Category Archives: ICT

Unleashing Corporate Social Responsibility Communication in the Digital Era

Part of this article has appeared in Camilleri, M.A. (2017) Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer International. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

The corporate communication is dynamic on digital media as the global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, electronic fora, webinars and social media networks have facilitated organisations, including businesses to attract prospects and consumer groups. The digital media could potentially speed up content marketing and increase direct interactions, dialogues and engagements with various audiences. Such interactive communications are often referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are usually perceived as highly trustworthy sources.

When organisations share information about their stakeholder relationships with online communities, they may find out that their followers (or friends) could also share their passion for laudable causes. Very often, there is a business case for corporate social responsibility as socially-driven enterprises and sustainable businesses could charge higher prices for their products or services, they may influence more people, and get more credibility, attention, customers; you name it. Therefore, they are encouraged to use digital media to stand out from the rest, reach out (to prospects, clients, followers, and experts), and engage (in networking and public relations events).

Online communication has potential to create a ripple effect that grows as it reaches wider audiences. Notwithstanding, social media has potential to empower users to engage with organisations on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR, sustainability, responsible management, responsible corporate governance, responsible procurement, philanthropic and stewardship credentials et cetera, in different markets and segments.

Due to their apparent lack of gatekeeping and their symmetric two-way communication, the digital media are suitable for undertaking a corporate-public dialogue. However, open platforms like social media can also increase the complexities of the debates as they decrease the level of institutionalisation of the interactions between organisations and their stakeholders.

The social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their external environment. These online networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. Therefore, digital media are helping business communicators and marketers to identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content (Some of the most popular hashtags in this regard, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions as well as green non-governmental organisations. They may also promote fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for organisations and businesses to leverage themselves through blogs and social networks as they engage with influencers and media. Modern tools like Scrivener make it easy to write and compile for formats including .mobi (Kindles) and .epub (iBooks). Guest blogging on respected industry websites is a great way to build reputation and authority, but also backlinks  are crucial for strong search engine optimisation. Moreover, regular contributions on blogs allow users to connect with others; by sharing ideas and opinions, they spread awareness on their promoted content. Businesses can make use of project management systems like Asana or Trello, or intranet tools like Interact or Podio to track the  effectiveness of their outreach campaigns. Their analytics tools could possibly reveal  which content had the biggest impact on the audiences.

Hence, social media is an unprecedented channel for connecting and sharing with millions around the planet (with an estimated 2.51 billion social media users worldwide in 2017). The ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. For instance, these networks have become popular tools that are used by millions of people to publish messages and to interact through conversations from their personal computers and mobile phones.

LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups.They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key socially responsible initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These platforms could so be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. For instance, businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. These networks provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain CSR issues.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube and Vimeo seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance,  webinars and videos featuring university resources may also comprise lectures, documentaries and case studies that could be created, distributed and shared online through Skillshare or Udemy.

The Internet and social media open platforms are shifting the power dynamics as they are putting forward the debates between business and society. Open platforms provide access to multiple stakeholders and facilitate two-way communication between participants. They increase the speed in communications as there are no gatekeeping mechanisms. Open platforms are therefore unique spaces in the emerging diversity and plurality of the sustainability agenda. Participants in social media can no longer be classified as formal, functional or institutionalised stakeholders (e.g., as customers or NGOs), Yet, they may be categorised in relation to their changing affinities with the specific issues under discussion.

In conclusion, despite the promise that digital media improves the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate communication between organisations and their publics,  the businesses’ implementation of online engagement is neither automatic nor easy. The dialogic features that are enabled by web pages, blogs, and other social media may not necessarily result in improved stakeholder relationships. The businesses may inevitably have to deal with legitimacy constraints as they manage online engagements in different contexts. At the same time, there are stakeholders, particularly customers who are  increasingly becoming more discerned about content marketing through digital media.

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Filed under Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, digital media, ICT, Marketing, Shared Value, Small Business, Stakeholder Engagement, sustainable development

Crunching Big Data for Operations Management

Big data

For decades businesses have been using data in some way or another to improve their operations. For instance, an IT software could support small enterprises in their customer-facing processes. Alternatively, large corporations may possess complex systems that monitor and detect any changes in consumer sentiment towards brands.

Recently, many industry leaders, including McKinsey, IBM and SAS among others have released relevant studies on big data. It transpires that they are using similar terminology to describe big data as a “situation where the volume, velocity and variety of data exceed an organisation’s ability to use that data for accurate and timely decision-making” (SAS). These providers of business intelligence solutions have developed technical approaches to storing and managing enormous volumes of new data.

The handling and untangling of such data requires advanced and unique storage, management, analysis and visualisation technologies. The terms of “big data” and “analytics” are increasingly being used to describe data sets and analytical techniques in applications ranging from sensor to social media. Usually, big data analytics are dependent on extensive storage capacity and quick processing power requiring a flexible grid that can be reconfigured for different needs. For instance, streaming analytics process big data in real time during events to improve their outcome.

Insightful data could easily be retrieved from the Web, social media content and video data among other content. Notwithstanding, such data could be presented in different forms; ranging from recorded vocal content (e.g. call centre voice data) or it can even be genomic and proteomic data that is derived from biological research and medicine.
Big data is often used to describe the latest advances in technologies and architectures. Nowadays, big data and marketing information systems predict customer purchase decisions. This data could indicate which products or services customers buy, where and what they eat, where and when they go on vacation, how much they buy, and the like.

Giant retailers such as Tesco or Sainsbury every single day receive long-range weather forecasts to work 8-10 days ahead. Evidently, the weather affects the shopping behaviour of customers. For example, hot and cold weather can lead to the sales of certain products. It may appear that weather forecasting dictates store placement, ordering and supply (and demand) logistics for supermarket chains. Other retailers like Walmart and Kohl’s also use big data to tailor product selections and determine the timing of price markdowns.

Shipping companies, like U.P.S. are mining data on truck delivery times and traffic patterns in order to fine-tune their routing. This way the business will become more efficient and incur less operational costs. Therefore, big data extracts value by capturing, discovering and analysing very large volumes of data in an economic and expeditious way. This has inevitably led to a significant reduction in the cost of keeping data.

Big data can also be linked with production applications and timely operational processes that enable continuous improvements. Credit card companies are a good illustration of this dynamic as direct marketing groups at credit card companies create models to select the most likely customer prospects from a large data warehouse. Previously, the process of data extraction, preparation and analysis took weeks to prepare and organise. Eventually, these companies realised that there was a quicker way to carry out the same task. In fact, they created a “ready-to-market” database and system that allowed their marketers to analyse, select and issue offers in a single day. Therefore, this case indicates that businesses became much more effective (and efficient) in their processes through iterations and monitoring of websites and call-centre activities. They could also make personalised offers to customers in milliseconds as they kept tracking responses over time.

Organisations are increasingly realising the utility of data that could bring value through continuous improvements in their operations. This contribution indicated that relevant data needs to be captured, filtered and analysed. Big data is already swamping traditional networks, storage arrays and relational database platforms. The increased pervasiveness of digital and mobile activity, particularly from e-commerce and social media is leading to the dissemination of meaningful data – that is being created each and every second. Successful, online businesses can gain a competitive advantage if they are capable of gathering and crunching data.

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Filed under Analytics, Big Data, ICT

The future of marketing is mobile…

mobile

An IBM (2012) technology trends survey indicated that mobile devices could increase the productivities and efficiencies of organisations. This study showed that mobile software was the second most “in demand” area for research and development. In addition, Gartner BI Hype Cycle (2012) also anticipated that mobile analytics was one of the latest technologies that may potentially disrupt the business intelligence market. At the same time, the market for mobile advertising is escalating at a very fast pace. Interestingly, eMarketer (2012) had predicted that mobile advertising shall experience a surge from an estimated $2.6 billion in 2012 to more than $10.8 billion in 2016. Evidently, there are niche areas for professional growth, particularly in this specialised field; as more and more individuals are increasingly creating new applications for mobile operating systems.

Recent advances in mobile communication and geo-positioning technologies have presented marketers with a new way how to target consumers based on their location. Location-targeted mobile advertising involves the provision of ad messages to cellular subscribers based on their geographic locations. This digital technology allows marketers to deliver ads and coupons that are customised to individual consumers’ tastes, geographic location and time of day. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, location-targeted mobile advertising seems to offer tremendous marketing benefits.

In addition, many businesses are commonly utilising applications, including browser cookies that track consumers through their mobile devices as they move out and about. Once these users leave these sites, the products or services that they had viewed online will be shown to them again in advertisements, across different websites. Hence, businesses are using browsing session data combined with the consumers’ purchase history to deliver “suitable” items that consumers like. Therefore, savvy brands are becoming increasingly proficient in personalising their offerings as they collect, classify and use large data volumes on their consumers’ behaviours. As more consumers carry smartphones with them, they are (or may be) receiving compelling offers that instantaneously pop up on their mobile devices.

For instance, consumers are continuously using social networks and indicating their geo location as they use mobile apps. This same data can be used to identify where people tend to gather — information that could be useful in predicting real estate prices et cetera. This information is valuable to brands as they seek to improve their consumer engagement and marketing efforts. Businesses are using mobile devices and networks to capture important consumer data. Smart phones and tablets that are wifi-enabled interact with networks and convey information to network providers and ISPs. This year, more brands shall be using mobile devices and networks as a sort of sensor data – to acquire relevant information on their consumers’ digital behaviours and physical movements. These businesses have become increasingly interactive through the proliferation of near-field communication (NFC). Basically, embedded chips in the customers’ mobile phones are exchanging data with retailers’ items possessing the NFC tags. It is envisaged that mobile wallet transactions using NFC technologies are expected to reach $110 billion, by the year 2017. The latest Android and Microsoft smartphones have already include these NFC capabilities. Moreover, a recent patent application by Apple has revealed its plans to include NFC capabilities in their next products. This will inevitably lead to an increase in the use of mobile wallets (GSMA, 2015). Undoubtedly, the growth of such data-driven, digital technologies is adding value to customer-centric marketing. Therefore, analytics can enable businesses to provide a deeper personalisation of content and offers to specific customers.

Apparently, there are promising revenue streams in the mobile app market. Both Apple and Android are offering paid or free ad-supported apps in many categories. There are also companies that have developed apps for business intelligence. For example, enterprise / industry-specific apps, e-commerce apps and social apps. Evidently, the lightweight programming models of the current web services (e.g., HTML, XML, CSS, Ajax, Flash, J2E) as well as the maturing mobile development platforms such as Android and iOS have also contributed to the rapid proliferation of mobile applications (Chen et al., 2012). Moreover, researchers are increasingly exploring mobile sensing apps that are location-aware and activity-sensitive.

Possible future research avenues include mobile social innovation for m-learning; (Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula, 2010; Motiwalla, 2007), mobile social networking and crowd-sourcing (Lane et al., 2010), mobile visualisation (Corchado and Herrero, 2011), personalisation and behavioural modelling for mobile apps in gamification (Ha et al., 2007), mobile advertising and social media marketing (Bart et al., 2014; Yang et al., 2013). Google’s (2015) current projects include gesture and touch interaction; activity-based and context-aware computing; recommendation of social and activity streams; analytics of social media engagements, and end-user programming (Dai, Rzeszotarski, Paritosh and Chi, 2015;  Fowler, Partridge, Chelba, Bi, Ouyang and Zhai, 2015; Zhong, Weber, Burkhardt, Weaver and Bigham, 2015; Brzozowski, Adams and Chi, 2015).

 

References:

Bart, Y., Stephen, A. T., & Sarvary, M. (2014). Which products are best suited to mobile advertising? A field study of mobile display advertising effects on consumer attitudes and intentions. Journal of Marketing Research, 51(3), 270-285.

Brzozowski, M. J., Adams, P., & Chi, E. H. (2015, April). Google+ Communities as Plazas and Topic Boards. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3779-3788). ACM. Retrieved May 22nd, 2015, from http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/43453.pdf

Chen, H., Chiang, R. H., & Storey, V. C. (2012). Business Intelligence and Analytics: From Big Data to Big Impact. MIS quarterly, 36(4), 1165-1188.

Corchado, E., & Herrero, Á. (2011). Neural visualization of network traffic data for intrusion detection. Applied Soft Computing, 11(2), 2042-2056.

Dai, P., Rzeszotarski, J. M., Paritosh, P., & Chi, E. H. (2015). And Now for Something Completely Different: Improving Crowdsourcing Workflows with Micro-Diversions. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 628-638). ACM. Retrieved May 17th, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2675260

eMarketer (2012). eMarketer in the News: June 1, 2012 Retrieved January 28th, 2015, from http://www.emarketer.com/newsroom/index.php/emarketer-news-june-1-2012/

Fowler, A., Partridge, K., Chelba, C., Bi, X., Ouyang, T., & Zhai, S. (2015, April). Effects of Language Modeling and its Personalization on Touchscreen Typing Performance. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 649-658). ACM. Retrieved May15th, 2015, from http://cslu.ohsu.edu/~fowlera/Fowler_CHI2015.pdf

Gartner (2012). Big Data Drives Rapid Changes in Infrastructure and $232 Billion in IT Spending Through 2016. Retrieved January 20th, 2015, from https://www.gartner.com/doc/2195915/big-data-drives-rapid-changes

Google (2015). Human-Computer Interaction and Visualization Research at Google. Retrieved May 20th, 2015, from http://research.google.com/pubs/Human-ComputerInteractionandVisualization.html

Ha, I., Yoon, Y., & Choi, M. (2007). Determinants of adoption of mobile games under mobile broadband wireless access environment. Information & Management, 44(3), 276-286.

IBM (2012) Tech Trends Report. Fast track to the future. Retrieved May15th, 2015, from http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?subtype=XB&infotype=PM&appname=CHQE_XI_XI_USEN&htmlfid=XIE12346USEN&attachment=XIE12346USEN.PDF#loaded

Lane, N. D., Miluzzo, E., Lu, H., Peebles, D., Choudhury, T., & Campbell, A. T. (2010). A survey of mobile phone sensing. Communications Magazine, IEEE, 48(9), 140-150.

Motiwalla, L. F. (2007). Mobile learning: A framework and evaluation. Computers & Education, 49(3), 581-596.

Sharples, M., Taylor, J., & Vavoula, G. (2010). A theory of learning for the mobile age. In Medienbildung in neuen Kulturräumen (pp. 87-99). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Yang, B., Kim, Y., & Yoo, C. (2013). The integrated mobile advertising model: The effects of technology-and emotion-based evaluations. Journal of Business Research, 66(9), 1345-1352.

Zhong, Y., Weber, A., Burkhardt, C., Weaver, P., & Bigham, J. P. (2015). Enhancing Android accessibility for users with hand tremor by reducing fine pointing and steady tapping. In Proceedings of the 12th Web for All Conference (p. 29). ACM. Retrieved Ma7 20th, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2747277

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