Mobile social media: The new hybrid element of digital marketing communications
The very first location and mobile marketing-equipped mobile device was the Palm VII, a personal digital assistant (PDA) developed by Palm Computing in 1999. This device allowed consumers to access weather and traffic information but was very costly, charging $300 for each megabyte of data usage. But the mobile marketing revolution started in a true sense in June 2007 with the iPhone. In 2014, Apple had sold more than 500 million iPhones worldwide (no doubt that figure has jumped significantly since then). Users are provided with hundreds of thousands of applications that enable them to read books, search information, buy goods, book tickets, connect with friends and conduct many other activities too numerous to mention.
Mobile social media: New element of digital marketing
With the emergence of iPhone, various companies sprang up – like Gowalla in 2007 and Foursquare in 2009 – and created mobile marketing and mobile social media. Dedicated applications of giant internet companies, like Google Latitude (2009) and Facebook Places (2010) entered the mobile market. Foursquare is considered the market leader in mobile social media, with more than 45 million registered users. Foursquare enables users to share their location with each other by checking in at various places. Mobile social media is distinct from conventional social media in many ways. Yadav, Joshi and Rahman aimed to throw some light on the evolution of mobile social media with their paper.
What is mobile marketing?
There are many examples of mobile marketing applications, and mobile social media is just one part of it. Andreas M. Kaplan defines mobile marketing as “any marketing activity conducted through a ubiquitous network to which consumers are constantly connected using a personal mobile device”.
Three conditions are required to be considered as mobile marketing:
- There should be an omnipresent network. An omnipresent network is not essentially a single network, but is an amalgamation of different networks. For example, one can be linked at home via wireless local area network, which in turn switches to 3G when outdoors and further changes to a different network in the workplace. The crucial factor is not the network but that inter-convertibility into different networks occurs easily and undetectably.
- There should be constant user access to the mobile network. As far as mobile phones are concerned, this condition is a triviality – because most people rely heavily on mobile phones there is little chance they will leave them at home. On the other hand, for devices like tablet computers, continuous access is dependent more on the user than on the technology, as the user has to decide to switch on the device.
- There is possession of a personal mobile device. The mobile device can be defined as any instrument that enable access to an omnipresent network beyond one definite access gate. As far as mobile marketing is concerned, the mobile device possessed by the user should be personal and not shared.
Taxonomy of mobile marketing applications
To classify mobile marketing applications, two variables are considered – firstly, the extent of consumer knowledge and secondly, the trigger of communication. With regards to the extent of consumer knowledge, personal usage of mobile devices enable companies to tailor their communication for an individual user, which is a one-to-one marketing concept. However, it is not mandatory to customise the entire mobile marketing. A distinction can be made between the extent of consumer knowledge of the internet service provider and the company initiating a mobile marketing campaign, because usually they are not similar. Trigger of communication is classified on the basis of two types of communications. First is push communication (company initiated) and the second is pull communication (consumer initiated).
Companies falling under the low knowledge/push group follow a strategy of broadcasting standardised messages to large audiences/mobile users. Generally, the company can’t find which customers are being covered by the message, and so refer to those customers as strangers. The second group is made up of low knowledge/pull customers, who choose to obtain information, but do not recognise when to do so. Hence the company is unaware of the clients it has dealt with or is dealing with, and this group is referred to as cohort groups. The third group is high knowledge/push, and is made up of companies who are aware of their customers and messages and information could be sent to them without the prior permission of the customers. This group is referred to as victims. The fourth and last group is high knowledge/pull, and it means customers willingly give their consent to give their personal information and to be contacted. This enables one-to-one communication without aggravating the clients. As such these customers are referred to as patrons.
What is mobile social media?
According to a 2010 Kaplan & Haenlein definition, “Social Media is a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”
As such, Yadav, Joshi and Rahman define mobile social media as all mobile marketing applications that enable the formation of user-generated content. Companies using mobile social media often have some information about consumers they are dealing with. And generally consumers agree to get knowledge from the company. The three academics divided the mobile social media applications into four types, first on the basis of location sensitivity and then on time sensitivity. Location sensitivity refers to the definite location of the consumer. Time sensitivity relates to whether the user receives and processes the information simultaneously or with some time lag.
- Applications that are neither location nor time sensitive are referred to as slow-timers.
- Applications that are location and time sensitive are referred to as space-timers.
- Applications reflecting only location sensitivity, but not time sensitivity are known as space-locators
- Applications reflecting only time sensitivity, but not location sensitivity are quick-timers
The most sophisticated social media mobile applications are space-timers.
Mobile social media: Theoretical fundamentals and inferences
Generally for any communication, two parties are required – one is the sender who shares some information and the other is the receiver who receives and listen to the communication. But two relevant questions arise out of this exchange.
- First, why should someone take time to check in at a particular location, just to share information about their detailed location? The answer to this question lies in the theory of self-presentation and self-disclosure, which states that people will readily share personal information if they have a firm belief that sharing such information is consistent with the image they want others to have about them. Another answer lies in the impulsiveness theory, which states that people continuously fight between demonstrating enduring control and giving in to interim temptations.
- The second question is why will others, such as friends and companies, pay attention and comment or reply to such updates or information? Friends reply to remain aware and to exchange information. Mobile social media enable companies to send location and/or time specific marketing messages. The enthusiasm that is generated from the termination date of these marketing messages can result in more effective marketing communication.
Business use and mobile social media
Conventional social media brings enormous opportunities for businesses in various sectors. Social media is a powerful medium for viral marketing campaigns and for launching new products. But mobile social media can also be used for marketing communication, loyalty programs and marketing research.
Social media applications on mobile provide important data on offline consumer habits. Companies can now easily get the check-in details of the consumer in their outlet and their experience can be seen by the comments of the customer. Social media applications have made it easy for the companies to get information on age, gender, how many times a customer checked in at a particular outlet, how many customers visited the outlet and who is the most frequent visitor, and which customer spends more time in the outlet. When this data is compiled efficiently, businesses, like Amazon, can easilt manage their customers.
Communication through mobile social media includes business to consumer (B2C) communication and user-generated content (UGC). An example to B2C social media mobile communication is the promotion of an Cheryl Ann Cole’s 2010 album titled Messy Little Drops with the help of Facebook Places. When people passed by one of the 114 poster locations in Cole’s home town of London, they were asked to check in at a billboard. When the customer checked in at that billboard, they were directed to Cheryl’s Facebook page and were offered two free tickets for her X-Factor shows. UGC is also an excellent promotional technique. In April 2010, McDonald’s offered gift vouchers to 100 users who checked in at particular McDonald’s restaurant. This campaign became so popular among users that it resulted in a 33 per cent rise in McDonald’s check-ins.
Discounts and sales promotion
Various mobile social media apps enable customisation of promotions for specific customers and for a specific time. For new product promotion, Virgin America is a classic example. When it launched its California-Cancun service, it started a promotional campaign using mobile social media that asked consumers to check in through Loopt from one of three selected Border Grill Taco Trucks in San Francisco and Los Angeles at a specific time. Consumers had the opportunity to have two tacos for $1 and get a 50 per cent discount on flights to Mexico. In a window of just four hours, more than 1300 people checked in, with 80 per cent buying tickets from Virgin America.
Customer loyalty programs and relationships
Sustained business growth is the dream of every business. However, it doesn’t come through a sole purchase, but through repeated business transactions between the consumer and the company thanks to customer loyalty. For example, Foursquare awards the status of mayor to a customer who is regularly checking in at the same place for 60 days. Domino’s Pizza offers to the mayor a free pizza every Wednesday. Tasti D-Lite, a New York-based company famous for its frozen sweets, motivates consumers to link their Foursquare and Twitter accounts with their Tasti D-Lite membership cards. Consumers who give their consent to do so are awarded additional bonus points on every purchase they make, which is simultaneously updated on their Foursquare and Twitter accounts. This in turn increases the brand awareness of Tasti D-Lite.
Recommendations for mobile social media applications
While innumerable opportunities are offered by innovative communication channels, Yadav, Joshi and Rahman offer four tips for companies operating through social media.
- Companies should make their mobile social media applications so interesting that it becomes part and parcel of a customer’s daily life and not monotonous and a nuisance.
- Such applications will become part and parcel of a customer’s life only if those social media applications are being customised, taking into consideration individual user interest and likings.
- User engagement should be encouraged by conversation and other loyalty programs.
- Companies should initiate user-generated content and word of mouth, whichenables stronger amalgamation of activities into consumer’s life.
Mobile social media in the years to come
Mobile social media is a revolution in mobile marketing due to its omnipresence and global reach. As of 2013, the penetration rate of mobile phones reached 96 per cent around the globe, which includes 128 per cent and 89 per cent for developed and developing countries respectively. If companies really want flourish and capture generation Z, commonly referred to as net generation, they should switch to mobile social media marketing.
Mobile social media has played a crucial role in integrating the virtual and real life of individuals. It was believed by researchers that the emergence of the internet would lead to low social involvement and low communication, but we know that the opposite is true. But there are definite threats and hurdles that have to be considered. The most important among these relates to trust, privacy and security, and the unethical and destructive use of data. Some technology developers in the Netherlands developed a website named PleaseRobMe.com. This site collected check-in data from Foursquare and posted it on Twitter simultaneously. After this process an algorithm could find out the home address and the current location of the user. When the current location and home address were far enough away from each other, that candidate becomes most suitable for robbery. These kinds of applications will make the users reluctant in the future to share their personal information. In various countries legislators are addressing these problems from various perspectives. According to Do-Not-Track Online Act, 2011 in the US, a company cannot store the online activities of any user without his or her permission. If any company is found to breach the terms and conditions of this Act, legal action is taken against the company by the Federal Trade commission. Under the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 in the UK, a company has to ask for the user’s permission before collecting any of his/her personal data. Also a ‘right to be forgotten’ is enjoyed by the users to get their data deleted, unless it is needed for some genuine purposes.
It is vital, then, that companies planning to employ mobile social media in its marketing communications have to move very cautiously, keeping in mind all the rules and regulations of the game.
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