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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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Corporate Communication, Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility

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Companies are increasingly dedicating their time and resources to promote their public relations initiatives. Corporate Communication Managers and executives have a wide array of media channels at their disposal. These may  be used to communicate their corporate social responsibility CSR credentials. As a matter of fact, businesses are continuously being scrutinised by media, customers, monitoring groups, consumer forums and blogs (Du et al., 2010).

Very often, businesses disclose their CSR activities through official documents, such as annual corporate responsibility or sustainability reports, media releases, dedicated sections of their corporate websites; as well as in social media pages or groups. CSR communication is produced, translated, and integrated according to the companies’ contexts and their specific reality constructions (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Companies could use broadcast advertising, including TV and radio commercials. Businesses could also utilise print media (e.g. newspapers, magazines) to disseminate their message to their target audience. Newspaper articles reflect corporate ideas of social responsibilities and assumptions about public expectations, and react herewith to what they perceive as the public’s expectations (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010). Alternatively, they may use outdoor advertisements such as billboards and signage on brick-and-mortar premises. These traditional media are based on a hierarchical one‐to‐many communication; with a clear distinction between producer and consumer of information. Notwithstanding, there are other communication channels that are not entirely controlled by the company. For this reason, businesses are encouraged to become more proficient in the use of digital media in addition to traditional media to increase their impact of their corporate communication.

Evidently, the internet has reshaped communication at different levels. It has enabled the emergence of a new participatory public sphere that is based on a many‐to‐many communication where everybody can dialogically and publicly interact and collaborate in the creation of content and the definition of the agenda (Colleoni, 2013; Jenkins, 2006). In a relatively short period of time, the internet has become an essential tool for organisational communication (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007a; Stuart & Jones, 2004).

Moreover, in today’s digital era, the engagement between the public and the organisation is one of the main characteristics of the internet (Colleoni, 2013). Many corporate websites already possess a high degree of interactivity; including their ability to disseminate information and to generate relationships between the different publics and the organisation (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007). In the first approach, the level of interactivity is low, and the use of the Internet is unidirectional; as its essential objective is to diffuse information and to try to improve the corporate image of the business. However, in the second approach, the degree of interactivity is high, and the Internet is used to facilitate bidirectional communication and to nurture relationships by allowing dialogue and interaction between the organisation and its stakeholders.

Interactive communication is becoming one of the most important information channels for corporations as it is changing social dynamics (Fieseler & Fleck, 2013; O`Reilly, 2005; 2006). Web-based co‐operation and data exchanges have empowered the communication between businesses and their stakeholders (Buhalis & Law, 2008; O´Riley, 2006, Fieseler et al., 2010). It enables them to engage with online users and to take advantage of positive publicity arising from word-of-mouth marketing and digital platforms. Corporations can maintain legitimacy better as they engage with stakeholders via social media; and take on the gate keeping function of traditional media (Fieseler et al. 2010). At the same time, there are protest actors; who have become more powerful online as they disrupt the corporations’ legitimacy by using social media (Castelló, Morsing & Schultz, 2013; Bennett 2003).

Societies are currently undergoing a fundamental transformation toward globally networked societies (Castelló, Morsing, & Schultz, 2013). Unsurprisingly, the public relations and corporate communications of business have benefited of social networking software (Etter, Morsing, and Castello, 2011; Pressley (2006). Of course, these technological advances also have consequences for CSR communication; as companies can reach out to stakeholders in a more interactive way. In a similar vein, the use of social networks have offered the businesses new forms of interactivity and enable them to address the CSR information toward a variety of stakeholders (Isenmann, 2006). A powerful stakeholder group, the consumers serve as an informal yet highly credible CSR communication channel. In particular, the power of consumer word-of-mouth has been greatly magnified given the popularity and vast reach of interactive communication.

Companies such as Stonyfield Farm and Ben & Jerry’s have been benefiting from consumer ambassadors who raved, in the virtual world, about their social responsibility endeavours. For example, one consumer wrote enthusiastically about Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan ice cream and its support for an educational foundation, ‘besides the great flavour that the Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan Ice Cream offers you, a portion of the proceeds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation . . . [that] provides financial support to students attending historically black colleges and universities’ (Associated Content 2008). Companies can be proactive in using social media to engage consumers to be their CSR advocates.

Timberland, a company that is known for its environmental stewardship, launched the Earthkeeper campaign in 2008 to recruit one million people to become part of an online network designed to inspire real environmental behaviour change. As part of the Earthkeeper programme, Timberland launched an innovative global network of online social networking tools, including a strong Facebook presence, a YouTube Earthkeeper Brand Channel and a richly populated Earthkeeper blog, as well as an Earthkeeper product collection which serves as the pinnacle expression of the company’s environmental commitment (CSRWire 2008). Through this campaign, Timberland not only effectively communicating its sustainability initiative, but also engaging consumers to spread the word about this initiative and, importantly, the company’s involvement in this initiative.

Fieseler et al. (2010) suggested that communication through social media is dynamic in relation to traditional media. The global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feed, wikis, electronic forum, social networks have facilitated companies to attract prospects and consumer groups. Social media have the technological potential to speed up communication processes (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010) and to increase direct interaction, dialogue and participation across organisations and various audiences (Colleoni 2013; Schultz et al. 2011). Such interactive communications are referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread like epidemic diseases through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are perceived as highly trustworthy sources (Colleoni et al., 2011; Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Accordingly, social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their environment.  Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. These networks may help business communicators and marketers 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 content16 (Some of the most popular hashtags comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook 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. These social media empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, 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 on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine 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 also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This contribution suggests that corporate communications managers and executives are in a position to amplify the effectiveness of their company’s CSR communication efforts. They are expected to create relevant content and to engage with stakeholders through different marketing communications channels.

 

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Corporate Social Responsibility Communications through Digital Media

 reporting

Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on integrated marketing approaches toward different stakeholders24. Many of them are becoming knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity and misinformation. Their content strategists and inbound marketers who care about customers are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links.

Businesses need to make sure that their corporate websites offer relevant content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences25. Consumers and other stakeholders expect informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Such content marketing approaches bring customer loyalty26, particularly if the businesses deliver ongoing value propositions to promising prospects on their website27. Very often, they offer insightful stories to customers28 or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations29. Corporate web sites could even contain the latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.

Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics30. These networks may help business communicators and marketers 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 also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content  (Some of the most popular hashtags on the subject, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook 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. These social media channels empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, 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 on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet31. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine 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 also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This is an excerpt from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299349607_Unlocking_Corporate_Social_Responsibility_Communication_through_Digital_Media

References

24. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
25. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
26. Lindgreen, Adam. “The design, implementation and monitoring of a CRM programme: a case study.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning 22, no. 2 (2004): 160-186.
27. Andersen, Poul Houman. “Relationship marketing and brand involvement of professionals through web-enhanced brand communities: The case of Coloplast.” Industrial marketing management 34, no. 1 (2005): 39-51.
28. Pulizzi, Joe. “The rise of storytelling as the new marketing.” Publishing research quarterly 28, no. 2 (2012): 116-123.
29. Lozano, Rodrigo, Francisco J. Lozano, Karel Mulder, Donald Huisingh, and Tom Waas. “Advancing higher education for sustainable development: international insights and critical reflections.” Journal of Cleaner Production 48 (2013): 3-9.
30. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.

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Unleashing Corporate Social Responsibility through Digital Media

csr

Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on content and inbound marketing. In a nutshell, content marketing necessitates an integrated marketing communications approach involving different media (1). Content strategists and marketers who care about their online reputation are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links. They have to make sure that their websites offer great content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences (2).

Successful marketers are capable of enhancing customer loyalty, particularly if their businesses are delivering ongoing value propositions to promising prospects (on their website). Such businesses are continuously coming up with informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Online content often include refreshing information which tell stakeholders how to connect the dots. It may appear that many companies are becoming quite knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity or misinformation.

Several online businesses often tell insightful stories to their customers or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations. Corporate web sites could even contain their latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.
Most social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics (3). These networks may help business communicators and marketers 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 also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content (4). Some of the most popular hashtags comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2015, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera. Hashtags could possibly result in financial support to charity, philanthropic or stewardship principles. They may even help to raise awareness of the overall CSR communications. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

  • The ubiquity of Facebook 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. These social media empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.
  • Moreover, 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 on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.
  • In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual content. Evidently, these innovative social networks provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.
  • Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet (5). YoutubeVimeo and Vine 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  SR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

CSR practices may provide a good opportunity for businesses to raise their profile in the communities around them.  Genuine businesses communicate their motives and rationales behind their CSR programmes. In this case, there are numerous media outlets where businesses can obtain decent coverage of their CSR initiatives, especially on the web (e.g. CSRwire and Triple Pundit among others). Although, there are instances  where consumers themselves, out of their own volition are becoming ambassadors of trustworthy businesses; at the same time certain stakeholders are becoming increasingly acquainted and skeptical on certain posturing behaviours and greenwashing (6).

Generally, digital communications will help to improve the corporate image of firms. Positive publicity can lead to reputational benefits and long lasting relationships with stakeholders (7). Online content and inbound marketing can be successfully employed for CSR communication1. Corporate sites should be as easy as possible, with user-centred design that enables interactive information sharing on CSR activities. Inter-operability and collaboration across different social media can help businesses to connect with stakeholders (1). 

Marketers can create a forum where prospects or web visitors can engage with the business in real time. These days, marketing is all about keeping and maintaining a two-way relationship with consumers. Digital marketing is an effective tool for consumer engagement.

A growing number of businesses are learning how to collaborate with consumers about product development, service enhancement and promotion. These companies are increasingly involving customers in all aspects of marketing. They listen to and join online conversations as they value their stakeholders’ opinions and perceptions.

Today, pervasive social media networks are being used by millions of customers every day. In a sense, it may appear that digital marketing tools have reinforced the role of public relations. These promotional strategies complement well with CSR communication and sustainability reporting.

This contribution encourages businesses to use digital media to raise awareness of their societal engagement and environmentally sustainable practices. Further research may possibly identify how successful businesses are using digital channels to forge genuine relationships with their stakeholders.

References

  1. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
  2. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
  3. Kietzmann, Jan H., Kristopher Hermkens, Ian P. McCarthy, and Bruno S. Silvestre. “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media.” Business horizons 54, no. 3 (2011): 241-251.
  4. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.
  5. Guadagno, Rosanna E., Daniel M. Rempala, Shannon Murphy, and Bradley M. Okdie. “What makes a video go viral? An analysis of emotional contagion and Internet memes.” Computers in Human Behavior 29, no. 6 (2013): 2312-2319.
  6. Laufer, William S. “Social accountability and corporate greenwashing.” Journal of Business Ethics 43, no. 3 (2003): 253-261.
  7. Camilleri, M.A. “The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility” (paper presented at the American Marketing Association in collaboration with the University of Wyoming, Oklahoma State University and Villanova University: Marketing & Public Policy as a Force for Social Change Conference. Washington D.C., 5th June 2014): 8-14, Accessed June 26, 2015. https://www.ama.org/events-training/Conferences/Documents/2015-AMA-Marketing-Public-Policy-Proceedings.pdf

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Untangling Big Data for Digital Marketing

customers
The web and its online communities are expanding the use of big data. Ecommerce conglomerates including Amazon and eBay have already transformed the market through their innovative, highly scalable digital platforms and product recommender systems. Moreover, internet giants like Google and Facebook are leading the development of web analytics, cloud computing and social media networks. The emergence of user-generated content in fora, newsgroups, social media and crowd-sourcing platforms are offering endless opportunities for researchers and practitioners to “listen” to marketplace stakeholders; including customers, employees, suppliers, investors and the media.

Unlike the traditional transactional records that were conspicuous in past legacy systems, e-commerce systems continuously gather insightful data from the web. Much of the value of data is derived from secondary uses that were not intended in the first place. Every dataset can possess some intrinsic, hidden, not-yet-unearthed value. Having said that, many potential applications could skim along the edges of what might be ethical, moral or even legal.

In addition, online review sites and personal blogs often contain opinion-rich information that may be explored through textual and sentiment analysis. Arguably, consumer sentiment analysis may not be designed for automation but could be better adapted for the real-time monitoring of the marketing environment. Successful businesses strive to understand their customers’ personas so that they target them the right content with the relevant tone, imagery and value propositions.

Therefore, advertisers continuously gather consumer data and use it well to personalise every aspect of their users’ experience. They strive to take advantage of their consumers’ cognitive behaviour as they try to uncover and trigger consumer frailty at their individual level. It may appear that companies gather data on their customers in order to manipulate the market. They need to establish processes which determine when specific decisions are required. Firms use big data to delve into enormous volumes of information that they collect, generate or buy. Marketers need to realise that it’s important to analyse, decide and act expeditiously on data and analytics. It’s simply not enough to be able to monitor a continuing stream of information. Businesses should be quick in their decision making and take action.

Companies may use what they know about human psychology and consumer behaviour to set prices. Behavioural targeting is nothing new in digital marketing. When firms hold detailed information about their consumers, they may customise every aspect of their interaction with them. On the other hand, there could be instances when certain marketing practices could lead to unnecessary nuisances. Nowadays, customers are frequently bombarded with marketing endeavours including email promotions that are often picked up as spam. Therefore, one-size-fits-all messages could also have negative implications on prospective customers.

Eventually, firms could use this database to deliver promotional content to remind customers on their offerings. Consumer lists whether they are automated or in the cloud should always be used to deliver enhanced customer experiences. Customer-centric marketing is all about satisfying buyers. Customers may in turn become advocates for the business. Hence, technology has become instrumental for marketers in their ongoing interactions with people.

Evidently, without data, businesses could not keep a track record of their marketing effectiveness and performance stats. Engagement metrics; including, email-open rates, click through rates, pay per click and the like enable marketers to continually fine tune their individual customer targeting. Today, many individuals are becoming quite active on review sites, such as Yelp.com or Tripadvisor; and on social media channels; including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Google Plus.These modern digital marketing tools are helping business to engage in social conversations with consumers. Social media networks are often rich in customer opinion and contain relevant behavioural information. Moreover, the social media analytics could capture fast-breaking trends on customer sentiments toward products, brands and companies.

Businesses may be interested in knowing whether there are changes in online sentiment and how these correlate with sales changes over time. Digital media is supporting many businesses to map out how customers receive promotions, messages, newsletters and even advertisements. Relevant data is also helping these businesses to keep a focus on their customer needs and wants.

This contribution suggests that there is scope for businesses to consider realigning (and personalising) their incentives toward individual consumers by using data-driven marketing. Many businesses have become proficient on the use of maintaining databases of prospects and customer lists. They gather this valuable information to communicate and build relationships. This data collection may possibly drive new revenue streams and build long-term loyalty.

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