Category Archives: digital media

Interactive engagement through travel and tourism social media groups

This an an excerpt from one of my latest article that was published through Technology in Society (An Elsevier Journal).

Credit: Joel Saget / AFP

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Kozak, M. (2022). Interactive engagement through travel and tourism social media groups: A social facilitation theory perspective. Technology in Societyhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2022.102098

This study builds on previous academic knowledge on the acceptance and use of social media groups. It relied on valid constructs that were drawn from the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and Theory of Acceptance Model (TAM), as the proposed research model comprised “attitudes toward technology” and “behavioral intentions” constructs. However, it integrated them with perceived interactivity constructs, including “real-time conversation” and “engaging” as well as with “content attractiveness” from Electronic Retail Quality (eTailQ).

This empirical investigation clarifies that the content attractiveness of social media posts as well as their engaging content and real-time conversation capabilities, can have significant effects on social facilitation behaviors of individuals, and on their intentions to revisit social media groups. The findings from this study reiterate the importance of continuously creating relevant content that appeals to social media followers.

Previous research posited that online users should keep their followers engaged through rich media ([77]). Other theoretical underpinnings reported that interactive websites, particularly social media and video sharing platforms, can offer great potential to DMOs to promote tourism and hospitality services ([88]).  Internet domains can showcase a wide array of high-res images and video clips to lure online users to book their travel itineraries to visit destinations ([90]). The digital media and mobile applications (app) ought to be as functional and responsive as possible ([99]). They should load quickly without delays to reduce the likelihood of dissatisfied visitors, who can easily switch to another website or app ([74]).

In this case, the results suggest that there are very significant effects between the online users’ perceptions about engaging content and their intentional behaviors to check out the social media pages (on a regular basis); and between their perceptions about engaging content and their social facilitation dispositions to communicate about social media groups through online and offline channels, in the presence of others. The respondents are appreciating the attractive content, including images or videos, that are disseminated through the social media groups’ posts. Moreover, the findings indicate that they hold positive perceptions about the co-creation of user generated content. Evidently, the exchange of information as well as the responsiveness between two or more online users was leading them to revisit the social media groups.

This study is consistent with the relevant literature that sought to explore the online users’ perceptions about the websites’ interactivity features ([30], [34]). Other researchers maintained that real-time conversations had a positive effect on the online users’ attitudes toward engaging websites ([84]). In this case, this argumentation holds for social media groups, as well.

This contribution underlines the importance of posting engaging content including appealing images and videos through social media. It clearly indicates that interactive content as well as the social networks’ real-time conversation capabilities can foster positive social facilitation behaviors. Arguably, individuals are interested and intrigued to interact with other online users through popular social media groups in the presence of other members. They are likely to join in online discussions and conversations in prolific social media groups, particularly in those that are regularly disseminating attractive content, and in those that facilitate interactive engagement among their members.

The cocreation of user generated content in social media, blogs and review sites is driven by online audiences. This study confirms that the relevance and attractiveness of social media content can have a positive effect on triggering real-time conversations as well as on social facilitation. This reasoning is consistent with the social facilitation theory ([33],[40],[60],[61]). This research corroborates that while the presence of other individuals can increase the likelihood of social engagement, a passive audience may inhibit them from sharing their comments about the attractiveness of interactive content.

The findings of this research also yield plausible implications to practitioners. The researchers indicate that social media subscribers are attracted by the online content that is being posted by DMOs and travel marketers. Online users and prospective travelers are increasingly browsing through interactive content including images and videos of travel destinations. The social media groups are offering a variety of multimedia content that is appealing to online users. Very often, they allow their followers to engage in two-way communications, as members can comment on posts and may also interact with other online users, in real-time. This study suggests that the research participants are visiting the social media groups as they considered them as helpful for their decision making, prior to booking their travel itineraries. Apparently, they were intrigued to revisit these groups and were likely to communicate about their content with other people through offline and online channels, as it appealed to them and captured their attention.

Therefore, travel marketers ought to focus on publishing quality content. This increases the chances of their engagement. Prospective travelers are attracted by multi-media features including high-res images with zooming effects and video content; that are adapted for mobile technologies, including tablets and smartphone devices. Travel marketers and DMOs ought to curate their social media group(s) with appealing content to raise awareness about their tourism products. It is in their interest to share relevant and attractive material to increase the number of followers and their engagement. More importantly, they are expected to interact with online users, in a timely manner, to turn them into brand advocates and to encourage social facilitation behaviors.

In sum, this empirical research clarifies that the attractiveness of online content of social media groups, including their images and videos of destinations, as well as their interactive and real-time conversation capabilities are affecting their subscribers’ revisit intentions. They are also influencing their social facilitation behaviors – in the presence of others. This study raises awareness on the importance of sharing engaging content and of encouraging interactive discussions among social media subscribers. The researchers contend that content creators can lure individuals to visit and revisit their social media pages/groups to generate leads and conversions. Arguably, the more engagement (e.g. through emojis and shares) and conversations (e.g. comments), the greater the chances of captivating the attention of existing followers and of enticing the curiosity of new ones. For the time being, the social facilitation paradigm is still relatively under-explored in academia, particularly within the travel and tourism marketing literature.

Future researchers are encouraged replicate this study in different contexts. They may adapt the measures that were used in this research, including engaging content, real time conversation and social facilitation constructs, in addition to other popular constructs that are drawn from TRA, TPB and TAM. They may include other constructs in their research models, including those relating to psychological theories that can clarify their motivations to engage with other individuals through such digital channels. Further research could focus on the demographic backgrounds of their respondents to better understand who, why, when and where they are engaging with other users through social media groups. Perhaps, there is scope for other studies to employ different sampling frames and methodologies, including inductive ones, to explore this topic in more depth and breadth.

The full list of references are available in the full article. You can download a prepublication version here: 362888940_Interactive_engagement_through_travel_and_tourism_social_media_groups_A_social_facilitation_theory_perspective

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The pros and cons of remote learning

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by the 6th International Conference on E-Education, E-Business & E-Technology (ICEBT2022).

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2022). A cost-benefit analysis on remote learning: A systematic review and implications for the future. 6th International Conference on e-Education, e-Business and e-Technology (Beijing, China: 26th June 2022). https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4104629

(image source: CrushPixel)

After the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions were expected to adapt to an unexpected crisis situation. In many cases, they had to follow their policy makers’ preventative measures to mitigate the contagion of the pandemic [1, 2]. As a result, they introduced contingency plans, and disseminated information on the virus, among students and employees. In many cases, educators were coerced to shift from the provision of traditional, face-to-face teaching and blended learning approaches, to a fully virtual remote course delivery [3, 4]. This transition resulted in a number of challenges to students and instructors [5]. Educators were pressurized to utilize digital technologies including learning management systems (LMS) as well as video conferencing programs [6]. Very often, they relied on their institutions’ Moodle or virtual learning environment (VLE) software to share digital resources including videos, power point presentations and links to online notes [7]. During the pandemic educators also acquainted themselves with video-conferencing platforms [8].

Subsequently, when COVID-19 restrictions were eased, a number of educational institutions reopened their doors to students and employees [9]. They introduced social distancing policies and hygienic procedures in their premises [4, 10]. At the time of writing, a number of academic members of staff, in various contexts, are still utilizing learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs [6]. Currently, student-centered educators are adopting hybrid/blended learning approaches, as they deliver face-to-face lectures in addition to online learning methodologies. Very often, they do so to support students who are not in a position to attend their lectures on campus.

A synthesis of the literature on the costs and benefits of remote learning

The costs

Many researchers noted that Covid-19 disrupted the provision of education. In the main, they reported that there were various challenges for the successful implementation of remote learning [17, 23-25]. For example, one of the contributions implied that the prolonged use of virtual platforms might negatively impact the efficacy of synchronous learning [27].

Various studies indicated that the research participants were not always pleased with the quality of education that was provided by their educators, during the pandemic [28]. Academic commentators indicated that faculty members were not experts in the delivery of remote/online instruction. They implied that instructors could require periodic developmental training to improve the service quality of their courses [4, 10].

While a few researchers noted that students appreciated the availability of recorded lectures [29], others reported that educators were not always recording their lectures and/or did not share learning resources with them [21]. This issue could have affected the students’ learning outcomes [30, 31]. In fact, some students were worried about their academic progress during COVID-19 [32]. In many cases, they encountered a number of difficulties during remote course delivery. For instance, online group work involved additional planning as well as institutional support [33]. Previous literature suggests that students necessitate counseling, tutoring and mentoring as well as ongoing assurances to succeed [34, 35].

In many cases, the researchers discovered that course participants required adequate training and support to complete their assessments [23, 24, 36]. A few of them also hinted that was a digital divide among students could have been evidenced among those who experienced connectivity and equipment problems, among other issues [5, 37]. Other authors argued about the individuals’ challenges to focus on their screens for long periods of time [6]. Notwithstanding, educators and students may develop bad postures and other physical problems due to staying hunched in front of a screen. Therefore, students ought to be given regular breaks from the screen to refresh their minds and their bodies.

The benefits

Generally, a number of contributions shed light on the benefits of using remote learning technologies, including learning management systems [1, 21, 29, 32] and interactive conferencing programs (1, 6, 17, 33]. Such educational technologies can help in creating rich social interactions [38-40] as well as positive learning environments – that foster learning and retention [41, 42]. Previous research indicated that digital learning resources can enhance the students’ knowledge and skills [43]. Remote instruction approaches can also provide supportive environments to students [39] and could even increase their chances of learning [30, 31]. Virtual lectures may be recorded or archived for future reference [29]. Hence, students or educators could access their learning materials at their convenience [44-46].

Several researchers underlined the importance of maintaining ongoing, two-way communications with students, and of providing them with appropriate facilitating conditions, to continue improving their learning journeys [6, 47-48]. Video conferencing technologies allow educators to follow up on their students’ progress. They facilitate online interactions, in real time, and enable them to obtain immediate feedback from their students [1, 49]. Notwithstanding, there are fewer chances of students’ absenteeism and on missing out on their lessons, as they can join online meetings from home or from other locations of their choice.

Conclusions

This review implies that online technologies have opened a window of opportunity for educators. Indeed, learning management systems as well as conferencing programs are useful tools for educators to continue delivering education in a post covid-19 context. However, it is imperative that educational institutions invest in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees. They should determine whether their instructors are (or are not) delivering high levels of service quality through the utilization of remote learning technologies to continue delivering student-centered education.

This paper can be downloaded from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360474225_A_cost-benefit_analysis_on_the_use_of_remote_learning_technologies_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_literature

References (these are all the references that were featured in the full paper)

  1. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2021. The acceptance of learning management systems and video conferencing technologies: Lessons learned from COVID-19. Tech, Know and Learning, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10758-021-09561-y
  2. OECD 2020. OECD Policy Response to CoronaVirus: Education responses to COVID-19: Embracing digital learning and online collaboration”, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France.  http://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/education-responses-to-covid-19-embracing-digital-learning-and-online-collaboration-d75eb0e8/
  3. Sir John Daniel. 2020. Education and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prospects, 49(1), 91-96. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-020-09464-3
  4. Mark Anthony Camilleri. 2021. Evaluating service quality and performance of higher education institutions: A systematic review and a post COVID-19 outlook. Int J. of Qual & Serv Sciences 13, 2, 268-281. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJQSS-03-2020-0034
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  9. Mark Anthony Camilleri. 2021. Shifting from traditional and blended learning approaches to a fully virtual and remote course delivery: Implications from COVID-19. Acad Letters, Article, 481.
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  17. William Hurst, Adam Withington, and Hoshang Kolivand. 2022. Virtual conference design: features and obstacles. Multimedia Tools and Applic. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-022-12402-4
  18. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2019. The students’ readiness to engage with mobile learning apps. Interactive Tech and Smart Educ 17,1, 28-38. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITSE-06-2019-0027
  19. Andrzej Szymkowiak, Boban Melović, Marina Dabić, Kishokanth Jeganathan, and Gagandeep Singh Kundi. 2021. Information technology and Gen Z: The role of teachers, the internet, and technology in the education of young people. Tech in Soc, 65, 101565.
  20. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2017. Digital learning resources and ubiquitous technologies in education. Tech, Know and Learning 22,1, 65-82. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10758-016-9287-7
  21. Patricia R. Backer, Maria Chierichetti, Laura E. Sullivan-Green, and Liat Rosenfeld. 2021. Learning from the Student Experience: Impact of Shelter-in-Place on the Learning Experiences of Engineering Students at SJSU. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.
  22. Timothy Boye, and Tania Machet. 2021. Emerging from COVID-19 to future practice. Proceedings – SEFI 49th Annual Conference: Blended Learning in Engineering Education: Challenging, Enlightening – and Lasting, 697-704.
  23. Andrea N. Giordano, and Casey R. Christopher. 2020. Repurposing best teaching practices for remote learning environments: Chemistry in the news and oral examinations during covid-19. J of Chemical Educ, 97(9), 2815-2818.
  24. Mohamed Shaik Honnurvali, Ayman A. El-Saleh, Abdul Manan Sheikh, Keng Goh, Naren Gupta, and Tariq Umar. 2022. Sustainable Engineering higher education in Oman-lessons learned from the pandemic (COVID-19), improvements, and suggestions in the teaching, learning and administrative framework. J of Eng Education Trans, 35(3), 52-69.
  25. Rizwana Wahid, Oveesa Farooq, and Ahtisham Aziz. 2021. The New Normal: Online Classes and Assessments during the COVID-19 Outbreak. J of E-Learning and Know Society, 17(2), 85-96.
  26. Brenda Van Wyk, Gillian Mooney, Martin Duma, and Samuel Faloye, 2020. Emergency remote learning in the times of covid: A higher education innovation strategy. Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL2020, 499-507.
  27. Andrew Darr, Jenna Regan, and Yerko Berrocal. 2021. Effect of Video Conferencing on Student Academic Performance: Evidence from Preclinical Summative Assessment Scores. Medical Science Educator, 31(6), 1747-1750.
  28. Ji-Hee Jung, and Jae-Ik Shin 2021. Assessment of university students on online remote learning during COVID-19 pandemic in Korea: An empirical study, Sustainability (Switzerland), 13(19), 10821.       
  29. John Michael Cotter, and Rasim Guldiken. 2021. Remote Versus In-Class Active Learning Exercises for an Undergraduate Course in Fluid Mechanics, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings                 
  30. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2017. Digital learning resources and ubiquitous technologies in education. Tech, Knowledge and Learning, 22(1), 65-82.
  31. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2017. The students’ perceptions of digital game-based learning. In European Conference on Games Based Learning (pp. 56-62). Academic Conferences International Limited.
  32. Marilyn Barger, and Lakshmi Jayaram. 2021. Students Talk: The Experience of Advanced Technology Students at Two-Year Colleges during COVID-19, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.  
  33. Kennedy Saldanha, Jennifer Currin-McCulloch, Barbara Muskat, Shirley R. Simon, Ann M. Bergart, Ellen Sue Mesbur, Donna Guy, Namoonga B. Chilwalo, Mamadou M. Seck, Greg Tully, Kristina Lind, Cheryl D. Lee, Neil Hall,and Diana Kelly, 2021. Turning boxes into supportive circles: Enhancing online group work teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Work with Groups, 44(4), 310-327.
  34. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2017. The technology acceptance of mobile applications in education. In 13th International Conference on Mobile Learning (Budapest, April 10th). Proceedings, pp., International Association for Development of the Information Society.
  35. Adriana Caterina Camilleri, and Mark Anthony Camilleri. 2019. Mobile learning via educational apps: an interpretative study. In Proceedings of the 2019 5th International Conference on Education and Training Technologies (pp. 88-92).
  36. Galina Ilieva, and Tania Yankova. 2020. IoT in Distance Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic.TEM Journal, 9(4), 1669-1674.
  37. Emily S. Kinsky, Patrick F. Merle, and Karen Freberg. 2021. Zooming through a Pandemic: An Examination of Marketable Skills Gained by University Students during the COVID-19 Crisis. Howard J of Comm, 32(5), 507-529
  38. Anne E. Drake, Jonathan Hy, Gordon A. MacDougall, Brendan Holmes, Lauren Icken, Jon W. Schrock, and Robert A. Jones.. 2021. Innovations with tele-ultrasound in education sonography: the use of tele-ultrasound to train novice scanners. Ultrasound J, 13(1), Article 6, https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-021-00210-0
  39. Ming Lei, Ian M. Clemente, Haixia Liu, and John Bell. 2022. The Acceptance of Telepresence Robots in Higher Education. Int J of Social Robotics, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-021-00837-y                                                           
  40. Yuan Li, David Hicks, Wallace S. Lages, Sang Won Lee, Akshay Sharma, and Doug A. Bowman   2021. ARCritique: Supporting remote design critique of physical artifacts through collaborative augmented reality. Proceedings – 2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops, VRW 2021, 9419257, 585-586
  41. Vivekananth Subbiramaniyan, Chandrashekhar Apte, and Ciraj Ali Mohammed. 2021. A meme-based approach for enhancing student engagement and learning in renal physiology, Adv in Physio Educ, 46(1), 27-29.                 
  42. Joshua Zavitz, Aarti Sarwal, Jacob Schoeneck, Casey Glass, Brandon Hays, E. Shen, Casey Bryant, and Karisma Gupta. 2021. Virtual multispecialty point-of-care ultrasound rotation for fourth-year medical students during COVID-19: Innovative teaching techniques improve ultrasound knowledge and image interpretation. AEM Education and Training, 5(4), e10632.                         
  43. Vikash Gayah, Sarah E. Zappe, and Stephanie Cutler. 2021.Impact of Remote Instructional Format on Student Perception of a Supportive Learning Environment for Expertise Development. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.
  44. Butler, A., Camilleri, M. A., Creed, A., & Zutshi, A. 2021. The use of mobile learning technologies for corporate training and development: A contextual framework. In Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Emerald Publishing Limited.
  45. Adriana Caterina Camilleri, and Mark Anthony Camilleri. 2019. The Students Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations to Engage with Digital Learning Games. In Shun-Wing N.G., Fun, T.S. & Shi, Y. (Eds.) 5th International Conference on Education and Training Technologies (ICETT 2019). Seoul, South Korea. International Economics Development and Research Center (IEDRC). ACM Digital Library. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3337682.3337689
  46. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2019. The Acceptance and Use of Mobile Learning Applications in Higher Education. In Pfennig, A. & Chen, K.C. (Eds.) 3rd International Conference on Education and eLearning (ICEEL2019), Barcelona, Spain. ACM Digital Library. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3371647.3372205
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  49. Paul Capriotti, Iliana Zeler, and Mark Anthony Camilleri. 2021. Corporate communication through social networks: The identification of the key dimensions for dialogic communication. In M.A. Camilleri (Ed.) Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211003
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Walking the talk about Corporate Social Responsibility Communications

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by Wiley’s Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility (formerly known as Business Ethics: A European Review).

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2022). Walking the talk about corporate social responsibility communication: An Elaboration Likelihood Model perspective, Business Ethics, the Environment & Responsibility, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/beer.12427

(Source: Camilleri, 2022)

Theoretical implications

This contribution validated the Elaboration Likelihood Model’s (ELM’s) measures and key constructs relating to the Information Adoption Model (IAM). Specifically, this research identified the effects of information relevance, information accuracy, information accuracy, source trustworthiness and source expertise on the individual’ attitudes toward online CSR communications.

The results confirmed that both central as well as peripheral factors (to a lower extent) were having a significant effect on the targeted audiences’ changing attitudes toward corporate communications. In sum, this study indicated that online users appreciated relevant and timely CSR content from trusted sources – that were curated by experts. This finding is conspicuous with relevant theoretical underpinnings on ELM. For instance, Chen and Chang (2018) and even Rawlins (2008) contended that individuals are usually captivated by current, relevant, complete, accurate, reliable, comparable and clear communications.

Relevant academic literature reported that individuals may choose to pursue ELM’s central route, whenever they evaluate the quality of the arguments/information that is communicated to them (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Alternatively, if they are not interested or motivated on the content, they may usually rely on the sources’ credibility to form their attitudes and opinions on their messages. Previous research often utilized ‘source expertise’ and ‘source trustworthiness’ constructs to measure the respondents’ perceptions about the credibility of sources of information.

In this case, this study found that the research participants were more influenced by ELM’s central route processing as information timeliness and information relevance were having nuanced effect on attitudes when compared to the peripheral factors including source expertise. Evidently, the respondents reflected and thought on CSR communications they accessed through the Internet and via social media. This finding implies that the businesses’ elaborated, high-quality content was changing their stakeholders’ attitudes toward CSR information.

Nevertheless, the research model indicated that the participants were somehow affected by peripheral issues, particularly by the source expertise of content curators. Previous literature reported that the recipients of information can still be influenced by the peripheral route’s subjective cues and/or by heuristic inferences (i.e. low elaboration issues). For instance, many individuals are continuously exposed to corporate communications from businesses who have excellent credentials among their followers (Camilleri, 2021a).

The findings from this study revealed that source trustworthiness was the weakest antecedent of the individuals’ attitudes toward CSR communications. This result is similar to previous findings from other studies, where the researchers reported that there were lower effects from peripheral factors like source credibility/source trustworthiness (than from central factors) on information usefulness/attitudes toward information.

This research demonstrated that external stakeholders were mainly processing information relating to the businesses’ CSR activities through the central route, as they considered their communications as elaborate, timely and relevant. However, it also showed that they held positive perceptions about the expertise of content curators who were disseminating information on their CSR credentials via digital media

Managerial implications

This contribution has investigated the online users’ attitudes about CSR communications and revealed their perceptions about the sources’ credibility. It implies that businesses can improve their credentials if they publish quality CSR content that is appreciated by their stakeholders. This research suggests that external stakeholders expected businesses to publish relevant information that is accurate and timely. This finding suggests that there is scope for the businesses to regularly update their CSR webpages with the latest developments. For instance, they can publish certain information and newsfeeds about non-financial matters including on their immediate responses to COVID-19 like sanitization and hygienic measures in their workplace environments. They may disseminate health and safety information through social media sites or via online video sharing platforms. They can use different digital media to promote their businesses’ responsible behaviors toward their employees and the community at large, during different waves of the pandemic.

Ultimately, it is in the companies’ interest to communicate about appropriate ESG matters with different stakeholders (Camilleri, 2021b). Businesses ought to use corporate websites to disseminate information on commercial aspects, corporate governance policies, CSR and/or environmental sustainability initiatives as well as on COVID-19. In this day and age, they should also utilize social media networks (SNSs) on a regular basis, to raise awareness about their website, and to interact on different issues with their followers, in real time. They can publish appealing content including images and videos about their CSR activities to entice the curiosity of stakeholders. They may also share excerpts from their CSR disclosures and could feature forward-looking statements that shed light on their trajectories for a post COVID-19 era.

Limitations and directions for future research

This study is not without limitations. The measures that were used to capture the data were drawn from ELM and from its related IAM. These theoretical models were mostly referenced in previous studies that were mostly focused on the co-creation of content, including online reviews and electronic word of mouth publicity. Therefore, the survey items were adapted for a study that sought to explore the online users’ attitudes toward CSR communications. In this case, the results confirmed the reliability and validity of the constructs. Hence, prospective researchers are encouraged to replicate this study in other contexts.

Future studies may consider different constructs that may be drawn from other theoretical frameworks, to shed more light on the individuals’ attitudes toward online communications, information adoption and/or intentional behaviors. Researchers may adopt other constructs to evaluate different aspects of online content. They may investigate perceptions about information access, information understandability, data richness, interactivity and customization capabilities or information completeness, among others. Alternatively, they could determine whether the information is rhetoric, difficult to understand, confusing, ineffective or even useless for online users. Furthermore, alternative research methods and sampling frames can be used to capture and analyze the data. Interpretative studies can explore other stakeholders’ in-depth opinions and beliefs on CSR communications and delve deeper into their content.  Inductive studies may reveal other important issues on how to improve the quality and credibility of CSR disclosures in the digital age.

References

Camilleri, M. A. (2021a). Strategic dialogic communication through digital media during COVID-19. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 1-18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343294285_Strategic_Dialogic_Communication_Through_Digital_Media_During_COVID-19_Crisis

Camilleri, M.A. (2021b). Strategic attributions of corporate social responsibility and environmental management: The business case for doing well by doing good! Sustainable Development, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sd.2256

Chen, C. C., & Chang, Y. C. (2018). What drives purchase intention on Airbnb? Perspectives of consumer reviews, information quality, and media richness. Telematics and Informatics35(5), 1512-1523.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer, New York, NY.

Rawlins, B. (2008). Give the emperor a mirror: Toward developing a stakeholder measurement of organizational transparency. Journal of Public Relations Research, 21(1), 71-99.

This excerpt was adapted for a blog. The full paper can be downloaded through: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/359186812_Walking_the_talk_about_corporate_social_responsibility_communication_An_Elaboration_Likelihood_Model_perspective

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The students’ perceptions of remote learning through video conferencing!

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This is an excerpt from a recent article that was published by Springer’s Technology, Knowledge and Learning Journal.

Source: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2021). The Acceptance of Learning Management Systems and Video Conferencing Technologies: Lessons Learned from COVID-19. Technology, Knowledge & Learning.

The unexpected Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the provision of education in various contexts around the globe. Education service providers, including higher education institutions (HEIs) were required to follow their respective governments’ preventative social distancing measures and to increase their hygienic practices, to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. They articulated contingency plans, disseminated information about the virus, trained their employees to work remotely, and organised virtual sessions with students or course participants.

These latest developments have resulted in both challenges and opportunities to students and educators. Course instructors were expected to develop a new modus operandi to deliver their education services, in real time. During the first wave of COVID-19, HEIs were suddenly expected to shift from traditional and blended learning approaches to a fully virtual course delivery.

The shift to online, synchronous classes did not come naturally. COVID-19 has resulted in different problems for course instructors and their students. In many cases, educators were compelled to utilise online learning technologies to continue delivering their courses. In the main, educators have embraced the dynamics of remote learning technologies to continue delivering educational services to students, amid the peaks and troughs of COVID-19 cases.

Subsequently, policy makers have eased their restrictions when they noticed that there were lower contagion rates in their communities. After a few months of lockdown (or partial lock down) conditions, there were a number of HEIs that were allowed to open their doors. They instructed their visitors to wear masks, and to keep socially distant from each other. Most HEIs screened individuals for symptoms as they checked their temperatures and introduced strict hygienic practices like sanitisation facilities in different parts of their campuses.

However, after a year and a half, since the outbreak of COVID-19, some academic members of staff were still relying on the use of remote learning technologies to deliver education services, as they utilised learning management systems (LMS) and video conferencing software to teach their courses. During the pandemic, they became acquainted with online technologies that facilitated asynchronous as well as synchronous learning.

Whilst their asynchronous approaches included text and/or recorded video that were made available through LMS (like Moodle), in many cases, they also utilised video conferencing platforms including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, D2L, Webex, Adobe Connect, Skype for Business, Big Blue Button and EduMeet, among others, to interact with students in real time.

In this light, our research investigated the facilitating conditions that can foster the students’ acceptance and usage of remote learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs. We examined the participants’ motivations to use them to continue pursuing their educational programs from home, during COVID-19. Specifically, our study investigated students’ perceptions about the usefulness of remote learning, their interactive capabilities, their attitudes toward their utilisation, the facilitating conditions as well as their intentions to continue using them.

Our targeted respondents were registered students who followed full-time and part-time courses at the University of Malta in Malta. We used a structural equation modeling partial least squares (SEM-PLS) analytical approach to examine the responses of 501 students who voluntarily participated in our research.

The findings clearly indicated that the higher education students perceived the usefulness of remote learning technologies during COVID-19 and valued their interactive attributes. They confirmed that the respondents held positive perceptions toward their universities’ facilitating conditions (like ongoing support, as well as training and development opportunities).

The empirical results reported that the HEI’s facilitating conditions had a significant effect on the students’ interactive engagement with online learning resources and on their attitudes towards these technologies.

The confirmatory composite analysis reported that there were positive and highly significant effects that predicted the students’ intentions to continue using remote learning technologies. Evidently, educators have provided them with the necessary resources, knowledge and technical support to avail themselves of remote learning technologies.

The respondents indicated that they accessed their course instructors’ online resources and regularly interacted with them through live conferencing facilities. The findings from SEM-PLS confirmed that the perceived usefulness and perceived interactivity with online technologies had a positive effect on their attitudes toward remote learning.

In sum, this contribution has differentiated itself from other studies as it investigated the students’ perceptions and attitudes on the use of asynchronous as well as synchronous learning technologies in higher education. It implies that the integration of these technologies ought to be accelerated in the foreseeable future as they may become the norm, in a post COVID-19 era. Therefore, HEIs ought to continue investing in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees.

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Customers are always right, even after their shopping cart checkout!

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The outbreak of COVID-19 and its preventative measures have led several businesses and consumers to change their shopping behaviors. Many individuals have inevitably reduced their human-to-human interactions in physical service environments and were increasingly relying on the adoption of digital media and mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets for their shopping requirements.

Consumers as well as businesses are benefiting of faster connections as the loading speeds of these devices is one of the critical determining factors as to whether visitors may (or may not) be willing to browse through e-commerce websites or apps, to proceed to check out, and to lay down their credit cards.

Advances in technological capabilities have improved the consumers’ online shopping experiences. As a result, more businesses are benefiting from the expertise of online marketplaces to deliver personalized services to their customers. For instance, Amazon provides product recommendations to its visitors, that are based on their previous searches.

Ecommerce giants utilize machine learning technologies to segment consumers by geographical location, age and gender, buying habits, total expenditure, and more. They capture data from online users, including their browsing and purchase histories. They distinguish between profitable, loyal customers, price-sensitive customers, and identify those who are likely to abandon their shopping carts.

Prospective consumers will usually compare a wide variety of products and their corresponding prices, in different virtual marketplaces, before making their purchase decision. They will probably check out the consumer reviews to confirm the reputation and trustworthiness of online merchants. At times, they will not be in a position to confirm the legitimacy of certain websites and to determine if it is safe to disclose their payment details to anonymous vendors.

A few websites may require consumers to join their mailing list. They may expect them to provide their email addresses, that they may share with third parties. As a result, consumers could receive unwanted ads and scams in their inboxes. Moreover, they may experience phishing and spoofing. Therefore, shopping web pages should use SSL certificates to prove that their transactions are safe and secure.

Furthermore, e-commerce websites ought to feature accurate, timely and reliable content. They have to be as transparent as possible with online users. They should clarify their terms and conditions as well as their refund policies. The smallest thing that’s out of place in their e-commerce pages could rapidly erode the customers’ trust in their products and services.

Online users cannot inspect (or try) their chosen products until they receive them. They may experience delays in the delivery of their shopping items, particularly, if they get lost, detoured or delivered in the wrong address. Once they receive the product they ordered, they may decide to return it, if for some reason they are not satisfied by its quality. In this case, they could (or could not) be reimbursed for incurring shipping and packaging costs. Shopping websites are increasingly offering synchronous communications facilities to enhance their personalized services through web chat facilities that enable instantaneous conversations with online users.

This development has significantly improved the consumers’ perceptions about the service quality of e-commerce websites and their satisfaction levels. They also increased the chances of their repeat purchases. In sum, this contribution suggests that online businesses and marketplaces should identify the critical success factors that are differentiating e-commerce websites from one another. The most popular online marketplaces are capable of attracting repeat consumers through a consistent delivery of personalized customer service, thereby increasing their sales potential and growth prospects

This research confirmed that the consumers’ satisfaction with e-commerce websites has a significant effect on their loyalty as well as on their electronic word-of-mouth publicity. This is an important finding, considering that there are several shopping websites and online marketplaces where consumers can find identical or alternative products. In this case, the respondents suggested that e-commerce websites delivered good value to them and that they triggered their loyal behaviors. The research participants indicated that they were satisfied with the quality of the shopping websites and with their electronic services.

This study showed that customers were intrigued to share their positive or negative experiences with products and/or services with other online users. Hence, they were willing to cocreate online content for the benefit of prospective consumers. Many customers are increasingly voicing their opinions and recommendations through qualitative reviews and/or quantitative ratings to support other individuals in their purchase decisions. They may either encourage or discourage others from shopping from a particular vendor and/or website.

This research confirmed that the online users’ satisfaction levels with the service quality of the e-commerce website relied on different factors, including website attractiveness, functionality and security as well as on consumer order fulfillment, during and after a purchase. The websites’ designs and layouts can capture their visitors’ attention and may possibly improve the online consumers’ experiences during their purchase transactions.

The e-commerce websites’ appearance and their functionality may entice online users to continue browsing through their content and to revisit them again, in the future. Online users would be satisfied if the e-commerce websites are informative, useful and easy to use. They utilize shopping websites to access relevant content on the attributes and features of products, including consumer reviews. Therefore, the technical functionality of these websites’ inventory systems should feature accurate and timely information on the availability of items as well as on their prices and costs of delivery.

In this day and age, shopping websites should provide approximate shipping dates, estimated delivery times, et cetera. Online sellers should also establish clear information on their returning policies. They may direct online users and past consumers to frequently answered questions, and/or to chatbots. Alternatively, they may offer webchat facilities to engage with their valued customers, in real time.

Key Takeaway

Although there are many studies that have explored the service quality of e-commerce websites during a purchase transaction, only a few of them have focused on consumer fulfillment (and on their after-sales services). The findings from this research reported that timely deliveries, and the provision of personalized services have a highly significant effect on consumer satisfaction and loyalty.

Service providers ought to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations in different stages of their order fulfilment in online retailing contexts. They ought to deliver the ordered items as expeditiously as possible, to improve their service quality. Online retailers should respond to consumer enquiries, in a timely manner. This way, they can increase consumer satisfaction, minimize complaints and reduce the likelihood of negative criticism (and damaging e-WOM) in review websites and social media.

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This is an excerpt of my latest academic article that was published in the Journal of Strategy and Management. It is available here: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JSMA-02-2021-0045/full/html

A prepublication version is available through ResearchGate.

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Motivations to subscribe to streaming services

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Understanding motivations to use online streaming services

Prof. Mark Anthony Camilleri has recently co-authored an academic contribution that explored the consumers’ perceptions, motivations and intentions to use online streaming technologies. The following text is an adapted version of an open-access article that was accepted for publication in the Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC. The full paper can be accessed online through: 

https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074/full/html

The unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a considerable increase in the number of subscriptions to paid streaming services. Media and entertainment companies including Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix, among others, are responding to these latest developments in the marketing environment. These service providers may usually acquire exclusive licensing rights to stream a variety of TV shows and movies through their online platforms. In many cases, they are also investing in resources, competences and capabilities to produce and distribute their own content. They do so to offer their subscribers a wide selection of streaming services that can be accessed through digital devices and mobile applications (apps).

In this light, the researchers explored the online users’ motivations and gratifications from watching movies, TV series and/or live broadcasts through new media devices. From the outset, the researchers hypothesised that the individuals’ acceptance of streaming technologies, as well as their ritualised and instrumental motivations to use them, would have a positive effect on their intentions to continue using them.

The findings from this research indicated that the streaming software enhanced the respondents’ experience of watching informative and/or entertainment programmes. Hence, they were committed to continue watching recorded movies and TV series through digital media including mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.

The statistical analysis revealed that there were highly significant relationships between the individuals’ perceived ease of use of online programmes and their perceived usefulness. Both factors were also correlated with their intentions to use streaming technologies.

Moreover, the survey respondents’ ritualised motivations to use these online media was found to have a very significant effect on their intentions to use them. Evidently, they were utilising online streaming technologies on a habitual basis, to break the routine. It appears that they sought emotional gratifications from streaming services, as they considered them as a form of distraction.

The research participants also revealed that they used online streaming technologies for instrumental purposes to watch informative programmes, including news and talk shows in addition to entertainment programmes, including movies and series. Other studies also reported that there were many instances where individuals benefited of their smart phones and tablets’ instrumentality and ubiquity, as they enabled them to watch recorded videos, live streams as well as intermittent marketing content, when they were out and about.

During COVID-19, more businesses allocated significant marketing expenditures to online channels. As a result, many ads were also featured in different websites, including those that offer live streaming services. Video ads are usually presented to free-tier consumers as skippable or non-skippable streaming.

In this case, participants clearly indicated their agreement with the survey item that sought information about their preferences with regards to advertising options, whilst using streaming services. Respondents were aware that subscribed users of online streaming technologies can limit or block intrusive and repetitive advertisements. This finding suggests that there is scope for digital marketers to refine the quality of their video ads. Ultimately, it is in their interest to create engaging promotional clips that appeal to their target audiences.

In a similar vein, online streaming service providers ought to feature interactive content that enhances their customers’ overall online experience. This study revealed that the survey participants appreciated that the streaming programmes can be accessed from any place, at any time, through Internet networks and decent Wi-Fi connections.

Furthermore, respondents indicated that the streaming technologies were entertaining them in their free time. This factor affected their engagement with them. On the other hand, this study demonstrated that the research participants’ instrumental motivations were not predicting their intentions to continue using these media.

One of the plausible reasons for this finding is that respondents were using big screens to watch on-demand streaming services rather than accessing them via their mobile devices’ smaller screens.  The latest TVs offer high resolution images and better sound systems than smart phones and tablets.

Recap

This contribution sheds light on the factors that are motivating individuals to purchase online streaming services. It implied that online users were subscribing to these services to entertain themselves by watching new movies and TV series, in an ad-free environment. This study confirmed that consumers perceived the usefulness of online streaming technologies as they provided secure, reliable, low latency streaming infrastructures. Probably, consumers valued the service providers’ recommender systems as they reminded them about new or trending movies and TV series. Such alerts are usually related to the consumers’ personal preferences and previous consumption behaviours.

In conclusion, it is hoped that the findings from this research will open-up future research avenues to academia. Perhaps, other studies involving interpretative research can investigate the subscribers’ opinions and beliefs on streaming services. Inductive methodologies can possibly reveal important factors about the individuals’ consumption behaviours, and could also clarify why, where, when and how they are using online streaming technologies. This way, service providers of streaming services will be in a better position to retain customers and attract new ones.

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Falzon, L. (2021). Understanding motivations to use online streaming services: Integrating the technology acceptance model (TAM) and the uses and gratifications theory (UGT), Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC., Forthcoming, DOI: 10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074

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Using mobile learning for corporate training: A contextual framework

This is an excerpt from one my my latest chapters on the use of digital media.

Suggested citation: Butler, A., Camilleri, M. A., Creed, A., & Zutshi, A. (2021). The use of mobile learning technologies for corporate training and development: A contextual framework. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 115-130. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211007

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

There are a number of factors that can have an effect on the successful implementation of mobile learning (m-learning) for training and development purposes, including their course content, learning outcomes, the users’ perceived ease of use, usefulness and enjoyment, among other issues.

The individuals’ accessibility to these technologies or their spatial environment can also have an effect on their engagement with m-learning. Moreover, there may be certain distractions in the environment that can disrupt m-learning and/or decrease their effectiveness.

Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) flow theory suggests that individuals can be completely focused on specific tasks (Csikszentmihalyi, Aduhamdeh & Nakamura 2014). They may immerse themselves in their training and development through m-learning. Of course, they have to be in the right environment where there are no distractions. Hence, the contextual setting of m-learning can influence its effectiveness. For example, experiential learning theory suggests that individuals learn through their ongoing interactions with their surrounding environment as they find meanings to problems and develop their understanding (Illeris, 2007). Similarly, Kolb’s (1984) learning theory posits that knowledge may result from a combination of direct experiences and socially acquired understandings (Matthews & Candy 1999). Laouris and Eteokleous (2005) discuss about the critical factors that could influence the outcomes of m-learning.

Hence, this contribution builds on these theoretical insights and on the findings from this study. The authors of this chapter put forward a contextual framework for m-learning. They identify the specific factors, including; accessibility and cost; the usefulness of the learning content; the ease of use of the technology; time; extrinsic and intrinsic motivations (e.g. rewards and perceived enjoyment, among others); integration with other learning approaches; individual learning styles and predispositions; and spatial issues and the surrounding environment, as featured here:

A prepublication version of this contribution is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344337930_The_Use_of_Mobile_Learning_Technologies_for_Corporate_Training_and_Development_A_Contextual_Framework

The authors argue that these eight contextual factors can have an effect on the successful implementation of m-learning.

  1. Time: This relates to the time that the users dedicate to learn to use and to engage in m-learning.
  2. Spatial issues and the environment: These relate to the physical location of the user when they access m-learning content.
  3. The usefulness of the learning content: The learning content (video, audio, written, or a combination of these) has to be useful to improve the mobile users’ knowledge, skills and competences.
  4. Ease of use of the technology: The m-learning technology has to be easy to use. It may (not) be connected to wireless networks (if it is, there should not be connectivity problems when accessing the content). The m-learning technology may require passive or active learning (for example, reading and/or interacting through games).
  5. Individual learning styles and predispositions: The m-learning technology should consider the individuals’ age, cognitive knowledge (e.g. memory); skills; visual, auditory and/or kinaesthetic abilities, as well as their preferences toward certain technologies. The technology may require interaction with peers or facilitators in synchronous, or asynchronous modes (these issues will depend on the learning outcomes of the mentioned technology).
  6. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations: Organisations and professionals should also consider extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to entice the mobile users to use the m-learning technology.
  7. Accessibility and cost: These relate to the accessibility and cost of the m-learning technology. It can be available through different mobile platforms. It may be used by wide range of users (who have different learning needs) for different purposes. The software and/or hardware ought to be reasonable priced.
  8. Integration with other learning approaches: The m-learning technology ought to be complemented and blended with offline teaching approaches.

This proposed framework represents different contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful implementation of learner-centred corporate education (see Grant, 2019; Janson, Söllner & Leimeister, 2019). These eight factors are influencing the effectiveness of m-learning during the training and development of human resources. Hence the arrows are pointing inwards. However, the factors in the outer circle are related to each other and they can lead to further considerations. M-leaners may choose a short video over a longer podcast to learning or revise depending on the content or their situation. There are innumerable other examples of contextual learning due to the diversity of people, organizations and learning resources, objects and opportunities. For example, time is related to the spatial issues and the environment. The mobile users will use their downtimes wisely at the office, at home, or whilst commuting to and from work if they engage with m-learning applications. Their down time may provide them with an opportunity to improve their learning journey.

Conclusions and implications

The contextual factors for mobile learning encompass a variety of dimensions including time, spatial issues and the environment, the usefulness of the learning content and the ease of use of the technology, individual learning styles and predispositions, extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, accessibility and cost, as well as integration with other learning approaches.  The authors posit that this comprehensive framework can support businesses in their human resources training and development. It enables them to identify all the contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful roll out of m-learning designs.

This chapter has featured a critical review of the relevant literature and has presented the findings from an empirical research. The data for this study was gathered through quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The researchers have disseminated a survey questionnaire among course participants and have organised semi-structured interview sessions with corporate training participants. In sum, this study reported that the younger course participants were more likely to embrace the m-learning technologies than their older counterparts. They suggested that they were using laptops, hybrids as well as smartphones and tablets to engage with m-learning applications at home and when they are out and about. These recent developments have led many businesses to utilize mobile technologies to engage with their employees or to use them for their training and development purposes.

Therefore, this contribution has identified the contextual factors that should be taken into account by businesses and/or by training organisations. Thus, the authors have presented their proposed framework for mobile learning. This framework is substantiated by their empirical research and by relevant theoretical underpinnings that are focused on m-learning.

The authors are well aware that every study has its inherent limitations. In this case, this sample was small, but it was sufficient for the purposes of this exploratory study. Future studies may include larger sampling frames and/or may use different research designs. The researchers believe that there is still a knowledge gap in academia on this topic. For the time being, just a few studies have explored the use of mobile learning among businesses. The mobile learning technologies can be rolled out for the training and development of corporate employees. The training organisations can encourage their course participants to engage in self-directed learning and development through formal, informal or micro learning contexts. Corporate educators and services providers of continuous professional training and development can use the mobile learning applications to improve the employees’ skills and competences. This may in turn lead to increased organisational productivities and competitiveness.

This chapter was published in Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age.

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The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram

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The following is an excerpt that was drawn from one of my latest contributions.

Suggested citation: Rios Marques, I., Casais, B., & Camilleri, M. A. (2021). The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 131-144. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211008

Brands seek to improve their customer engagement in social networks. They may use different tools including the endorsements of digital influencers. Therefore, this chapter addresses a gap in the academic literature as it compares the outcomes of different types of digital endorsers including celebrity endorsers and micro-influencers, in the context of a luxury jewellery brand. The researchers delve into Instagram’s analytics to explore the differences between two types of digital influencers. This study examines the number of followers, the clicks, comments and likes on the brand’s page in Instagram. The results suggest that different types of digital influencers are generating various forms of engagement and interactions. The celebrity endorsements are boosting the number of followers, while the use of a micro-influencers is increasing the number of clicks, comments and likes on the brand’s pages. This contribution implies that luxury brands can optimize their online marketing strategies by using digital influencers. It proves that the use of social media influencers can enhance the customer-brand engagement.

Celebrity endorsements

Most brands today are committed to associate themselves with famous personalities. They may consider sport personalities, athletes and celebrities from the movie industry (Vaghela, 2012), because they are trusted by their followers when they promote products and services (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2013) and/or social causes (Casais & Proença, 2012). It is also important to understand that the use of celebrity endorsement enhances the consumers’ attitudes toward the brand, credibility in the brand, and can ultimately increase their purchase intention (Wang & Scheinbaum, 2018). The celebrity endorsement is recognised as a theoretically powerful communication tool for brand marketers (Carroll, 2009). The public are fascinated by famous people and celebrities. They may consider them as role models. Therefore, brands are using popular celebrities to advertise their products. The celebrity endorsements are improving the brands’ return on investment and the success rates of their marketing campaigns (Pringle & Binet, 2005). Several studies have concluded that the celebrity endorsements influence the consumer buying decisions (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Those studies stress that the online users recall those products that are promoted by the celebrity endorsers. The credible endorsers can influence their followers’ perceptions about the quality of the brands’ products as they associate the endorsed products with the image of the celebrity image (Hollensen & Schimmelpfennig, 2013).

Macro-celebrities are reference people who attract the public. They are considered influential as they can entice the consumers’ buying attitudes and trigger behavioural changes (Chung & Cho, 2017). The credibility of the source depends on three factors: expertise, reliability and friendliness. Expertise is the communicator’s ability to support what is said in advertising, reliability is related to the communicator’s objectivity and honesty, and friendliness describes the attractiveness of that source (Vaghela, 2012). To gain a broad and loyal following, macro celebrities create interesting and engaging content, one type of content that has actually been very popular with the public is celebrities. Celebrities can also be branded because they can be professionally managed and they possess the attributes and particularities of a brand(Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2013).

Micro-influencers

Individuals including young micro-influencers are increasingly using the social networking applications through their mobile devices. They are using them as their main platform to raise their profile among other social media users. Very often, these micro-influencers are considered more important in the digital environment than popular celebrities (Dunkley, 2017). These digital influencers are sources of inspiration and advice for other digital consumers. The originality and the uniqueness of their posts are key factors for effective content marketing. Their online opinion leadership can influence other consumer intentions and behaviours (Casaló, Flavián & Ibáñez-Sánchez, 2018). They use their online profile to connect with other social media users and to raise awareness about the brands’ products. These influencers are considered important in the online community (Khamis, Ang & Welling, 2017). Therefore, many companies approach those influential bloggers who are capable of marketing and promoting their products and services. Very often, they are expected to create new promotional content, including texts and images on behalf of their sponsor (Gustafsson & Khan, 2017).

Social networks have provided a platform for ordinary online users as it enabled them to share their personal stories and content. Hence, their social media posts may become visible and popular (Casaló et al., 2018), particularly if they share interesting content that appeals to their followers. The strategic and targeted development of social media content can improve the micro-celebrities’ (or micro-influencers’) public visibility and attention (Khamis et al., 2017). The advantage of micro-influencers is that they have created real relationships with their audience and expressed themselves more personally than most conventional celebrities (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). Micro-celebrities have become very popular through Instagram, but these days they can also be found on YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms. They are benefiting of several lucrative opportunities that were made available through the social media (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). As a result, more individuals are becoming micro-celebrities as they gain popularity among other users through social networks. Micro-celebrities would not raise their profile and be famous, if the social networks did not exist. The more followers a person has, the more noticeable is their social influence (Jin & Phua, 2014). These influencers are very powerful because consumers rely on their referrals and word-of-mouth publicity. They maintain interactive, personal relationships with their audience by engaging with them through social media (Camilleri, 2018; Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017).

To use this marketing strategy, companies need to identify the most appropriate digital influencer to represent their brand.  There are influencers who may have different traits and characteristics that can appeal to specific brands (Bernazzani, 2017), in terms of identification, credibility and product-endorser fit (Schouten, Janssen & Verspaget, 2020). For example, micro-influencers may have fewer followers, but they are usually committed to engage with them. They tend to interact with their audience and to produce relevant content that appeals to their followers (Barker, 2016). Cautious, thoughtful and the effective use of endorsements in social media can leverage the brand in the marketplace. They contribute to create brand awareness and improve the brand equity. All of this is only possible if the marketing managers choose the most appropriate celebrity to represent their brands (Anagnostopoulos, Parganas, Chadwick & Liu, 2016). The brands’ partnerships with the influencers may be based on their individual characteristics, for example, consumers identify more closely with micro-influencers, and tend to aspire or admire celebrities (Bernazzani, 2017). Bergkvist, Hjalmarson & Mägi (2016) state that the effect of celebrity endorsement is most significant in the consumers’ buying decision when the they realise that the celebrity is not motivated by the money they receive but by the quality of the products that they endorse.

Celebrities, who have a large follower base are more news-oriented and are usually less social than micro-influencers (Kay, Mulcahy & Parkinson, 2020). Celebrities may have a team of collaborators who help them create the advertisements. The bloggers, for example, attract fewer followers than celebrities but they usually focus on more specific topics and niches (Khamis et al., 2017). Hence, the bloggers may be considered as micro-influencers as they attract those followers who are searching for more candid and detailed product content, and/or who may be willing to interact with them (Goodman et al., 2011). In short, partnering with respected digital influencers can help the businesses to gain consumer trust. At the same time, they will help them sell their products and services. (Hsu, Lin & Chiang, 2013).

Conclusion

This research posits that there is scope for the brands to use digital influencers to help them increase their consumer engagement through Instagram. The celebrities and the micro-influencers can support them in reaching wider audiences. The brands will benefit if they increase their number of followers, visits, comments and likes, as this improves the consumer-brand engagement. The findings of this study have clearly indicated that the macro or micro influencers posts have resulted in more Instagram users who have engaged with the luxury jewellery brand. The results have shown that the users’ involvement and interactions depended on the type of influencer that was used.

This study revealed that the celebrity attracted more followers, whereas the micro-influencer attracted more visits to the page. The latter has registered a higher increase than the celebrity, in terms of the number of comments and likes on brand’s publications. In sum, this contribution proves that the digital influencers can increase the consumer engagement with brands. However, different types of influencers may result in different interactions and engagement levels.

A pre-publication version of the full chapter can be downloaded through Researchgate.

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Key Dimensions in Social Media Communication

This is an excerpt from one of my latest contributions that will be published in Emerald’s “Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age”.

Suggested Citation: Capriotti, P., Zeler, I., & Camilleri, M. A. (2021). Corporate communication through social networks: The identification of key dimensions for dialogic communication. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 33-52. DOI 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211003

The relevant literature suggests that there is dialogic communication between organizations and their followers on social media, when both parties are willing to establish a communicational exchange (Kent & Taylor, 2002; Taylor & Kent, 2014). This may result in a dialogue when organizations respond and engage with other social media subscribers. There are two main dimensions that can determine the effectiveness of dialogic communications through social networks: The organizations’ “Predisposition to Interaction” and their “Effective Interaction” with the publics. The first one includes three determinants: “Active Presence”, “Interactive Attitude” and “Interactive Resources”. The second has two determinants: “Responsiveness” and “Conversation” as reported in Figure 1. These are five key dimensions that are influencing the effectiveness of dialogic communications through social networks:

  • Predisposition to interact in social networks

The basis for dialogic communication lies in the subjects’ readiness and willingness to interact with one another. A consistent digital presence and an ongoing dialogue with online users via social networks can help organizations to reinforce their stakeholder relationships. The organizations’ active presence and their interactive content can facilitate the online users’ engagement and may foster two-way conversations (Eberle, Berens & Li, 2013). Their predisposition towards online interactions through social media networks involves three core dimensions: the active presence (that necessitates a continuous online activity that facilitates interaction), the interactive attitude (that manifests the willingness to interact) and the interactive resources (this includes the resources that are used to disseminate content that is intended to promote interaction). Hence, a higher predisposition of organizations towards interaction on social networks is based on a greater level of these three dimensions (active presence, interactive attitude, and interactive resources).

  • Active presence

The active presence suggests that maintaining a consistent presence and activity in social networks increases the possibility of generating conversations with users (Bezawada, Rishika, Kumar & Janakiraman, 2013). The companies can use the social networks as a vehicle to promote their online content including live broadcasts, podcasts, recorded videos, images and stories. It also allows them to create events, conduct surveys and to engage with online users in real-time. Their active presence on social networks enables them to respond and interact with the different publics. The more active their online presence, the higher the likelihood of generating interactive conversations with individuals and organizations. Therefore, a first key dimension is measuring the organizations’ active presence, by identifying whether they have an interactive presence in social networks and to determine what is their level of activity.

The ‘active presence’ analyses the active and consistent use of social networks that enable, facilitate and encourage online users to share the organizations’ information with others. Therefore, the organizations’ ‘active presence’ comprises two variables: (a) the level of presence: to determine whether companies have official corporate profiles on social networks; (b) the level of activity: to analyse the weekly and daily average of publications of organizations on the social networks (e.g. posts and updated statuses). A greater active presence would involve a higher predisposition towards interaction.

Several authors agree that social networks are increasingly being incorporated in corporate communication plans as organizations can use these channels to spread content, practice active listening, take part in online conversations, thereby engaging with online users’ and building a relationship with them (Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Castillo-Esparcia & Smolak Lozano, 2013; Chu, 2011; Neill & Moody, 2015; Rodríguez Fernández, 2012; Waters, Burnett, Lamm & Lucas, 2009). Other authors contend that the organizations’ presence on social networks ought to be part of their communication strategy (Losada-Díaz & Capriotti, 2015; Viñarás Abad & Cabezuelo Lorenzo, 2012). The practitioners themselves are well aware that there is scope in using social networks in order to enhance their organizations’ communications with stakeholders (Wigley & Zhang, 2011).

Cohen (2015) maintained that it is difficult to quantify the most effective frequency of social media posts. If the organizations post too frequently, they risk annoying their followers, whilst if they post infrequently, their audience may forget that they exist. Various experts, including Capriotti & Ruesja, 2018; Jordan, 2017; Myers, 2019; Patel, 2016; Shane, 2018; Social Report, 2018; Zeler & Capriotti, 2017; Zeler, Oliveira & Malaver, 2019, among others, have put forward their recommendations about the most appropriate publication frequency in different social networks. For example, Kemp (2019) suggested that the posting frequency in Facebook should be between 1 and 2 posts per day, in Twitter between 3 and 5 tweets per day, in YouTube between 1 and 2 videos per week and in Instagram between 1 and 2 posts per day.

Different studies have reported a huge disparity in terms of the outcomes about the presence and activity of organizations on social networks. Some researchers indicated that the activity of organizations on social networks reaches a frequency of less than 1 post per day (Devaney, 2015; Losada-Díaz & Capriotti, 2015; Quintly, 2016; Statista, 2017). Conversely, others found that companies are publishing at least one post per day (Estudio de Comunicación, 2017; Kim, Kim & Hoon Sung, 2014). This disparity in the results is because the researchers may have explored different contexts. Alternatively, they could have used different methodologies and sampling frames to investigate the organizations’ activity on social media networks.

  • Interactive attitude

The interactive attitude is focused on the need to promote actions and content that can enhance online conversations with online users (Safko & Brake, 2009). The organizations may encourage their online followers to cocreate content or simply to share their positive experiences with others and to engage in positive word-of-publicity. They are in a position to foster dialogic, two-way communications on social networks in order to build their reputation and trust from their publics (Camilleri, 2015; Camilleri, 2018b). At the same time, they can demonstrate that they care to respond to their stakeholders’ queries or concerns.

Therefore, a second key dimension involves measuring the interactive attitude, by examining the organizations’ communication approaches on social networks. The organizations’ ‘interactive attitude’ is based on two approaches: (a) informative approach: This refers to the creation and presentation of informative content. Such content is descriptive/expository and encourages unidirectional communications; (b) interactive approach: This refers to the creation and dissemination of content that is intended to trigger conversations and the exchange of information. Hence, interactive approaches facilitate two-way communications (as online users are motivated to participate in online discussions, to disseminate viral content, subscribe to particular activities, share their reviews, opinions and/or recommendations, answer questions, etc.). The interactive approaches necessitate that the organizations’ demonstrate a higher predisposition towards interacting with the publics.

Several authors (Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Diga & Kelleher, 2009; Eyrich, Padman & Sweetser, 2008; Muckensturm, 2013; Wang, 2015) emphasise that social networks promote dialogic communications, which in turn could improve the relationships with stakeholders. Various studies have reported that many organizations are already using the Internet for corporate communication purposes, as they disseminate information about their business with their publics through corporate websites (Kent & Taylor, 1998; Moreno & Capriotti, 2006), blogs (Seltzer & Mitrook, 2007) and social networks (Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Ji, Li, North & Liu, 2016; Pace, Buzzanca & Fratocchi, 2014; Waters et al., 2009). Their bidirectional communication is possible as long as there are ongoing conversations and a regular dialogue with stakeholders (Valentini, 2015). For this to happen, it is necessary to share relevant content that appeals to the targeted audiences. This way, the corporate communication messages will result in increased stakeholder engagement and may inspire further interactions with the publics (Abitbol & Lee, 2017).

  • Interactive Resources

The interactive resources include those resources that are required to produce relevant, interactive content (Zeler & Capriotti, 2018, 2019). Theunissen & Wan Noordin (2012) maintain that successful organizations design appropriate dialogic environments that are intended to facilitate stakeholder engagement.  Their corporate communications can be presented through different media including written content and graphics through printed materials, hypertexts and/or audiovisual formats that can be accessed through digital and mobile technologies, etc. Anderson et al. (2016) noted that the communication experts were using writing skills to build relationships with their publics. The author argued that the corporate communications content ought to be relevant, concise and easily understood by online users. The organizations’ creative messages may include certain keywords that appeal to their followers, to foster their interaction (Abitbol & Lee, 2017). Hence, online users may be intrigued to engage in conversations through their comments and replies.

Therefore, a third key dimension is to measure the interactive resources, by studying the information resources used by organizations to spread their content on social networks. The ‘interactive resources’ are a key dimension for corporate communication, as organizations use them to convey information to their publics. Organizations rely on the usage of interactive resources to spread their content to their audiences. The interactive resources, including the social networks can be used to facilitate the interaction and dialogue with online users. The social media enable the exchange of information as they can feature different formats. These formats may usually be combined within the same message. For example, the communication formats include (1) graphic resources: These are composed of fixed images, texts, and emojis. Such resources may be used to foster the dissemination of information in a mono-logic manner; (2) audiovisual resources: These include videos, podcasts and/or animated images (GIFs). Such resources have potential to reach greater audiences because they have a greater capacity to appeal to the individuals’ emotions (as they can increase their attention span); (3) hypertextual resources: These comprise links, hashtags and user tags. They include resources that can trigger the exchange of information. Online users may be enticed to participate, interact and engage in online conversations. The greater access, ease of use and availability of hypertextual and audiovisual resources have led many organizations as well as individuals to use these formats and to present them in social networks.

A few studies indicated that there is a significant increase in individuals who are watching videos  online and/or via social networks. According to the Global Web Index (2017), more than 90% of Internet users watch online videos every month (Smith, 2017), and more than 50% watch videos on the main social networks. These findings represent an increase of almost 20% when compared to the previous year. Valentine (2017) posited that the social media networks have been augmented with the audiovisual resources. The authors argued that the videos add value to the social network strategies as they provide greater levels of engagement. Hence, organizations are encouraged to use the videos to enhance their corporate communication messages (Pletikosa Cvijikj & Michahelles, 2013).

Currently, we are witnessing an exponential growth in the use of audiovisual resources that are posted on social networks (this may be due to the increase in connection speeds coupled with the technological improvements of the mobile devices). However, a review of the relevant literature reported that the fixed image is still the most used resource among organizations (Twenge, Martin & Spitzberg, 2019; Luarn, Lin & Chiu, 2015; Waters et al., 2009). A few studies found that institutional websites were posting more images in social media posts rather than videos and links (Capriotti, Carretón & Castillo, 2016; McCorkindale, 2010). These findings suggest that organizations are using their available resources to publish visual (graphic) content. Some practitioners were not utilizing other formats including interactive, audiovisual resources, in their corporate communication. These latter resources could improve the organizations’ engagement with online users.

  • Effective communicative exchange in social networks

The effective communicative exchange involves continuous interactions between the organizations and the online users, and among the online users themselves, within social networks. The successful dialogic exchanges rely on the parties’ responsiveness as well as on ongoing conversations (Anderson et al., 2016; Kiousis, 2002; Rafaeli, 1988; Walther, Deandrea, Kim & Anthony, 2010). Thus, the communicational exchange between the organizations and their publics is dependent on various forms of interactive engagement (e.g. likes, comments, follows, tagging, mentions with hashtags, group memberships, etc.). The greater implementation of the conversational exchange will represent a higher level of interaction.

  • Responsiveness

The responsiveness is evidenced when the recipients react to the communications that they receive. This is usually demonstrated when there is a response or reply (from the part of the recipient of the information) to an original message. For example, the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ of the social media networks would clearly indicate the online users’ responsiveness to the organizational communications (Anderson et al., 2016; Macnamara, 2014). The likes suggest that the individuals are (somehow) appreciating the posted content (within social media), albeit in a passive manner. Recently, Facebook has introduced other features in addition to its popular like function, including love, care, haha, wow, sad and angry emojis.  Similarly, Linkedin has included the like, celebrate, love, insightful and curious emojis. Yet, these forms of communication do not involve any verbal expression from the social media users. On the other hand, when individuals share posts (and links) of organizations, or of third parties in their profile, they become volunteer spokesmen for them as they promote their content (Abitbol & Lee, 2017; Cho, Schweickart & Haase, 2014). Therefore, a fourth key dimension is to measure Responsiveness, by studying the rate of support and viralization generated by organizations on social networks.

Organizations are encouraged to measure their social media users’ responsiveness to their digital content that they share via social networks. For instance, individuals may exhibit different ‘levels of responsiveness’ toward the organizations’ posts through social media platforms. Their degree of responsiveness may be evaluated  by the social media users’ engagement, in terms of: 1) Rate of Likes: obtained from the average of total likes by company and post in relation to the number of followers of companies; (2) Rate of Shares: obtained from the total average of shares by company and post in relation to the number of companies’ followers. Hence, organizations can use these quantitative measures to better understand the level of responsiveness to their social media activity.

  • Conversation

The conversation dimension involves interactive communicative exchanges between two or more parties. The recipients of the communication interact with the communicator and engage in conversations. For example, online users can dialogue and exchange their insights with organizations through the social networks (Anderson et al., 2016; Kiousis, 2002; Walther et al., 2010). The conversation on social networks is usually manifested through ‘comments’. The comments are the most genuine expression of the online users’ interaction on social networks. They are considered as most relevant element as they provide a rich source of qualitative data to organizations. They require much more commitment than likes and shares, as organizations are expected to respond to the social media users’ comments and to engage in direct conversations with them. Hence, online conversations facilitate the communicative exchange between the organizations and the publics (Abitbol & Lee, 2017; Cho et al., 2014).  Therefore, a fifth key dimension analyse the rate of conversation generated by organizations on social networks.

The digital conversations provide qualitative insights to organizations about their followers or other online users. The organizations may capture and analyse the interpretative content of online users through social media posts and comments. The quantitative measures may include: a) Intensity: this refers to the total general number of exchanges between an organization and their publics, based on the rate of comments. (b) Reciprocity: this refers to measuring whether there is equitable communication between an organization and its followers, analysing the level of balance in the exchange between an organization and its publics, obtained from the total percentage of comments made by users and companies. Thus, the more balanced the communicational exchange between an organization and its publics, the greater the quality of the interaction. And the more imbalanced the communicational exchange between an organization and its publics, the poorer the quality of interaction. Thus, it is in the interest of organizations to maintain a balanced communicational exchange with their publics.

The full version of this chapter (a pre-publication version of this contribution) is available through ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

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A taxonomy of online marketing terms

This is an excerpt from one of my latest chapters on online marketing methods.

Photo by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Suggested Citation: Hajarian, M., Camilleri, M. A., Diaz, P., & Aedo, I. (2021). A taxonomy of online marketing methods for corporate communication. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 235-250. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211014

One of the well-known online marketing methods is the use of email marketing. It is one of the most popular digital tactics. Despite the current popularity of social media, many individuals still prefer to receive the news about the brands via emails (Camilleri, 2018a). Email marketing is very effective in terms of return on investment (ROI). However, there are many ways that can improve the email marketing performance (Conceição & Gama, 2019). Sahni, Wheeler and Chintagunta (2018) found that by personalizing email marketing (e.g. adding the name of the receiver to the email subject), the probability that the receiver reads the email increases by 20%. Conceição and Gama (2019) have developed a classification algorithm to predict the effectiveness of email campaign. The authors suggested that the open rates were based on the keywords that were featured inside the email. They maintained that the utilization of personalized messages and the inclusion of question marks in the subjects of the email can increase the chance of opening an email. Moreover, they hinted that there are specific times during the day where there are more chances that the marketing emails will be noticed and read by their recipients. These times can be identified by using data mining technologies.

Direct emails could be forwarded to specific users for different reasons. Evans, (2018) described advertising emails in three categories: (i) promotional emails that raise awareness about attractive offers, including discounts and reduced prices of products and services. This type of email is very helpful to increase sales and customer loyalty. Some innovative marketers are using disruptive technologies, including gamification to reward and incentivize online users to click their email links; (ii) electronic newsletters that are aimed at building consumer engagement. Hence, these emails ought to provide high-quality, interactive content to online users. These emails are also known as relational emails that are intended to build a rapport with online users; (iii) confirmation emails that are used to confirm to the customers that their online transactions were carried out successfully. These types of emails are very valuable in terms of branding and corporate image. In sum, the electronic newsletters are intended to redirect online users to the businesses’ websites.

Another major online marketing method is the social network marketing. Brands and corporations can feature their page on social media networks (e.g. Facebook or Instagram) to communicate with their customers and/or promote their products and services to their followers. This can result in an improved brand awareness and a surge in sales. On the other hand, customers can write their reviews about brands or even purchase products online (Smith, Hernández-García, Agudo Peregrina & Hair, 2016). Thus, social network marketing can have a positive impact on electronic positive eWOM advertising in addition to enhancing the customers’ loyalty (Smith et al, 2016).

There are other forms of social network marketing including influencer marketing, video marketing and viral marketing, among others. The social networks are providing various benefits to various marketers as they can use them to publish their content online. Their intention is to influence online users and to entice them to purchase their products or services. Liang, Wang and Zhao (2019) have developed a novel algorithm that can identify the effects of influencer marketing content. Notwithstanding, various social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly placing the businesses’ video ads for their subscribers. In both cases, the advertisers may use Facebook marketing (Instagram is owned by Facebook) to identify the most appropriate subscribers to serve their ads (Camilleri, 2019). The social networks are a very suitable place for targeted advertising because they have access to a wide range of user information such as their demographical details, and other relevant information (Hajarian, Bastanfard, Mohammadzadeh & Khalilian, 2019a). However, online users may not always be interested in the marketers’ social media messages. As a result, they may decide to block or filter ads (Camilleri, 2020).

One of the most profitable and interesting online marketing methods is the Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) (see Hajarian, Bastanfard, Mohammadzadeh & Khalilian, 2017). The internet users are increasingly engaging in eWOM. More individuals are sharing their positive or negative statements about products or services (Ismagilova, Dwivedi, Slade & Williams, 2017). Hence, the individual users’ reviews in online fora, blogs, and social media can be considered as eWOM. Ismagilova et al. (2017) stated that the businesses would benefit through positive eWOM as this would improve their positioning in their consumers’ minds. Moreover, eWOM is also useful to prospective consumers as they rely on the consumers’ independent comments about their experience with the businesses’ products or services. The consumers’ reviews and ratings can reduce the risk and search time of prospective consumers. In addition, individuals can use the review platforms to ask questions and/or interact with other users. These are some of the motivations that lure online users to engage in eWOM.

Influencer marketing is another type of online marketing that is conspicuous with the social media. The influencers may include those online users who are promoting products or brands to their audiences. Hence, influencer marketing is closely related to eWOM advertising. However, in this case, the influencer may be a popular individual including a celebrity, figurehead or an athlete who will usually have a high number of followers on social media. The influencers may be considered as the celebrities of online social networks. They are proficient in personal branding (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). Hence, the social media influencers will promote their image like a brand. Thus, the influencer marketing, involves the cooperation of two brands, the social media influencer and the brand that s/he are promoting (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). Social media influencers can charge up to $250,000 for each post (Lieber, 2018), although this depends on the number of their audience and the platform that they are active on. The influencers work on different topics such as lifestyle, fashion, comedy, politics and gaming (Stoldt, 2019). It is projected that influencer marketing will become a $5 to $10 billion market by 2020 (Mediakix, 2019). It is worth to mention that the gaming influencers are also becoming very successful in online marketing.

Viral marketing is another method of online marketing that can be performed by regular social media users (not necessarily influencers). The social media subscribers can disseminate online content, including websites, images and videos among friends, colleagues and acquaintances (Daif & Elsayed, 2019). Their social media posts may become viral (like a virus) if they are appreciated by their audiences. In this case, the posts will be shared and reshared by third parties. The most appealing or creative content can turn viral in different social media. For example, breaking news or emotional content, including humoristic videos have the potential to become viral content as they are usually appreciated and shared by social media users.

The social networks as well as the messengers like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, et cetera are ideal vehicles of viral marketing as online users and their contacts are active on them. Similarly, other marketing methods such as email marketing can also be used as a tool for viral marketing. In viral marketing the influencers can play a very important role as they can spread the message among their followers. Hence, the most influential people could propagate online content that can turn viral. Nguyen, Thai and Dinh (2016) have developed algorithms that identify the most effective social media influencers that have more clout among their followers. In a similar way, businesses can identify and recruit influential social media users to disseminate their promotional content (Pfeiffer & Zheleva, 2018). Their viral marketing strategies may involve mass-marketing sharing incentives, where users receive rewards for promoting ads among their friends (Pfeiffer & Zheleva, 2018). There are business websites that are incentivizing online users, by offering financial rewards if they invite their friends to use their services. 

Videos are one of the best methods for marketing. Abouyounes (2019) estimated that over 80% of internet traffic was related to videos in 2019. He projected that US businesses will spend $28 billion on video marketing in 2020. The relevant literature suggests that individuals may be intrigued to share emotional videos. Such videos may even go viral (Nikolinakou & King, 2018). The elements of surprise, happiness as well as other factors such as the length of the video can affect whether a video turns viral or not. Abouyounes’s (2019) reported that the individuals would share a video with their friends if they found it to be interesting. Alternatively, they may decide to disseminate such videos on social media to share cognitive (informational) and/or emotional messages among their contacts. Hence, the term social video marketing refers to those videos that can increase the social media users’ engagement with video content. Over 77% of the business that have used social video marketing have reported a positive direct impact on their online metrics (Camilleri, 2017).

With the rise of social media, many online users have started to refine the content of their online messages to appeal to the different digital audiences. The online users’ content marketing involves the creation of relevant messages that are shared via videos, blogs and social media content. These messages are intended to stimulate the recipients’ interest. The content marketers’ aim is to engage with existing and potential customers (Järvinen & Taiminen, 2016). Therefore, their marketing messages ought to be relevant for their target audiences. The online users may not perceive that the marketed content is valuable and informative for them. Thus, the content should be carefully adapted to the targeted audience. The content marketers may use various interactive systems to engage with online users in order to gain their trust (Montero, Zarraonandia, Diaz, & Aedo, 2019; Díaz, Aedo & Zarraonandia, 2019a; Díaz, Zarraonandía, Sánchez-Francisco, Aedo & Onorati, 2019b; Díaz & Ioannou, 2019c; Baltes, 2015). To this end, the advertisers should analyze the interests of their target audience to better understand their preferred content. Successful content marketing relies on the creation of convincing and timely messages that appeal to online users. Zarrella (2013) study suggested that some Facebook and Twitter content is more effective during particular times of the day and in some days of the week.

Native advertising present promotional content including articles, infographics, videos, et cetera that are integrated within the platforms where they are featured (e.g. in search engines or social media). In 2014, various business invested more than $3.2 billion in this type of digital advertising (Wojdynski & Evans, 2016). Native ads may include banners or short articles that are presented in webpages. However, online users would be redirected to other webpages if they click on them. Parsana, Poola, Wang and Wang (2018) has explored the click-through rates (CTR) of native advertisements as they examined the historic data of online users. Other studies investigated how native ads were consistent in different situations and pages (Lin, 2018).

The advertorials are similar to native ads as they are featured as reports or as recommendations within websites. They are presented in such a way that the reader thinks that they are part of the news (Charlesworth, 2018). This type of advertising can be featured as video or infographic content that will redirect the online users to the advertisers’ websites. Besides, these ads may indicate a small “sponsored by” note that is usually ignored by the online users. In some regards, this is similar to the editorial content marketing, where editors write promotional content about a company or a website. However, in the case of editorial marketing, the main purpose is to educate or to inform the readers about a specific subject. Therefore, such a news item is usually presented free of charge as it appears at the discretion of the editor. Nevertheless, both advertorial and editorial marketing can have a positive impact on brand awareness and brand equity.

Various technologies companies including Google and Facebook are providing location-based marketing opportunities to many businesses. However, this innovative marketing approach relies on the individuals’ willingness to share their location data with their chosen mobile applications (apps). For example, foursquare, among other apps, can send messages to its mobile users (if they enable location sharing). It can convey messages about the users favorite spots, including businesses, facilities, et cetera, when they are located in close proximity to them (Guzzo, D’Andrea, Ferri & Grifoni, 2012).

Currently, the messengers are growing at a very fast pace. It may appear that they are becoming more popular than the social networks. Messengers such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and QQ, among others, have over 4.6 billion active users in a month (Mehner, 2019). This makes them a very attractive channel for online marketing. Since messengers can provide a private, secure connection between the business and their customers, they are very useful tools for marketing purposes. Moreover, the messengers can be used in conjunction with other advertisement methods like display (or banner) marketing, viral marketing, click-to-message ads, et cetera. Online or mobile users can use the messengers to communicate with a company representative (or bot) on different issues. They may even raise their complaints through such systems. Some messengers like Apple Business Chat and WeChat, among others have also integrated in-app payments. Hence, the messengers have lots of possible features and can be used to improve the business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships. In addition, other messengers like Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, et cetera can provide video conferencing platforms for corporations and small businesses. These systems have become very popular communication tools during COVID-19.

Other online marketing approaches can assist corporations in building their brand equity among customers. Various businesses are organizing virtual events and webinars to engage with their target audience. They may raise awareness about their events by sending invitations (via email) to their subscribers (Harvey & An, 2018). The organization of the virtual meetings are remarkably cheaper than face-to-face meetings (Lande, 2011). They can be recorded and/or broadcast to wider audiences through live streaming technologies via social media (Veissi, 2017). Today, online users can also use Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn live streaming facilities to broadcast their videos in real time and share them amongst their followers.

The display (or banner) marketing may usually comprise promotional videos, images and/or textual content. They are usually presented in webpages and applications. Thus, online banners may advertise products or services on internet websites to increase brand awareness (Turban et al, 2018). The display ads may be created by the website owners themselves. Alternatively, they may have been placed by Google Adsense on behalf of their customers (advertisers).

The display advertisements may also be featured in digital and mobile games. Such online advertisements are also known as in-game marketing.  The digital ads can be included within the games’ apps and/or may also be accessed through popular social networks. The in-game marketing may either be static (as the ads cannot be modified after the game was released) or dynamic (where new ads will be displayed via Internet connections) (Terlutter & Capella, 2013). Lewis and Porter (2010) suggested that in-game advertising should be harmonious with the games’ environments. There are different forms of advertisements that can be featured in games. For instance, advergames are serious games that have been developed in close collaboration with a corporate entity for advertising purposes (Terlutter & Capella, 2013), e.g. Pepsi man game for PlayStation.

The latest online marketing technologies are increasingly using interactive systems like augmented reality. These innovations are being utilized to enhance the businesses’ engagement with their consumers (Díaz et al., 2019b). The augmented reality software can help the businesses to promote their products (Turban et al, 2018). For example, IKEA (the furnishing company) has introduced an augmented reality application to help their customers to visualize how their products would appear in their homes. Similarly, online fashion stores can benefit from augmented reality applications as their customers can customize their personal avatars with their appearance, in terms of size, length and body type, to check out products well before they commit to purchase them (Montero et al., 2019).

The banner advertising was one of the earliest forms of digital marketing. However, there were other unsophisticated online marketing tactics that were used in the past. Some of these methods are still being used by some marketers. For instance, online users can list themselves and/or their organization in an online directory. This marketing channel is similar to the traditional yellow pages (Guzzo et al., 2012). The online directory has preceded the search engine marketing (SEM). This form of online advertising involves paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages (like native ads). Currently, SEM is valued at $70 billion market by 2020 (Aswani, Kar, Ilavarasan & Dwivedi, 2018). The advertisements may be related to specific keywords that are used in search queries. SEM can be presented in a variety of formats, including small, text-based ads or visual, product listing ads. The advertisers bid on the keywords that are used in the search engines. Therefore, they will pay the search engines like Google and Bing to feature their ads alongside the search results.

The search engine optimization (SEO) is different than SEM. The individuals or organizations do not have to pay the search engine for traffic and clicks. SEO involves a set of practices that are intended to improve the websites’ visibility within the search results of search engines. The search engines algorithms can optimize the search results of certain websites, (i) if they have published relevant content, (ii) if they regularly update their content, and (iii) if they include link-worthy sites. Although, SEO is a free tool, Google AdWords and Bing ads are two popular search engine marketing platforms that can promote websites in their search engines (through their SEM packages). Various researchers have relied on different scientific approaches to optimise the search engine results of their queries. For example, Wong, Collins and Venkataraman, (2018) have used machine learning methods to identify which ad placements and biddings were yielding the best return of investment from Google Adwords.

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