Information Technology: Interpersonal and E-communication
One of the most remarkable aspects of information technology evolution is that it has paved way to the emergence and development of social media technologies. The social media comprises social media sites that allow people from different parts to interact in virtual settings. The common social media sites include YouTube, Twitter, FunSpace, FaceBook, google+ and LinkedIn. The internet social networking sites have a strong impact on the performance of business organizations since they enable them to reach, communicate and closely interact with a large number of customers at low costs (Rapp et al., 2013, pp. 554). The case of Dell, a leading producer and seller of computers and other technological products, demonstrates the impacts of using social media on business performance and operations. Dell has been using social media sites since 2006 (Dell, 2016). The social media has enabled the Dell to engage in close communication with consumers and its has significantly benefited from the interactions. Deriving examples from the case of Dell, this paper explores the impact of the social media on business communication and operations. Also, the paper examines the challenges that emanate from using the social media in businesses.
The social media enables business organizations to communicate with a large base of customers and potential customers at very low costs. Using the social media does not involve significant costs. One of the attributes of the social media sites is that they are easy to open and they allow people to use the free of charge. For instance, there are no direct charges involved in the use of FaceBook and Twitter. Users only incur browsing charges. After opening accounts on social media sites, users have an opportunity to interact with millions of people using the same social media sites (Tsimonis & Dimitriadis, 2014, p. 330). As such, business organizations take advantage of the opportunity through interacting with consumers and potential consumers through the social media sites (Dell, 2016). Dell, for instance, has opened more than 60 Twitter handles through which it communicates with millions of Twitter users around the world. The company posts information about its products and services in the form of twits (Dell, 2016). As such, the social media is an inexpensive and easy channel of business communication relative to the alternative modes of communication. Alternative modes of business communication, such as face-to-face communication and use of telephones and mobile phones, are costly and they do not have potential to reach the number of audiences that the social media sites can reach.
In addition to allowing easy communication with the customers, the social media allows organizational stakeholders such as workers and managers to engage in personal and informal communication with customers through virtual settings. FaceBook, for instance, allows organizations to create forums in which they discuss important topics with customers and other FaceBook users. Dell posts information that is of interest to customers and other stakeholders on its FaceBook account. The information is accessible to other FaceBook users. Importantly, the social media allows organizations to respond quickly to customers and other stakeholders. Information in the social media sites is transferred and exchanged in real time (Erdoğmuşa & Çiçek, 2012, p. 1358). For instance, the workers for Dell respond immediately to the questions raised by other FaceBook users on the discussion forum or through messages. FaceBook allows the customers for Dell to raise their concerns and seek information from the workers of the company (Dell, 2016). The informal communication between organizational workers and customers encourages the customers to be open and transparent as they give out information. As Erdoğmuşa and Çiçek (2012, p. 1358) explained, the social media customers become more open and transparent when communicating via the social media since the intimidation that may be inherent in formal and more direct communication is reduced.
The changes in business communication as a result of the social media have triggered business organizations to focus more on social media marketing than the more traditional marketing methods. Prior to the emergence of the social media, business organizations promoted their products and services through media channels such as televisions, radios, magazines, and billboards and through engaging point of sale marketing. Although business organizing still using the traditional methods to some degree, the social media is emerging as a better alternative to the traditional marketing channels to most organizations (Erdoğmuşa & Çiçek, 2012, p. 1358). Dell, for instance, has been focusing more on promoting its products through the social media than through the traditional marketing channels. Dell informs customers about any customizations made on its products and services through the social media and other media channels. Also, the company posts information in the social media about its new products (Dell, 2016). Thus, organizations are increasingly using the social media as an alternative marketing channel to the traditional marketing channels and methods.
The social media has brought numerous opportunities to modern businesses. First, the social media provides modern businesses with an opportunity to strengthen their relationships with customers and hence, improve customer retention rate. Organizations can use the social media to enhance customer retention through strengthening communication with them through the social media sites (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009, p. 61). Using the social media has enabled Dell to develop close and strong relationships with customers. Consequently, the customer retention rate in the company has improved (Dell, 2016). As noted in the case of Dell, customers feel as if they are valued when their concerns and questions are responded to immediately through the social media sites. Also, the direct and informal interaction through the social media enhances customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is a vital aspect that enhances customer retention.
Second, the social media provides business organizations with an opportunity to expand customer base. As stated earlier, the social media sites allow users to interact with millions of users from different parts of the world. For instance, there are more than 500 million FaceBook users and more than 100 million Twitter users across the globe (Tsimonis & Dimitriadis, 2014, P. 329). Dell has been utilizing the opportunity through opening accounts in all famous social networking sites. The company interacts with the users of social media sites from all regions in the world. For instance, the different Twitter accounts created by Dell are meant to deal with customers from different regions. Using different Twitter accounts enables Dell to meet the interests and needs of customers in each target market and hence, satisfy them (Dell, 2016). Some of the social media users who view information about the products and services offered by business organizations develop interest and ultimately, they are converted into active customers (Berthon et al., 2012, p. 264).
Third, the social media provides businesses with an opportunity to conduct market research that is essential in determining the needs and interests of customers. Business organizations can post discussion topics on social media sites and provoke responses from customers and potential customers. Business organizations can use such responses to gauge determine what customers want. Dell, for instance, posts information about its products and services on Twitter and FaceBook and provokes responses from the users. The company seeks to determine their attitudes towards its products and services. Also, Dell asks the customers to give suggestions for improvement of products and services (Dell, 2016). Such information is important to business organizations since it enables them to determine ways of designing their products and services in order to satisfy customers (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009, p. 62).
Further, the social media provides business organizations with an opportunity to achieve competitive advantage in their industries. Competitive advantage occurs as a result of enhanced customer satisfaction and retention rate. Also, the increase in customer base as a result of using the social media enhances a firm’s level of competitiveness (Genslera et al., 2013, p. 245). The use of social media by Dell, for instance, has played a significant role in enhancing the company’s competitive edge in its industry. Dell is rated as one of the most social companies in the world (Dell, 2016). The positive perception has resulted from the ability of the company to interact closely with customers and to respond quickly to their concerns through the social media. In addition to enhancing customer retention and customer base, using social media sites by Dell helps to enhance its revenues and profitability. Competitive advantage also emerges from the costs saved in doing market research (Dell, 2016). In this regard, firms that use the social media have a higher chance of surviving in their industries than the companies than do not use it.
Last, using the social media enables business organizations to improve their public relations. Public relation is improved mainly because of conveying information to customers and other members of the public in real time. The reputation of an organization improves when it responds quickly to the concerns and questions raised by customers (Genslera et al., 2013, p. 246). For instance, using the social media to respond to customers is one of the tactics that Dell has been using in order to improve its reputation and image (Dell, 2016). Developing good reputation and image is vital since it enhances the ability of firms to attract investors (Genslera et al., 2013, p. 246).
Despite providing numerous opportunities to organizations, the social media poses several challenges to business organizations. First, the use of the social media increases the possibility of access of confidential information about an organization, customers or employees to unauthorised persons. Data breach as a result of using the social media can occur in many ways. For instance, the workers can post sensitive and confidential information about their organization or customers on social media sites. Data breach can also be caused by hacking. Concerns have been raised that social media sites retain vital information for the users even after deleting. Data breach can occur in case such information is accessed by unauthorised persons. Business organizations are obligated to adopt strategies meant to prevent data breach as a result of the use of social media (Berthon et al., 2012, p. 267). Dell prevents data breach as a result of use of the social media through training its workers on how to use the social media and sensitizing them about the importance of maintaining the privacy of confidential data. Also, the company uses security control systems to detect and prevent unauthorised access of confidential information by hackers (Dell, 2016). Therefore, data breach a significant challenge faced by organizations as they use the social media.
Second, business organizations are exposed to the risk of losing reputation as a result of the use of social media. For instance, organizations lose reputation when they post deceptive or wrong information in the social media (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009, p. 62). To prevent such incidences, Dell provides its workers with adequate training and guidance on how to post information and kind of information they should not expose or post (Dell, 2016). Organizations are obligated to be very cautious about the information they post on the social media. Last, Internet addition is common in business organizations that use the social media. Internet addition occurs when workers overuse the internet to the extent that their daily lives and participation in other organizational roles are affected (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009, p. 63).
Overall, the social media allows business organizations to communicate at personal level with a large number of customers at a very small cost. Consequently, business organizations are increasingly using the social media as an alternative marketing tool to the more traditional forms of media. The social media presents several opportunities that business organizations should utilize. The social media allows businesses to conduct market research, enhance customer retention, improve customer base, enhance competitive edge and improve public relations. However, organizations need to address challenges associated with the social media, including possibility of data breach and reputation and technology addition.
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