Social Media is a tool that has emerged in the last 10 years as a new way for companies to expand marketing techniques and alter organizational behavior. By positively affecting the behavior and attitudes of employees, the structure of the organization can be strengthened if social media is properly implemented. Social media outlets provide instant access to customers with MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. These social networks provide companies with the means to advertise their products to more people using a cost effective strategy. In addition to marketing, social media is used internally in businesses, and as a result, has had notably positive effects on organizational behavior. Universities such as ECU use social media advertisements for student recruiting, alumni communication, and department information sharing. What is Social Media?
Social media is defined as: the “websites and other online means of communication that are used to share information and develop social and professional contacts” (Dictionary.com). Social media enables companies to have a more personal relationship with current and future customers. Companies are also able to broadcast promotions and push new products, while instantly receiving feedback from customers. Social media is used to monitor the consumer community for marketing research and also provides easily accessible customer service information and immediate selling opportunities. Common media sites that are available for global advertising and communication are: Facebook with 1.06 billion monthly users, LinkedIn with 200 million users, Twitter with 500 million users and YouTube with 1 billion users and over 4 billion views per day (Digital Marketing). Social Media and Marketing.
In today’s business climate, combining social media with marketing has become an integral part of any organization’s success. Marketing is the “…process by which a product or service is introduced and promoted to potential customers” (Lorette). Marketing is important as it creates awareness about a company’s product or services. No matter how great a product, without marketing exposure, it may not be profitable. Using traditional and social media outlets to spread the word about products helps increase sales (Lorette).
In recent years, the popularity of social media has grown exponentially especially among the younger generation. With this growth in social media, the marketing strategy called “social media marketing” has become a staple for organizations to successfully market their products and services. Social media marketing refers to any marketing through social media and social networking websites. It allows a company to reach customers globally without incurring major expenses. Although most companies already have their own website, social networking websites make it easier to reach more users. Businesses gain exposure and website traffic by utilizing social media websites through promotions and advertisements of their products and services, which translates into increased sales. Firms are also able to build a strong relationship with constant interaction with customers, which creates loyal customers; an instantaneous, contiguous connection is made when businesses are able to connect with consumers using social media (Chandler).
Not only has social media had a profound impact on marketing by providing an interface between businesses and their consumers, it also has had an effect on strengthening the internal structure of organizations and the attitudes of employees. Not all companies are convinced that there are actual benefits associated with social media, but the successful internal implementation by some organizations has led to the following positive impacts: increased affective organizational commitment, reduced power distance, and a decrease in cultural barriers.
In order to create a sense of belonging within an organization, organizations that choose to implement social media as a tool to increase the employee’s organizational commitment must first build up emotional capital. Research indicates that companies must first set up wikis and podcasts if successful implementation is to take place (Huy, 2012). In terms of social media benefits within an organization, “a geographically separated team of co-workers can use the wide-open read/write capabilities of a Wiki to collaboratively develop and maintain specifications, documents, manuals, and other material” (Wiki, 2003). Similarly, a podcast gives the user the ability “to broadcast over the Internet by making a series of audio files available to be automatically downloaded and played by a digital audio player” (podcast, 2006). Wiki’s and podcasts are meant to benefit employees and employers, but may in turn discourage employees if strict requirements are made forcing their use. Employee loyalty and goodwill may decrease because they feel forced to collaborate with each other. It’s important to create an internal social environment that focuses on creativity, collaboration, and even fun. When there is a free flow of information exchange, there is an increase in idea generation.
Another way social media increases employee organizational commitment is through a purposeful decrease in power distance. Power distance refers to how power is distributed amongst employees; for example, the relationship between a boss and subordinate is a power difference. Executives who regularly post entries on internal interactive sites and who have ‘true’ Facebook-like profiles can often develop bonds that are not only instantaneous, but can identify areas within the company that need nurturing (Huy, 2012). A ‘true’ profiles means that leaders and executives must be genuine; in other words, their virtual actions must coincide with their physical actions. There should be no distinction between how they act in person and how they act in a virtual sense. ECU, for instance, uses a Facebook-like social media site called Yammer that allows staff to connect with each other in a personal, yet professional way.
Because social media has its own universal language, cultural barriers are virtually eliminated causing an increase in positive diversity practices. Employees are able to connect and interact with one another by using an internal social media site. It becomes a common thread in which employees can communicate and collaborate. Conversely, some executives argue that social media is crippling organizational culture; managers argue that the best way to build a healthy organizational culture is to “require managers to build trust through face-to-face meetings, live phone calls and personal messages”(Deloitte, 2012). Whatever the case, it is apparent that social media has had a lasting impact on today’s organizational culture.
Organizations are also recognizing the growing opportunities that social media presents. Because of its collaboration benefits, using social media within an organization is gaining popularity (Nutley, 2011). Dell and other companies have had positive results “using social media internally to meet important objectives” like cost reduction, lower employee turnover, and more efficient, collaborative interactions between departments (Huy, 2012).
Cost saving is a high priority for corporations and many have implemented alternate work environments. For instance, many employees work without assigned work places through mobile telework and telecommunications. Organizations are directly supporting and engaging remote and mobile employee groups with social websites. Web-based resources are connecting group members with one another by providing information such as current news, discussion threads, individual profiles, reports, memos, and events (Brotherton 2012). Due to the bonds formed within organizations, firms are aslo experiencing lower employee turnover (Huy, 2012). As employees are becoming more satisfied with their jobs, performance levels have increased and employees are looking less to find exit strategies. Social media also provides a platform in which executives and leaders can praise employees; the establishment of a direct connection between hierarchical levels with employees aids in organizational communication and when implemented properly, will decrease turnover, and in turn, will increase morale.
Because of social media’s popularity, organizations are taking advantage of the ease of use and the convenience of internal communication. Some organizations are implementing internal social networking and using middle grounds for employee communication. Global digital agency, Possible, for example, created its own social network interface called Colab, which was exclusive to employees only (Parekh, 2012). Employees could spark dialogue with one another upon a status update being posted. No matter the hierarchy of the person posting the update, all employees of Possible were able to see and comment on it. Internal organizational social media presents an opportunity that could evolve over years as other companies start to follow the trend and the technology of social media becomes more advanced. Social Media Weaknesses and Strengths.
Social media platforms allow companies to reach out to more people than traditional methods by using Facebook, Twitter, ‘The Cloud’ and other popular sites. Companies can reach a broader band of audiences in different socioeconomic statuses around the world using these social media sites. Not only do companies save money by implementing social media in their advertising efforts, they also reduce costs by using social media in lieu of face-to-face meetings, effectively reducing the cost of travel. Companies also improve communication and information sharing in real time by using technology like instant messenger, teleconferencing, and “the cloud”.
Conversely to social media’s strength’s, there are also weaknesses associated with social media. Security breaches and false advertising are two of the dangers of free communication via the internet. In addition, competition or disgruntled consumers may make negative posts, instantly ruining a company’s reputation. There are legal responsibilities with social media as to how much information can be shared. If a system is hacked and credit card numbers or personal information is stolen, there are legal and ethical ramifications. Other weaknesses in social media relate to abuse of sites. For instance, employees could use such social media venues as a method of venting out against a former employer, causing the company to develop a negative reputation. Companies also run the risk of lost production due to employees using too much “on-line socializing” on company time.
Social media has changed marketing strategies for businesses as well as the overall organizational culture. Businesses have found that social media is a quick, easy, and economical place to advertise and get customer feedback. Internal social media implementation at organizations has enhanced employee relations and collaboration efforts as employees get more connected and have instant resources for questions and assistance. While there are some risks and weaknesses, the benefits and opportunities of social media outweigh the downside of social media’s effects. In addition, social media will more than likely continue to have a positive impact on organizational behavior and marketing efforts.
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