Social media is all about the user

It is important for organisations to be recognisable on social media, creative with content and loyal to active fans, so says new research published in the International Journal of the Business Environment.

Christine Moser of the Department of Organisation Sciences at VU University and Anouk van Eijkeren of Social Inc, both in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, suggest that user-generated content influences the interactions between customers and organisations on social media, specifically the enormously popular and well-known social networking site Facebook. They have examined seven independent determinants of online interaction, standard metrics in existing perspectives on this kind of research. These are: content type, information richness, message direction, content valence, type of message, message length, and the use of punctuation marks. Fundamentally, there is interplay between all factors, however, the team has teased out a solid conclusion from their analysis.

“The user-generated posts that triggered the most interactions typically included content that is visual, personal, and attractive,” they found. “The findings furthermore indicate that it is important for organisations to be recognisable on social media, creative with content and loyal to active fans. Moreover, this paper shows that organisations should not use Facebook as a marketing tool, but as an engagement-building communication tool.”

Simplistically, the only interaction between organization and customer on the original commercial side of the web was the sale. With the advent of Web 2.0 more than a decade ago there was a transition from this essentially static commercial web that simply presented goods and services to the fully engaged world of commenting, microblogs, review sites and ubiquitous social media tools. Customers the world over now expect the organization they buy from or otherwise use to have an active presence on these systems. Moreover, they expect them to respond almost instantaneously to interactions both positive and negative whether a customer posts a five-star review or makes a serious complaint.

It has taken a long time for this to become the norm and yet many organizations have not adopted the social stance quite as fully as others. The team suggests that their work indicates that providing information and just being present on social media is not enough to stimulate customer interactions in modern commerce. “Organisations should transfer their focus from being informative and marketing-oriented, to being communicative and relation-oriented,” they conclude.

Moser, C. and van Eijkeren, A. (2016) ‘User-generated content? Get serious! Understanding the interactions between organisations and customers on social media’, Int. J. Business Environment, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.284–306.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.