LATEST TRENDS IN MARKETING ARENA
Today the latest trend in marketing arena is marketing by the leveraging mobile communications. Mobile makes it easy to reach out to large numbers of users in a way that is completely different to the scatters approach offered by broadcast media. Sure, it makes sense to send out marketing material in large quantities hoping that the target consumer will turn the right page in the magazine, or see the right billboard, or watch the right television commercial. Mobile offers an even greater opportunity to connect to each consumer one-on-one, sending them personalised communications that accurately say that person’s taste and interests. Existing media has become more advanced for a start, and combined with that, the internet offers even more distractions to take consumers away from marketing messages. That savvy consumer is also a more powerful consumer – the ever-evolving capabilities of mobile phones, combined with more affordable mobile data connections puts even more power and more choice in their hands, and that’s not even taking into account the possibilities offered by tablet devices.
Social media, too, comes with its own costs. Satisfied customers can more easily share their good feedback to friends and family, earning precious personal testimony that works greatly in the brand’s favor. But the reverse is also true. One unhappy customer can attract a disproportionate amount of attention, and reversing the situation can take a great deal of very delicate maneuvering. The popularity of social networks and their increasing use in the workplace present some concerns for employers, but all indications are that employers cannot hope to prevent social network use during work hours. A possible use would be as a tool of communication between management and employees to make sure that employees are productive but not overworked. Another possible use is as a marketing tool. Social networking is an connected system through which alliances are formed, help is obtained, information is transmitted, and actions taken to meet certain results. If businesses need to work with social networking websites, as seems likely, they should have a policy on social networking in the workplace. This recommendation is based on the assumptions that use of social networking in the workplace continues to increase and that internet security will never be perfect in filtering personal or business information on social networks. The extent of this problem is ongoing and impossible to predict.
Potential Benefits of Social Networks for Business Management
Contact with employees can be difficult for management. Social networking websites provide an opportunity for management to have faster contact with their subordinates. If there is an issue that needs immediate attention, a manager can send a message through social networking websites and the internet to their employees to get the information they need to make a decision.
Social networking websites reduce the amount of time it takes for a job to be completed because they cut down the amount of time it takes for employees and management to contact each other.
Information is easily found through the Internet. Social networking websites can be one of the fastest ways to obtain information. “Organizations are actively leveraging the power of social networks to find new business opportunities, new groups of like-minded individuals and companies, and new sources of industry specific wisdom, advice and expertise” (Wilson, 2009). Social networking websites allow companies to find and share information about different marketing strategies and techniques.
Potential Problems for Employers
There are five principle worries that management has in regard to social networking: perceived loss in staff productivity, data leakage from staff gossiping freely in an open environment, damage to a company’s reputation, scams practiced by “cyber crooks,” and the open access to company information because of outdated passwords. There are many uses for the big four social
networking sites. It is a concern to management and corporate executive officers that employees spend time on these websites while at work. One possible use of the networks that is a source of concern to management is the possible damage to the company’s reputation that can be brought about by posts online. If an employee were to be angry, or have had a bad day, they might be inclined to take their anger out online. This behavior could damage a company’s reputation.
Employees are given access to company equipment, mainly computers and internet, in order to complete their jobs effectively and efficiently. Computer servers can only process so much information at one time. The use of social networking websites, alongside email and company computer programs, slows down the servers. This means that employees are sitting around waiting for their work to be processed. “E-mail usage is upped. This slows down the server and means staff are not working.
A company can face lawsuits, bad publicity, and decreased employee morale because of employee use of social networks. According to Greenwald (2009), 55 percent of employees visit a social networking site at least once a week. Possible areas of company liability include sexual harassment, bullying, and threats of workplace violence, all potentially occurring during these visits. Sexual harassment occurs when one employee or supervisor makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee or supervisor, against his or her wishes. These behaviors can, and do, happen online.
The increased risk of liability can decrease productivity and cost the company a large amount of money, from dollars spent in defending against lawsuits and possible revenue lost due to damage to the reputation of the company.. “Cyber smearing” is a key concern for employers; that is communications that are considered libel and defamation that occur online. “An employer could find itself defending its employee’s unauthorized postings against claims of defamation, harassment, or trade disparagement” (Wise, 2009). Companies have to think about employee privacy but also the risk that goes along with it.
The Employee View
There are negatives from the employee standpoint as well. Using these sites has blurred the lines
between work and private time. If the employer requests interaction with, or wishes to “friend” an employee, how does an employee not accept that without an issue of etiquette arising, especially if employer and employee are friendly toward one another in the office. This raises the related question of whether it is appropriate for a co-worker to reach out to another co-worker on a social networking forum to talk about work matters. According to Rothbard, “on the one hand, it enables flexibility. In some ways, it makes you more effective. But it can also lead to a lot of burnout. In the long term, it may lead to conflict about how you feel towards your other life roles and your ability to be fully present in any one domain” (Available all the time, 2009). This burnout would be defined as exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. If an employee is in constant contact with superiors and coworkers through social networking sites, the employee may eventually feel like there is no line between work life and a personal life because he or she has become available all the time. Blackberry, such as, are often provided to employees to check their email on the go, or to
check their twitter and face book accounts. This can create exhaustion in the employee who can never have a clean line drawn between work and play, especially if that employee has “friended” the boss.
In the case where an employer and employee are social network “friends,” nothing is kept secret. The employer will be able to see how his or her employee behaves outside the office, which can be seen as an invasion of privacy. As long as the employee is not making the company look bad, there should not be a problem for the company.
This sometimes brings up the uncomfortable issue of, if an employee and employer are friends in the office, why they cannot be “friends” on a social networking site. If an employee and employer are friendly at work, and choose to be “friends” on a social networking site, then both have access to all areas of each other’s lives. Behaviors that might not be problematic between friends outside of work could be interpreted very differently by colleagues and employers. In the extreme, the possibility of sexual harassment could be an issue and repercussions and could leave an employee out of a job. “If an employer discovers that an employee has engaged in objectionable communications online, then discipline is appropriate. There is liability for the employer relating to employee communication online so that in certain circumstances, to protect the company name and the victim involved, firing the employee is necessary. In the work environment, an employee has to maintain a professional image. When the line between work and private life becomes blurred, an employer might feel free to explore an employee’s online communications. When an employee is “friends” with their boss they have to think twice about the content they post on their personal page. Even though it could be an invasion of privacy to check up on your employee, the employee has essentially given permission to the employer to see their page by becoming “friends” with them.
The first reaction of management to social networking in the workplace often is to block access to all social networking websites. However, this creates a few problems for management. It creates more work as, if management blocks access to social networking websites, they create
more work for the Information Technology administrators.
If social networking were completely blocked, employees would most likely be able to find ways to get around the controls.
The situation is simply this. Now, more than ever before, marketers must approach consumers with great caution, choosing an approach that serves consumer needs without being seen to be intrusive or offensive, while still engaging consumer interest. Fortunately, the mobile channel holds great promise for such an endeavour, especially considering the way that mobile is changing at the moment.Some of them are as follows:
Mobile makes connections. The ever-changing slate of functionality offered by mobile devices is ripe for exploitation. Mobile apps represent a cheap and easy way for consumers to add utility to their mobile devices, but these apps also let enterprises connect to their customers in new and unprecedented ways. The important thing is to offer utility together with messaging, so for example, some print publications have created apps that deliver a portion of their content to mobile users, who can then choose to get more by subscribing. Public transport companies, too, have started offering their passengers the chance to access timetables and other information through apps, even to the extent of facilitating advance booking of taxis and so on. Apps can also function as easily updated catalogs, which include purchasing functions, so the entire process of selection and purchase can be done through the mobile device.
Mobile identifies people. Similarly, banks and financial institutions are rushing to offer financial services like banking and payment to users. This effort is suffering a little from a lack of a common standard, but that is normal for the early stages of development. Eventually, consumers will be able to use their mobile phones to identify themselves, and that will facilitate all manner of finance. Consumers will be able to bank with their devices, and perhaps even use them in place of credit or debit cards to facilitate payment. Right now, mobile handsets equipped for near field communication (NFC) are already available, and some countries are looking to make nation-wide NFC transactions a reality, which opens up even more options.
Mobile is another screen. While tablet computers might not be as powerful as their laptop equivalents, they have already gained great popularity for light computing and as consumption devices. Their longer battery life and larger screens make them ideal for the consumption of media. Mobile tablets, equipped to connect to 3G or 4G networks, will be able to stream information and entertainment directly to users’ devices. Combined with cloud storage (which is another recent development) consumers may be able to accumulate their own media collections in the cloud and access them on the move through their tablet devices or mobile phones. Streaming data may be the future – perhaps not a direct challenge to traditional media, but certainly changing the way that it is consumed.
Mobile changes the retail experience. Mobile consumers are already changing the way they shop. In preference to PCs, consumers use their mobile phones to do the research needed for their shopping decisions. This means that consumers can, on the spot, check specifications, read reviews, compare models, and engage more fully with the products they are considering purchasing, right at point of purchase. Retailers are beginning to take this into account, including ways for consumers to access information about their products on the shop floor, linking to online videos or websites through URLs on labels or using QR codes. This new level of engagement, on the spot, is only possible because of mobile devices.
For marketers, these developments and the others that will definitely appear in the next twelve months represent challenges… and opportunities. Finding ways to market effectively that take into account the way that people are using mobile devices will be the key to remaining useful and relevant to consumers.
Marketing that is neither useful nor relevant may be too easily tossed to the side, as other, more compelling offerings take its place. In the coming times it would be a matter of intellectual challenge as to how companies leverage mobile communications.
Footnote: Source: Deloitte, 2009.