The social media campaign I did in the last few weeks for a business entity had a marketing focus. In this critique, I want to discuss how business entities can achieve anticipated marketing objectives in Web 2.0. As commonly understood, Web 2.0 is the era for engagement-rich communication. However, based on my reflection of my social media campaign, I found tremendous difficulties in facilitating engagement. So in this critique I want to discuss how engaging a small business’s online presence can be in Web 2.0? And I’d argue that the engagement of Web 2.0 mainly comes from the company, not necessarily the audience.
Before Web 2.0
Before the Web 2.0, businesses went to media groups and bought advertisement spaces/time from them. Because advertisements were expensive, businesses, which had a small scale like the entity I’m working with, could only afford for a very limited period. And more importantly, it was one-way communication, which means media companies mostly had a blind eye and who the audience were. Hence the effectiveness of the ad was based on the logic that the more people it reached, the more potential customers would be targeted. In other words, quantity of reach mattered most in this case, and very limited engagement is expected. Then, promotion in Web 2.0 became very different, because of its participatory culture.
Participatory Features of Web 2.0
The biggest feature or difference of Web 2.0 is two-way or even many-to-many communication. Audience now has the right and tools to speak up, to give feedbacks. Reflecting on the traditional mass communication model by Maletzke (1963), the so-called “spontaneous feedback” is stronger than ever in Web 2.0.
Similarly Jenkins, Ford and Green (2013) summarised that “In theory, Web 2.0 companies relinquish a certain degree of control to users. What has been described as ‘putting the We in the Web’” (p49). The companies in this quote are firstly media companies, which used to gather audience by creating content they want to see. In Web 2.0, those media start to play the roles of platforms (eg. Video platform like YouTube, and picture platform like Instagram) and make the biggest advertisement revenue in the Internet. UGC (user generated content) contributed to a majority of content on these platforms. Jenkins, Ford and Green (2013) found that the passion for UGC comes from the motivation that users seek to build up self-branding, and they are obsessed with how many followers they gained. Therefore, users’ engagement in creating content is the key to media organisations’ success in Web 2.0.
And secondly the companies are B2C businesses, like my chosen entity. It is said that corporate practices seek to “capture and exploit [the] participatory culture” (Jenkins, Ford & Green, 2013, p48). Namely, unlike before when companies decided on the entire presence of its brand, they invite customers to participate in brand creation and renovation. Similarly, Jenkins, Ford and Green (2013) argued companies seek to “harness mass creativity, collectivism, and peer production”(p58). This strategy may redefine users, audiences, consumers as co-creators of content and services (Jenkins, Ford & Green, 2013). But the audience contribution here is different from that on media platforms, where audience has complete autonomy. Here, audience can engage only when they comply with games rules set by the company.
The above discussed the participatory potentials of Web 2.0, and practices that businesses can apply. Then the question is what are the marketing benefits businesses gained from inviting audience engagement?
What objectives can business achieve from Web 2.0?
As commonly agreed in academia and well illustrated in the graph from Trajectory Group (an online marketing consultancy group) (Trajectory n.d.), businesses can generally achieve four types of marketing goals by marketing strategies. They are in sequence awareness, consideration, purchase and finally loyalty. Social media are definitely popular tools to use for online marketing in Web 2.0. Customer engagement is mostly inherent in the last two procedures, but not necessarily in the first two. In order to answer the above question, let’s look at a successful precedent first.
Successful precedent in exploiting participatory culture
Pizza Mogul was a “brand mantra” launched by Domino’s Pizza Australia last year. “[The] true spirit of this brand philosophy was their passionate Facebook fans” (Domino’s, 2014). Basically, Domino’s customers create their favorite pizza recipe by adding virtual sauces, cheese, and meat and so on onto a virtual pizza dough. And then, order this specialized pizza directly online. Then more importantly they share their recipe via photos and videos in Facebook, in order to encourage people buying this special recipe from Domino’s for a charity good will (Pizza Mogul, 2014).
The entire process is founded by customer engagement. To analyze it with reference to the four marketing goals mentioned above, firstly the campaign gains significant market awareness among its younger target market, because the idea of ordering your personalized pizza from a pizza expert is fun. Also it’s a better experience to be treated specially. Due to the relatively low price of a pizza, the consideration of buying is quickly approved with very limited hesitation. Fast and easy purchase is supported by Domino’s profound online ordering system. And lastly Domino’s passion for creative marketing may leave a positive image among its younger audience.
Then I’d like to add in the factor of social media, and see how it helped. In the first stage, the news is quickly spread out within social network because people tend to share novel things with friends. Also, Domino adds in the good will of charity, which may encourage people to share and to pay attention to the campaign. Then a collective interest in this campaign, which is observable from friends’ post may encourage a group of friend trying out together and see what everyone comes up with, like playing a game. Also I want to point out, that the consideration process in this case is reduced to almost nothing, because people feel fairly safe about the purchase after many times of buying from Domino.
From the perspective of Domino, it proposed an idea, prepared the playground for people, and augmented audiences’ voice and participation buy reposting and commenting. Audiences are the key players in this campaign. So far Pizza Mogul’s Facebook page received 19k likes, and it’s still active on a daily basis with videos been viewed thousands of times. Thus, I would say the engagement strategy in this campaign is pretty successful in achieving marketing goals.
Why gaining engagement is difficult for small businesses?
Then how can my business entity benefit from the engagement potential in Web 2.0? Unfortunately, at this stage my campaign faced obstacles at the very first stage- getting engagement. As the social media marketing specialist, I’m struggling with it. Most of the time, it’s the brand doing monologue, even though the content encourages audience participation. For instance, I constantly ask audience’ opinions, but no one replies. What’s the problem here?
As Crawford (2009) suggested, although audience engagement is a trendy phenomenon in the Internet, the majority of online audience are passive. Passive audiences are called “lurkers”. It’s so true that “online participation has tended to be conflated with contributing a ‘voice’, [and] ‘speaking up’ has become the dominant metaphor for participation in online spaces” (Crawford, 2009, p526). In my opinion, the overwhelming attention to visible participation has been misleading businesses to believe engagement is the only strategy for marketing, the more engagement the better. If no visible engagement is generated, then the campaign has no effect at all.
It’s difficult to succeed like those precedents. Comparing with media platforms, companies can’t give the rein to its customers completely what messages to say, or when to say. While on the other hand, D-IN is a very different from Domino’s in terms of brand popularity and type of business. Firstly, wedding video is the opposite of Pizza. It’s expensive (can be luxury), and it only appeals to a small group of people who are in a certain lifecycle stage. Therefore, people will not talk about and share the campaign, because their friends may not care. Also, there are so many other brands the same level of D-IN, so it’s not necessarily for people to pay attention to D-IN. In turn, the campaign post is left where it is published, and never reaches out. Even though it reaches the target, purchase is unlikely to happen due to the high price.
How to involve engagement in the future?
For a small business like D-IN Film, the best practice to raise awareness probably goes the same as in traditional advisement- the broader the reach, the more effective awareness raised. This may lead to investing in online ad spaces, search ads, social media ads, etc. Then small businesses can provide a more comprehensive and timely update about the business via social media and web page, so as to support customer’s consideration process. It is in this stage, two-way communication can happen in the form of taking enquiries. After the publication of video product, the brand can maintain a long-term relationship with the customer by expressing good wishes, providing after service, commenting on the customer’s posts, etc. All these company initiated engagements help increase loyalty. Though customers don’t come back themselves, they spread out word-of-mouth due to a sense of loyalty.
All in all, for small businesses, the engagement of Web 2.0 mainly comes from the company, not necessarily the audience. Being the users of media platforms like social media, small companies actively contribute in UCC and UGC. I’d like to recommend small businesses paying attention to “invisible” audience engagements, such at paying attention, feeling interested, feeling confused etc. and then initiate conversations actively. Large scale of audience engagement is not for every business.
Crawford, Kate. (2009). Following you: Disciplines of listening in social media. Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 23(4), 525-535.
Domino’s. (2014). Status Update…Domino’s Thanks One Million Facebook Fans! Media Release: Domino’s.
Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J.. (2013). Where web 2.0 went wrong Spreadable Media. New York and London: New York University.
Maletzke, G. Psychologie der Massenkommunikation. Hamburg: Hans Bredow-Institut, 1963.
Pizza Mogul (Producer). (2014, 27th May 2015). What is Pizza Mogul? [Video] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xWGOHIEjx0
Trajectory.). Marketing Strategy. Retrieved 27th May, 2015, from http://www.trajectorygroup.com/services/marketing
Yi Liu/ yliu7890