The importance of Facebook as an online social networking tool for companies

Pedro Alvaro Pereira Correia, Irene Garcia Medina, Zahaira Fabiola González Romo, Ruth S. Contreras-Espinosa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Purpose
    – This paper aims to understand the contribution made by Facebook as a marketing tool for companies, and through empirical observation (interviews and questionnaires) and theoretical analysis (studies and academic literature on the subject), to analyse the reactions of individuals in social media (particularly in Facebook) and its confluence with the organizations. The overall aim is subdivided into three objectives covering more precisely the two poles of marketing communication (the consumers and the businesses), within the context of Facebook: to learn about the users’ vision on Facebook and their point of view on being a part of it; to understand the strategic vision of Facebook from those responsible for marketing and communication in companies; and to analyse the role of Facebook in marketing activities and interactive communication (users and companies).

    Design/methodology/approach
    – The first part of this study is a theoretical study of the area and existing published research. The second part is a qualitative study. In this sense, the theoretical analysis in the field of social networks supports the propositions discussed in the empirical analysis, which is based on a random sample of individuals and representative companies. The analysed universe consists of a randomly unrepresentative group of consumers living in Portugal, particularly in the cities of Funchal (Madeira) and Lisbon, and company representatives established in Funchal (Madeira), to understand if the theoretical arguments are also verified in these regions regardless of their particular characteristics, especially the geographical and demographic.

    Findings
    – Today the focus continues to be very connected to sales and promotions and to traditional communication channels when it should move to create interactions with meaning for the audience through content before focusing on sales. Organizations should consider the way they communicate with their target audience and consider social networks and mobile technologies as a new way of expanding the business, adapting to this new consumer not contemplated by the traditional marketing and communication media.

    Research limitations/implications
    – Furthermore, the existing literature quickly becomes obsolete without addressing the issue in depth, sometimes referring qualitative studies based on demographic and geographic variables and traditional models. Moreover, most of the authors are Anglo-Saxon and discuss realities away from the one studied here. Geographical location and time are also other important limitations, as in Portugal, the phenomenon is recent and both individual users and company representatives (who constituted the study sample) have little practical experience in the use of online technologies and social networks; probably the main setback is the limited period of the study, concentrating the analyses on the current interviewee experience instead of an evolutionary people's behaviour analyses concerning the use of social networks. Although the evolution of information technology is a catalyst for a more intense online social experience, it is important to understand how to live the virtual experience and how the communication between individuals and companies evolves (how to adapt to this new consumer audience), face the current short-term models based on offline actions, reactive strategic actions, misperception of users and lack of information on social network consumers’ life.

    Practical implications
    – Organizations should consider the way they communicate with their target audience and consider social networks and mobile technologies as a new way of expanding the business, adapting to this new consumer not contemplated by the traditional marketing and communication media. The study presents a qualitative analysis of the behaviour, the reactions and the attitudes of individuals towards organizations, with the aim of understanding which are the social factors that contribute to sustainable competitive advantage to organizations and support strategies and future actions.

    Social implications
    – The social aspects are a part of the experience in the Facebook community and also of the shopping experience. So it is important to monitor these behaviours in Facebook or other networks to perceive users of social networks, and consequently define marketing and communications actions to transform fans into customers. Relevant factors come associated with tacit knowledge of the organization, particularly those related with learning and social interaction of the organization and organization knowledge about virtual communities. To a higher coexistence of these factors, the more difficult the replication is, and the higher the strengthening of the hypothesis of sustainability of competitive advantage.

    Originality/value
    – Organizational survival increasingly depends on the socialization, sharing interests and activities with the audience linked to the incorporation of digital technologies in their activities, especially those related to social networks. Technology emerges as a support for the satisfaction of social connection, transforming communication between people and companies, making it much more dynamic and transparent. As we have seen, there are many positive factors associated with the participation in the social networks. Prominent among these are the interactivity, the detection of customer needs, the adjustment of supply, transmission of content without geographical boundaries and the ease of implementation of viral marketing campaigns.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)295-320
    Number of pages26
    JournalInternational Journal of Accounting and Information Management
    Volume22
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Keywords

    • social network
    • networking
    • organisations
    • marketing
    • community
    • online

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