Social media has become a worldwide spread phenomenon. The transaction from static internet web pages to dynamic or user-generated content has changed the way people communicate. A recent Global Digital Report from ‘we are social’ 2019 has shown that more than 45% of the world's population is active on SM. Nearly all of the 3.5 billion users connect at least once per day, and 30% of them like, share, or post content more than 10 times per day. Social media interaction has shortened the distance between countries and people.
The exciting opportunity has attracted many businesses who spotted the potentiality to help them build a more intimate and close relationship with consumers worldwide (Sashi,2012).
The civil aviation industry is no exception. The necessity to build more sustainable competitive advantages is the reason at the center of social media implementation within the e airline industry. The deployment of customer engagement practices through Web 2.0, seems the way forward.
Aiming to create a better barrier in front of consumer brand switch (Vilkaite-baritone and Papsiene, 2016), airline vectors are proactively participating in social media marketing activity. Moreover, in an environment in which social media engagement seems essential to efficiently identify customer needs and connect the brand to the traveler, to deliver a unique travel experience (Dolan and Shahbaznejad, 2017). The beneficial outcome enhances customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, firm success (Harmeling et al.,2018). On the other hand, the consumer has a significant role in modeling the way the firm operates, moreover in a content where she/he can directly participate in the firm activity (Boland et al.,2018). ‘Whether intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, guided or unguided by the firm, customers are now active contributors to a wide variety of marketing functions. They can express their opinion evaluate firm content and drive consensus to a certain aspect of the firm’ (Harmeling et.al 2018).
Considering the importance of social media implementation in today’s marketing environment, this project will present an emerging study on the use of social media as a customer engagement tool. The aim of the project is to provide a method of evaluation of customer engagement levels through a set of metrics developed on multiple corporate’s Facebook pages within a defined business field: the airline industry.
Granovetter (1973) pioneered the direction of social network research as a scholarly discipline. His development on social network theory and economic sociology has formed the base for the contemporary literature on customer engagement () which has been at the center of a firm’s marketing activity.
Defined as a ‘‘firm’s deliberate effort to motivate, empower and measure customer contribution to marketing functions (Harmeling et al., 2018), in the business communication world, customer engagement defines a connection between an external stakeholder, that generally is the consumer, and an organization through a different channel of correspondence. This connection could be the result of an interaction, a reaction, or an overall experience that takes place through an online communicational channel or an offline communication channel.
The interest in customer engagement, after the advent of social media, has attracted many researchers, which are looking to find out best practices, and correct engagement strategies.
Sashi (2012) defines customer engagement as the result of seven different steps embedded in the customer engagement cycle: connections, interactions, satisfactions, retentions, commitments, and advocacies which leads to engagement. Kim and Ko (2012), classified customer engagement as the result of five different levels of social media marketing activity (SMMA): interaction, trendiness, entertainment, customization, and word of mouth while Sano (2015), applied trendiness, customization, interaction, and perceived risk as the four SMMA components for customer engagement. EUN-Ju and Sin Woo (2018), analyzed customer engagement, through the level of commitment and e-word of mouth, in response to brand awareness and brand image. The outcome of the study defined a positive correlation between customer levels of response to brand equity. Martin Kepleck (2017), one year prior, studied the customer engagement process on Facebook as the information-seeking behavior of consumers to a fan page. The measured construct indicator used in his research showed a positive correlation between the hedonic value (gained by the interaction of the customer in the look for new experiences and fun) and social value (associated with the interaction with other fans on the brand page) to the customer engagement process (Kepleck, 2017). The innovative studies have pointed out that, the process of customer engagement, needs to focus on a communication strategy aim to produce attractive content, which satisfies the hedonic value of a customer. Moreover, customer engagement shows the highest regression scale when it relates to social value (Kepleck,2017). The consumer needs to feel part of a brand community in order to build new relationships. Hilde et al. (2018) add a contribution to the customer engagement study describing the differentiating role of social media platforms in the engagement process.
None of the cited work dealt purely with corporate media platform metrics on Facebook. The topic is actively becoming an important argument for customer engagement investigation.
Organizations have recognized the power of the Internet, as a platform to co-create value with the customer (Sawhney et al., 2005). Firms' objectives to transmit persuasive marketing messages, designed to stimulate consumers, to positively participate in the development of the brand or a specific product and services (Kirby and Marsden, 2006), have supported companies’ implementation of SMP. The embracement of most digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Myspace is supporting the extension of the usual marketing channel to address B2C and C2C interaction (Greenberg,2010). At the same time, the methods of social media platforms' employment for marketing activities are very unknown. Many firms have started the development of SMP for marketing engagement without a clear strategy and many have started their implementation through a trial-and-error method of experimentation, coming across many issues.
Delta airline, for example, is one of the airlines that mostly utilize social media for marketing activity, (Talk, 2018). It allows the firm to advise passengers of any disruption in a faster and more efficient way, it allows the firm to promote the new route, services, and holiday packages, and It allows the consumer to connect with the organization in a more efficient and responsive way. In 2017, Delta airline shares were indicated lower in premarket, after a passenger incident went viral on social media (Botter, 2017).
This example indicates that although social media is an innovative method for marketing activity, the nature of the activity itself is unknown and it has risen many concerns. Customers that interact with a firm social platform, seek the opportunity to publicly communicate their concerns and be heard. The symmetrical social media communication allows a more cooperative and communicative approach (Habermans,1990) which enables customers to interact without ‘much of a filter’ and without the control of the content generator (Habermans, 1990. The outcome can sometimes pull away the firm’s marketing objectives.
Despite some arguable results, the value added by social media implementation seems to overcome the possible risk ( Eid and Zaidi, 2010). The uncontrollable force of SM ‘democratization of communication’, plays a central role in the construction of the interaction between consumers and vendors, and at the same time, can become controversial without a proper marketing strategy and might generate brand damage( Arslan, 2015). It is very important for firms to understand the level of interaction in regard to the quality of the content generated, as those content will be under consumer scrutiny. What is missing, is a concrete best practice that could lead to customer engagement success (Dubach Spiegler, 2011).
Social media interaction produces a huge amount of data, which gives researchers an unprecedented volume of information values for analysis (). The data can provide a means to monitor behavior, outside the core transaction, to capture a more holistic view (Harmeling et al., 2018). Also, data produced from SM interaction (for example the number of customers who like on certain topic, the level of SM customer reaction embedded in the number of comments on a newly launched product, or the level of SM content sharing), can form the basis for valuable metrics which are able to asses customer engagements for a given social media platform (Munoz-Esposito et al., 2016). This study will provide some inside into Facebook practices and will offer new measurement metrics for customer engagement through analysis of the content popularity, stakeholder reaction to content, stakeholder sentiment to post content, stakeholder level of virality, and content analysis. The metric for evaluation will be explained on the KPI model described in the study. The paper will seek to address the following research question:
- RQ1 Can stakeholder interaction be measured?
- RQ2 Is stakeholder interaction dependable by the type of post content?
- RQ3 Is the stakeholder level of virality dependable by the post content?
- RQ4 Can stakeholder sentiment to post content be measured?