such as Twitter, should take note of a new study from researchers in the UK. A team in the Business School at Brunel University London has analysed almost 3000 tweets – updates on the Twitter microblogging platform – from six major companies in the tourism sector (Booking, Hostelworld, Hotels, Lastminute, Laterooms and Priceline) and found that there are certain features of a tweet that will attract the most attention from users of the site and gain more retweets and “likes”.

The team reports that posts which contain pictures, hyperlinks, product or service information, direct answers to customers and brand centrality are more likely to be retweeted and favourited by users. Electronic word-of-mouth marketing has become increasingly important in the era of web 2.0 and online social networking, where a single comment can make or break a reputation should it gain traction among even just a small proportion of the hundreds of millions of users of such services. As such, company marketing departments must try to get themselves ahead of the game, generate their own content and push the positive message as and when they can.

Fundamentally, social media puts the individual user in a much greater position of power than ever before, with one-on-one interactions between user, whether wouldbe customer or current consumer, and a company representative now taking up a large amount of corporate time for marketing departments. The online conversations between customers and commerce and between different customers can have a significant effect on intention to buy.

An earlier analysis of the 500 million or so daily tweets as of the time of writing reveals a large proportion of those contain reference to a specific brand or company that might express positive or negative feelings about the products or services associated with that company. “Our findings show that, in terms of contextual characteristics, pictures, hyperlinks, hashtags and mentions are the most important drivers for electronic word-of-mouth,” the team says. The team points out, however, that of all the various factors, product or service information is the only attribute that significantly affects retweet and favourite rates. “This result suggests that customers pay more attention to posts and tweets that provide information about products or services,” they conclude.

Alboqami, H., Al-Karaghouli, W., Baeshen, Y., Erkan, I., Evans, C. and Ghoneim, A. (2015) ‘Electronic word of mouth in social media: the common characteristics of retweeted and favourited marketer-generated content posted on Twitter’, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.338–358.

What is the Internet of Things, really?

The Internet of Things, IoT, the cloud, big data…buzzwords for the modern age. But, asks Won Kim, Jaehyuk Choi and colleagues in the Department of Software at Gachon University, in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea: Is the IoT actually anything new and how does it work? Writing in the International Journal of Web and Grid Services, the team offer some answers and a high-level view of the IoT from the perspective of its architecture.

“The IoT is defined as the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure,” explain the researchers. The “things” are smart devices with some kind of sensor and network communication functionality and can include anything from webcams and microphones to environmental gas sensors, medical diagnostics devices and infamously the smart refrigerator.

“In a sense, the IoT is not really new,” the team says. “All the components of the IoT have been around for some time: the Internet, smart embedded devices, sensors of various types and communication technologies that connect devices.” They point out that there have been available for some time services that collect data from sensors, transmit it to other devices or central servers for data processing and data mining and tools that actuate and manage remote devices, such as weather stations and even vacuum-cleaning robots and lawnmowers.

One thing that is perhaps new is that increasingly the smart devices that make up the IoT now usually require their own internet protocol, IP, address. Research suggests that by 2020 there will be 30 billion or so connected “things” each with a unique IP and the majority of those will be wireless devices. Such vast numbers and the vast quantities of data they will generate will almost certainly only be manageable with distributed “cloud services” and “big data” computer facilities.

“Although many IoT applications have come to the market, the big challenge is to develop IoT applications and business models that will fill the unmet needs and wants of users,” the team reports. Moreover, these solutions must be commercially viable. The trade press and early adopters are finding their way testing the smart devices and systems. However, the Internet of Things is yet to mature to match the hyperbole, energy requirements, applications, and costs must all shift substantially to allow us to recognize and realize what benefits the IoT will ultimately bring us.

Kim, W., Choi, J., Jeong, O-R., Han, W-J., Kim, C., Loh, W-K. and Yoo, J. (2015) ‘On the Internet of Things’, Int. J. Web and Grid Services, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.410–426.