social networks the future of marketing for small business.pdf

Research by the british library manchester 2008 which

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research by the British Library (Manchester, 2008) which found that the skills and enthusiasm for Web 2.0 tools amongst the ‘‘Google generation’’ had been highly overrated, because while the respondents were prepared to use social networks for personal activities, they were skeptical about their relevance to the business world. Developments in the technologies themselves, as well as a reduction in costs, will mean that more and more information will be available to consumers. This results in unprecedented levels of transparency of dealings between businesses and their customers. A key challenge when engaging customers through these social networks is how to give away power and control while at the same time avoiding embarrassment to the company. According to Leadbetter (2008): ‘‘you are what you share’’, but he also notes: ‘‘The optimists describe the web as a conversation. Yet much of the web seems raucous and unruly. More like a bar-room brawl than a moderated discussion’’ (p. 4). The positive experiences of our case study businesses with Ecademy support the former statement rather than the latter. Despite these issues, the use of ‘‘Web 2.0’’ technologies by businesses is likely to increase significantly. Our work so far has focused on experiments by early adopter businesses, run ‘‘ A recent example of a successful online community is www. which provides a forum for customers to raise questions or complain about a wide range of companies, and for the resulting discussions to be displayed for other enquirers to search and view. ’’ PAGE 30 j JOURNAL OF BUSINESS STRATEGY j VOL. 30 NO. 5 2009
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by entrepreneurial individuals who are ahead of the curve and not afraid to take risks or try out new ideas. It is important to remember that these tools are still largely untested in more mainstream businesses. But consumers will increasingly expect companies to communicate with them through these tools. The concept of the ‘‘superfan’’ is much debated in marketing circles at the moment. This is considered by many to be the ‘‘holy grail’’ of online marketing – creating a network of customers who are so positive about a brand that they do much of its marketing and sales themselves and for free. Good examples of this are the and a Facebook Group called Apple Students (currently with 434,162 members), demonstrating how Apple has harnessed the power of these new social technologies to support one of the most successful brands in the world. On a smaller scale, the Wiggly Wigglers group we studied is well populated with ‘‘superfans’’. On balance we believe our case studies indicate that online communities will play a key role in the future of marketing because they replace customer annoyance with engagement, and control with collaboration for those firms brave enough to take the plunge. The businesses that prosper will be those who proactively embrace this new world, because they regard change as an opportunity rather than as a threat to be avoided at all costs.
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