Mobile Social Media

Mobile Social Media and Business

As social media usage has become increasingly widespread, social media has to a large extent come to be subjected to commercialization. Traditional social media offer a variety of opportunities for companies in a range of business sectors. Mobile social media makes use of the location and time sensitive aspects of social media in order to engage in marketing research, communication, sales promotions/discounts, and relationship development/loyalty programs.

As social media becomes commercialized, this process have been shown to create novel forms of value networks stretching between consumer and producer in which a combination of personal, private and commercial contents are created.

  • Marketing research: Mobile social media applications offer data about offline consumer movements at a level of detail heretofore limited to online companies. Any firm can know the exact time at which a customer entered one of its outlets, as well as comments made during the visit.
  • Communication: Mobile social media communication takes two forms: company-to-consumer (in which a company may establish a connection to a consumer based on its location and provide reviews about locations nearby) and user-generated content.

     McDonald’s offered $5 and $10 gift-cards to 100 users randomly selected among those checking in at one of its restaurants. This promotion increased check-ins by 33% (from 2,146 to 2,865), resulted in over 50 articles and blog posts, and prompted several hundred thousand news feeds and Twitter messages.

  • Relationship development and loyalty programs: In order to increase long-term relationships with customers, companies can construct loyalty programs that allow customers who check-in regularly at a location to earn discounts or perks.

    American Eagle Outfitters remunerates such customers with a tiered 10%, 15%, or 20% discount on their total purchase.

  • e-Commerce: Mobile social media applications such as Amazon.com and Pinterest have started to influence an upward trend in the popularity and accessibility of e-commerce, or online purchases.

According to the Nielsen Company’s “The U.S. Digital Consumer Report“, almost half (47%) of smartphone owners visit social networks every day via mobile applications. With the rapid adoption of mobile devices, social media has a symbiotic relationship with the mobile

Shopping for kitchenware - Palm Beach, Florida (State Archives of Florida/Fortune.)
Shopping for kitchenware – Palm Beach, Florida
(State Archives of Florida/Fortune.)

consumer.

E-commerce businesses may refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.

Social media are distinct from industrial or traditional media such as newspapers, television, and film as they are comparatively inexpensive and accessible. They enable anyone to publish or access information. Industrial media generally require significant resources to publish information as in most cases the articles go through many revisions before being published.

One characteristic shared by both social and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach no people or millions of people.

Some of the properties that help describe the differences between social and industrial media are:

  • Quality: In industrial (traditional) publishing—mediated by a publisher—the typical range of quality is substantially narrower than in niche, unmediated markets. The main challenge posed by content in social media sites is the fact that the distribution of quality has high variance: from very high-quality items to low-quality, sometimes abusive content.
  • Reach: Both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and are capable of reaching a global audience. Industrial media, however, typically use a centralized framework for organization, production, and dissemination, whereas social media are by their very nature more decentralized, less hierarchical, and distinguished by multiple points of production and utility.
  • Frequency: The number of times an advertisement is displayed on social media platforms.
  • Accessibility: The means of production for industrial media are typically government and/or corporate (privately owned); social media tools are generally available to the public at little or no cost.
  • Usability: Industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Conversely, most social media production requires only modest reinterpretation of existing skills; in theory, anyone with access can operate the means of social media production.
  • Immediacy: The time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses).
  • Permanence: Industrial media, once created, cannot be altered (once a magazine article is printed and distributed, changes cannot be made to that same article) whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.

Community media constitute a hybrid of industrial and social media. Though community-owned, some community radio, TV, and newspapers are run by professionals and some by amateurs. They use both social and industrial media frameworks.

Social media have also been recognized for the way they have changed how public relations professionals conduct their jobs. They have provided an open arena where people are free to exchange ideas on companies, brands, and products. Social media provides an environment where users and PR professionals can converse, and where PR professionals can promote their brand and improve their company’s image by listening and responding to what the public is saying about their product.

Management

There is an increasing trend towards using social media monitoring tools that allow marketers to search, track, and analyze conversation on the web about their brand or about topics of interest. This can be useful in PR management and campaign tracking, allowing the user to measure return on investment, competitor-auditing, and general public engagement. Tools range from free, basic applications to subscription-based, more in-depth tools.

The honeycomb framework defines how social media services focus on some or all of seven functional building blocks. These building blocks help explain the engagement needs of the social media audience. For instance, LinkedIn users are thought to care mostly about identity, reputation, and relationships, whereas YouTube’s primary features are sharing, conversations, groups, and reputation. Many companies build their own social containers that attempt to link the seven functional building blocks around their brands. These are private communities that engage people around a narrower theme, as in around a particular brand, vocation or hobby, rather than social media containers such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. PR departments face significant challenges in dealing with viral negative sentiment directed at organizations or individuals on social media platforms which may be a reaction to an announcement or event.