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Social media models, technologies, and applications: An academic review and case study

Dec 27 '15 | By La Afrique Media | Views: 1356 | Comments: 1

1. IntroductionSection:ChooseTop of page1. Introduction <<2. Research methodology3. Stage one – literature...4. Stage two empirical ca...5. Discussion and conclus...ReferencesFurther readingCorresponding authorNext section

Rooted in and enabled by internet technologies, social media have attracted considerable attention in recent years. Since its birth as a Web 2.0 innovation in the early 2000s, social media have opened new challenges and opportunities for both the private lives of individuals and the business activities of organizations, drawing interest on their benefits and applications from researchers and industrialists alike (Hanna et al., 2011Kietzmann et al., 2011Mangold and Faulds, 2009). The power of social media cannot be underestimated and is expected to continue to revolutionize personal and organizational communications and interactions worldwide.

The dramatic development of social media has shaped the interactions of people through different social media platforms (Colliander and Dahlén, 2011Cho et al., 2014). For example, in the global social media environment, one can share information and knowledge online, join virtual communities, and arbitrarily “friend” or “de-friend” a person (Curras-Perez et al., 2014). Such social interaction was unimaginable in the past. Social media also drive a new set of business models that challenges traditional business processes and operations (Hanna et al., 2011). The salient difference between new and traditional business models is that one-to-one mass customization has become the norm in business transactions, replacing the one-to-many marketing promotion model. In the era of social media, online customer reviews have also become an important yardstick by which marketers formulate their strategies. Social media platforms also serve as tools that facilitate numerous organizational activities, such as collaborative product development (Mangold and Faulds, 2009Porter and Donthu, 2008), creation of knowledge sharing communities (Fernando, 2010;Kasavana et al., 2010Daghfous and Ahmad, 2015), social media deployment at financial institutions (Bonsón and Flores, 2011), and collaborative learning and creativity among peers, customers, business partners, and organizations (Peppler and Solomou, 2011). Thus, individuals and organizations must be prepared to embrace the challenges and opportunities brought by social media.

Social media encompasses a wide range of tools and technologies, as described by Mangold and Faulds (2009, p. 358):

[…] a wide range of online, word-of-mouth forums including blogs, company-sponsored discussion boards and chat rooms, consumer-to-consumer email, consumer product or service ratings websites and forums, Internet discussion boards and forums, moblogs (sites containing digital audio, images, movies, or photographs), and social networking websites […].

These newly invented social media tools and technologies allow people to read, extract, and generate universal text, image, audio, and video content (Akar and Topçu, 2011). As different types of social media have different applications and purposes, a large number of “connection platforms” have therefore emerged. As far as terminology is concerned, the term “social media,” despite the occasional confusion, is commonly used interchangeably with social computing, social networking, Web 2.0, and virtual social worlds (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2009). Several definitions of social media for various applications and purposes have been provided by different studies, for example:

Social media is a hybrid in that it springs from mixed technology and media origins that enable instantaneous, real-time communications, and utilizes multi-media formats and numerous delivery platforms with global reach capabilities (Mangold and Faulds, 2009, p. 359).

[…] social media is collaborative online applications and technologies that enable participation, connectivity user-generated content, sharing of information, and collaboration amongst a community of users (Henderson and Bowley, 2010, p. 239).

[…] a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundation of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010, p. 61).

[…] social media are the tools that facilitate the socialization of content […] social media services encourage collaboration, interaction, and communication through discussion, feedback, voting, comments, and sharing of information from all interested parties (Malita, 2010, p. 748).

The above definitions can be summarized by dividing the compound term “social media” into its two components, “social” and “media.” The “social” part refers to the activities carried out among people, whereas “media” refers to the internet-enabled tools and technologies used to carry out such activities. Several social media studies have focussed on understanding various social behavioral aspects, such as social influence, social interaction, social ties, and social identity (e.g. Kwon and Wen, 2010Shiue et al., 2010Wang and Lin, 2011). Similarly, a number of studies have also revealed the applications of social media in real life and business settings (e.g. Baird and Fisher, 2006Chao et al., 2011Eyrich et al., 2008). The current study intends to investigate how different social media tools and technologies, as well as personal or social behavior theories and models support and underpin the establishment of a social media application system. The study is expected to extend knowledge on the areas of information system design and development.

Following this basic background on social media and its impact on the lives of people, the next section will discuss the research methodology adopted in the present study. Section 3 presents a review of social media research, particularly those related to the applications, tools and technologies, and related theories and models, and proposes a conceptual framework of social media application development. Section 4 uses a real-life case study to illustrate how the proposed framework facilitates the establishment of a social media application system for a regional division of an international non-government organization (NGO). The final section concludes the current study and discusses recommendations for future research in the subject area.

2. Research methodologySection:ChooseTop of page1. Introduction2. Research methodology <<3. Stage one – literature...4. Stage two empirical ca...5. Discussion and conclus...ReferencesFurther readingCorresponding authorPrevious sectionNext section

The objectives of this study are to examine how social media are applied in various domains and to develop a conceptual framework that highlights the foundations of social media applications. To achieve such goals, this study adopted a two-staged approach. The first stage involves a critical review of extant literature in view of the applications of social media, the use of tools and technologies to develop social media applications, and the link between personal or social behavior theories and models and the design of these applications. A framework is conceptualized subsequently to explain these interrelationships. The second stage uses a real-life case study to illustrate the practical aspects of creating and implementing a social media system based on the proposed framework.

The studies reviewed are selected largely from journals ranked in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) or Science Citation Index (SCI), with the exclusion of conference papers, doctoral and master theses, textbooks, and documentaries. We employed this approach because we believe the SSCI/SCI journals cover majority of the high-quality refereed social science and management literature (Sharplin and Mabry, 1985) and that refereed journal papers represent advanced research outputs (Ngai and Wat, 2002).

We followed the approach developed by Ngai et al. (2009) in searching for relevant articles in the extant literature. The search process began by using media-related keywords such as social media applications and social media technologies to select literature. The selected papers were then studied individually to determine whether they were relevant to the topic under study. The selected papers are later analyzed and classified in terms of the tools or technologies used, as well as the underlying personal or social behavior theories and models adopted.

A conceptual framework was established based on the results of the literature review. The framework shows the major business areas in which social media is applied, the key tools and technologies used to support the development of social media, and most importantly, how personal and social behavior theories and models form the foundations of technology selection and design planning for the application of social media. The usefulness of this framework is demonstrated through a case study with an actual application, which was carried out in the second stage. Using the principles explained in the proposed framework, this case study revealed how a social media application system was devised and implemented for the regional division of Rotary International (RI) in Hong Kong. The main purposes of the exercise are for the division office to serve its members better, to attract more fans, and to manage its daily organizational operations better and enhance its overall performance.

3. Stage one – literature review studySection:ChooseTop of page1. Introduction2. Research methodology3. Stage one – literature... <<4. Stage two empirical ca...5. Discussion and conclus...ReferencesFurther readingCorresponding authorPrevious sectionNext section3.1. Social media applications

Social media have numerous applications; a number of research papers report that individuals are using social media increasingly for specific purposes. In the following sub-section, we present the various applications of social media based on the literature review. Most of the studies reviewed relate to three main industry sectors: the public sector, which includes the government and NGOs, the education sector, and the commercial sector. In some cases, social media are used in all three sectors. For purposes of illustration, this study discusses the application of social media in the domains of marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), knowledge sharing, collaborative activities, organizational communications, education and training, and so on. Table I summarizes the articles on the application of social media in each group.

3.1.1. Marketing

Social media is considered an obvious choice as a marketing tool and is viewed as an integral part of the integrated marketing communication strategies of firms (Mangold and Faulds, 2009). Hence, social media can be considered as a new component in the marketing promotional mix. In the past few years, social media marketing has received increasing attention from the academia and from various industries. Such growing attention can be deduced from the wide range of studies on various marketing issues.

In particular, numerous publications include media studies on consumer attitude and behavior. Mathwick (2002) investigated the relational norms and behaviors of online consumers and clustered the consumers into four groups: transactional community members, socializers, personal connectors, and lurkers. The author suggested that investing in community-building infrastructures (i.e. chat rooms, bulletin boards, and interactive events) has a positive effect on the future loyalty intentions of highly relational patrons (Mathwick, 2002). Gamboa and Gonçalves (2014) studied customer loyalty through the cultivation of social networks. The researchers discovered that Facebook enhances the relations that increase loyalty through trust, customer satisfaction, perceived value, and commitment. The results further revealed that these relations are stronger for fans of the brand than for non-fans, and that customer satisfaction is the strongest determinant of loyalty. Akar and Topçu (2011) analyzed customer attitude toward social media marketing and developed a consumer-based attitude scale for future studies. This scale uses seven factors to reflect the attitudes of consumers and their acceptance of social media marketing: attitudes toward social media marketing, social media use, social media knowledge, social media monitoring, foresight on social media, and fears regarding social media marketing. Krasonikolakis et al.(2014) investigated consumer behavior in the virtual world “Second Life”. The authors concluded that “core store features” and “security and privacy” are the most important factors in the choice of virtual retail stores of consumers, whereas frequency of visit and time spent within the store can be used to predict consumer spending in the virtual world shopping environment.

The marketing impact of customer communication and recommendation through social media platforms has also received significant attention from researchers. De Valck et al. (2009) examined how the decision-making processes of consumers can be affected by their communications and interactions, particularly information and experience sharing, with other consumers in the virtual communities. The authors affirmed that people prefer to obtain different types of information (i.e. informational, relational, and recreational) from various social networks and that social ties have a significant impact on consumer decision processes, including need recognition, actual behavior, and post-purchase evaluation. Trusov et al. (2009) studied word-of-mouth (WOM) communication strategies in social media and found that these strategies enjoy a higher financial incentive than traditional WOM. Kozinets et al.(2010) also studied WOM marketing in online communities. They proposed a narrative model that showed that communal WOM does not simply increase or amplify marketing messages; rather, marketing messages and meanings are altered systematically in the process of embedding them. Jin and Phua (2014) conducted experiments to examine the effects of celebrity-based WOM marketing on Twitter on consumer behavior. The results suggested that WOM endorsed by celebrities, particularly those with a high number of followers, positively influenced product involvement and buying intention of followers. Chen et al. (2011) examined the posting behavior of customers, the relationships between marketing variables, such as product price and quality, and consumer online posting behavior at the initial and mature stages of internet usage. The study explained the role of social media marketing in the formation of such relationships, and revealed that extremely low or extremely high product price and quality boosted posting on several leading online automobile consumer review sources.

Several studies have also attempted to explain how consumer trust affects buying intention. Hajli (2014a) proposed a structural model that suggested that social interactions have a positive effect on consumer trust and such trust, in turn, has a positive effect on both the buying intention of customers and their perceived usefulness of social networks. Such perceived usefulness also has a positive effect on the buying intention of consumers. Pentina et al. (2013) examined the trust transfer phenomenon in Twitter usage in two different cultures. The online survey conducted in the USA and in Ukraine suggested that user trust on Twitter will positively affect their intentions to continue using the platform. However, the influence of user trust on “following” brands hosted on the social media platform is only statistically significant in the Ukrainian user group. Results further confirmed the role of similarity in personality traits between Twitter users and the Twitter brand in engendering trust in Twitter. Hsiao et al. (2010) studied the antecedents and consequences of trust in online product recommendations and uncovered the effects of social factors and perceived web value on the online purchase intention of consumers. The researchers also suggested that to influence the purchasing intention of consumers, social shopping web sites should improve the trustworthiness of their product recommendations by enhancing the perceived ability and integrity of their members and their willingness to share information.

Brand is a major element in marketing. Therefore, several studies focussed on branding issues in the social media environment.Barwise and Meehan (2010) discussed the significance of basic marketing elements, particularly brand building. The authors found that social media amplified company reputation when it delivers what it promises, and consequently suggested that companies should achieve the basic elements of developing and delivering a compelling brand promise. Colliander and Dahlén (2011)investigated and compared the effects of brand publicity in social and “traditional” digital media. The authors found that blogs generated better brand attitudes and purchase intentions than traditional online magazines, which is largely a result of the para-social interaction (PSI) effect. The authors also found that because of such effect, publicity is more sensitive to user perceptions of the credibility of writers and the relationship of users with the brand. Tsai and Men (2013) considered the participatory and communal nature of social networking sites (SNSs) and explored the effects of social media dependency and three social relationship factors, namely, PSI, perceived source credibility, and community identification, on consumer engagement with Facebook brand pages. The results confirmed that all factors except perceived source credibility were positive predictors of consumer engagement on SNSs (Tsai and Men, 2013).

As the use of social media in marketing has increased rapidly in recent years, a number of studies have directed attention toward effective marketing management. Weinberg and Pehlivan (2011) highlighted the different types of social media marketing mix and developed a framework for social media spending. Their framework used the half-life and depth of information to differentiate between social media types and guide marketers in the allocation of resources to social media in accordance with their social objectives. Barger and Labrecque (2013) described an integrated marketing communication perspective and identified seven key social media metrics: volume, share of voice, engagement, advocacy, return on investment, leads generated, and response time. With the exception of response time, these metrics cover the three traditional types of metrics used to evaluate integrated marketing communications, namely, attitudinal, behavioral, and financial metrics. Stephen and Toubia (2010) examined the economic implications of a social network of sellers in a large online social commerce marketplace. Their results showed that first, considerable economic value are generated from sellers connection via the social network, second, the primarily value of the social network lies in making shops more accessible to marketplace customers, and third, sellers benefit most from the enhanced accessibility by the social network. Moncrief et al. (2015) conducted a study on sales management. Their study explored the impact of social media on different sales management functions, particularly how sales managers could use SNSs and virtual worlds to supervise, train, and compensate the members of the sales forces.

3.2.1. Media sharing sites

Media sharing sites allow users to upload, organize, and share multi-media materials, including videos, audio, and photos, with people and/or selected communities. Examples of such sites are YouTube, Instagram, and Flickr. Media sharing sites were developed originally for individuals to share personal information and/or materials to friends and other people but have gradually evolved to become a sophisticated communication channel for companies to promote their products and corporate image though conveyance of organization messages to stakeholder groups or communities (e.g. Bonsón and Flores, 2011), as well as for educational organizations to support student learning by distributing digital learning resources (e.g. Baird and Fisher, 2006Click and Petit, 2010Sranamkam, 2012).

3.2.2. Blogs/microblogs

Blogs and microblogs are considered as a push technology in which the authors post their writings or information in the hope that someone will read them. Blogs are widely used by writers who aim to record or share messages, information, interests, and daily activities with other people whom they may or may not know. Blogger.com is an example of a blog site. Microblogs are considered to enjoy a short half-life (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011) because messages are quickly replaced and disappear. Twitter, Plurk, and Weibo are examples of microblogs. The advent of internet phones introduced microblogs that limit messages to 140 characters instead of long passages. Both blogs and microblogs have been widely used in marketing, CRM, knowledge sharing, organization communications, and education and training (e.g. Baird and Fisher, 2006Bonsón and Flores, 2011Chao et al., 2011Chua and Banerjee, 2013Click and Petit, 2010Colliander and Dahlén, 2011Fisher and Baird, 2005Hsieh et al., 2010Jin and Phua, 2014;Kassens-Noor, 2012Kozinets et al., 2010Pentina et al., 2013Smith, 2010Wei, 2009).

3.2.3. Social bookmarking sites

Instead of providing a platform for users to upload and share media contents directly, social bookmarking sites provide services and facilities for individuals to store and share bookmarks of web contents. Examples of such sites are Delicious, Pinterest, and Digg. People can use tags collaboratively in these social bookmarking sites to annotate and categorize the content they found interesting. The application of social bookmarking in education has drawn the attention of educators since the conception of social media (e.g.Baird and Fisher, 2006). Recently, marketers have also found ways of using social bookmarking sites for promotion, such as creating viral campaign or conducting collaborative activities (e.g. Kaplan and Haenlein, 2014).

3.2.4. Virtual/online communities

Virtual/online communities are social networks of individuals on a web site who share specific information and interests through interactive tools, such as e-mail, chat rooms, forums, and discussion boards. Examples of such communities are Lonely Planet and Yahoo Answers. The involved individuals are normally not acquaintances but may subsequently build a community of influence in specific areas, such as discussions of product performance, collaborative opportunities, and knowledge sharing. Web sites are not limited by geographical or political boundaries, and thus, virtual/online communities receive increasing attention and become influential in practice. A number of social media studies have been undertaken in the areas of marketing, CRM, collaborative activities, and others (e.g. Chua and Banerjee, 2013de Valck et al., 2009Dholakia et al., 2004Hsiao et al., 2010Piller et al., 2005;Porter and Donthu, 2008Ren et al., 2007, 2012). Marketers and politicians alike should keep a close eye on how products of a firm fare and how online communities comment in the virtual/online communities.

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