Communication Research Methods
The social media have occupied a significant part of the human life, with many people relying upon them as their primary means of communication with others, as well as the major source of information on a wide array of topics. Naturally, such situation has presented certain opportunities to business entities that try to find the best ways in which the use of the social media can help to boost their sales and increase the loyalty of consumers. Recently, this problem has attracted the attention of numerous scholars, with each of them providing an opinion on it. Specifically, some researchers state that the primary components of success in this field of activity include the mutual trust (Hajli, 2013) and interconnectedness (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker, & Bloching, 2013), which tend to stem from similar values of the buyer and the seller. Thus, by adhering to the beliefs that are universal in their nature, namely the ones that are supported by the majority of people, one can expect considerable results. At the same time, it is imperative to draw a line between different groups of consumers during the implementation of such measures. Specifically, Nadeem, Andreini, Salo, and Laukkanen (2015) demonstrate the importance of an understanding of gender differences when catering to the needs of potential buyers. In their work, the authors claim that female customers tend to be more socially interactive while the male ones make decisions faster, even in case the information on the product or service is scarce (Nadeem et al., 2015). Thus, the messages in the social media are to cater to the psychological peculiarities of a particular audience.
On the other hand, Ashley and Tuten (2015) argue that the effect of the social media will be pronounced only in case their content contributes to the construction of a positive self-image. This position is also supported by Fuchs (2017), who emphasizes the self-centered nature of this phenomenon that is evident in the names of popular networks such as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook, claiming that the collective we-logic is yet to become dominant. These facts also provide an insight into marketing strategies that will be the most effective when applied to the virtual environment.
Therefore, enterprises have to take numerous factors into account if they aim to affect the behavior of their customers in the way they require. Given these facts, it is possible to assume that in case of non-profit or social organizations, which tend to rely on the goodwill of their clients to facilitate a purchase instead of their material needs, this task becomes even more complex. This assumption has led to the emergence of the research question that is presented below.
In what way can the social-oriented companies influence the consumer behavior through the use of social media?
Data Collection and Analysis
In order to answer the presented research question, it was necessary to conduct a study of the case of a particular business entity. Specifically, ME to WE, a Canadian non-profit organization focusing on socially responsible products, and its Twitter account used to communicate with the clientele have become objects of analysis. The required data were procured by the review of the posts made by the PR managers of the organization and their comparative analysis. In the course of the latter, the following factors were taken into account the content of messages, the attachments such as pictures and video files, the use of citations, and so on, with all of these being compared with the principles discovered in the course of the literature review. Additionally, all of the tweets were reviewed from the personal perspective, and the subsequent assessment of a resonance they have caused in the authors mind was conducted to choose the most appropriate ones. Thus, given the type of the research, which is a case study, as well as the reliance on the empirical approach and comparative analysis (Silverman, 2016), it is possible to state that the methods used to procure and analyze the information were qualitative in their nature.
Results and Discussion
The information obtained in the course of the research has allowed identifying several ways in which ME to WE influences the behavior of consumers who use social networks. In general, they coincide with the principles described in the previously reviewed scholarly works. The socially responsible nature of the products and services of the company can be seen in the type of messages it promotes, which is to give a gift, save lives, follow the example of celebrities, and so on. It contributes to the creation of a positive self-image in the eyes of a consumer and thus make them purchase in the companys store. Additionally, the focus on the universal values such as friends, family, and love, which is evident in the three out of four messages presented in the appendix, contributes to the emergence of the desired consumer behavior, as well as the ability to reach out to a wider audience.
At the same time, some of the obtained information contradicts the one presented in the reviewed scholarly works. Specifically, the importance of gender differences, which was underlined in the work by Nadeem et al. (2015), is mostly ignored by the organization in question. For example, women predominantly appear in the attachments to the posts made by the companys PR managers despite the fact that ME to WE does not position itself as a female-oriented organization. Thus, one can assume that the managerial staff of the organization perceives the female half of the population as either more socially interactive or compassionate one. However, given the companys choice of the Twitter social network, which allows operating only with short messages, it is possible to state that such approach is more suitable for male consumers who were identified as the ones who do not require excessive information to make a decision related to purchase. Such contradictions, as well as the reasons behind them, are difficult to comprehend and have a potential of becoming a topic of a separate study.
Finally, the analysis of the case has led to unexpected results. For example, none of the reviewed works have referred to the values that are being upheld at the scale of the entire nation such as diversity and equality, while ME to WE relies on them to affect the consumer behavior. In this regard, it is possible to refer to its friendship-related tweets that often come with the photos of people of different ethnicities to cater to the needs and feelings of the population that adheres to the principles of diversity and multiculturalism. Given the fact that the mentioned values play a major role in the life of a modern society, it was surprising to see that they are often overlooked by scholars.
An enterprise can utilize a wide array of methods to influence the behavior of its consumers via social media. Specifically, the analysis of the messages of ME to WE has demonstrated the reliance on the widely accepted principles of marketing, namely building trust, creating value in the form of a positive self-image, and so on. At the same time, some of the methods implemented by the company can be perceived as either questionable (the duality in the content and nature of the messages) or the ones that are overlooked by the scholars (the focus on diversity and equality). In this regard, one may assume that changes in the marketing policy of the company, namely the elimination of the described contradictions, could improve its efficiency in the long-term perspective.