Academic journal article Entrepreneurial Executive

Using Social Networks to Build Business Connections: Engagement and Interactivity on Guam's Restaurants' Facebook Pages

Academic journal article Entrepreneurial Executive

Using Social Networks to Build Business Connections: Engagement and Interactivity on Guam's Restaurants' Facebook Pages

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

When online social networks sites (SNS) like Facebook were originally developed, they were envisioned to connect friends, people in interpersonal relationships. However, the potential for using SNS as a tool for building business relationships was quickly recognized.

As of March 31, 2012, Burston-Marsteller's Global Social Media Check-up (2012) reported that Facebook has over 901 million active users. On September 14, 2012, the number of Facebook users surpassed the one billion mark (Facebook Newsroom, 2012).

The percentage of Fortune Global 100 companies that has a Facebook page has grown from 54% in 2010 to 74% in 2012. According to the same report (Burston-Masteller, 2012), the average corporate Facebook community has increased by 275% since 2010. Facebook pages connecting members of these communities are updated weekly by 93% of these companies, an increase from 54% in 2010. However, only 70% actively respond to posts or comments on these pages, which suggests variations in levels of interactivity in these online interactions. Some companies may build these Facebook pages and use them in a passive way, in the same manner that brochures are left on counters without anticipation of immediate feedback.

Facebook activity in Guam mirrors the global trends to a certain extent. There are 58,799 current Facebook users in Guam (as of the first week of February, 2013), which represents a 36.84% penetration of the total population, and 65.23% of the online population (Social Bakers, 2013). Interestingly, this figure actually represents a significant drop in the number of Facebook users over the last six months. There were 71,280 Facebook users in Guam in early September, 2012, which represented 34% of the population (Social Bakers, 2013).

Other secular trends may account for this change, including larger issues regarding online privacy and co-dependence on social media. Facebook's IPO earlier in 2012 may also be a factor (particularly for those who feared that the drive for profit would inexorably change the SNS), as well as some calls for "digital detox" after suggestions were made about the possibility that Facebook addiction may be another subcategory of the internet spectrum addiction disorders (Karaiskos et al., 2010). Furthermore, a survey by the Pew Research Institute (December, 2012) reports that there is "considerable fluidity in the Facebook user population." They found that 61% of current Facebook users indicate that they have taken a voluntary break from Facebook for several weeks or more. Moreover, the survey found that 20% of online adults are former Facebook users.

Despite this "fluid" population, companies have not been deterred from building their own Facebook pages, and using it as a means of establishing connections with individual customers. According to emerging frameworks based on customer management theory, SNS make it easier for customers to interact with one another and other companies. Hence, customer engagement, defined as "a behavioral manifestation toward the brand or firm that goes beyond transactions (Verhoef et al., 2010)," can be developed through the interactions in SNS. Van Doorn et al. (2010) identify various behaviors which contribute to customer engagement, including "WOM (word of mouth), blogging, providing customer ratings and so on." The authors also "specifically discuss multiple dimensions of customer engagement, which include valence, form and modality, scope, impact, and customers' purpose. They also propose that customer characteristics, firm initiatives, and the environment (or, as they state, a context factor) affect customer engagement behaviors (p. 249)."

Dholakia and Durham's (2010) experiment on the effect of a restaurant's Facebook page (Dessert Gallery--DG) on increasing its customer base yielded mixed results. While the email interactions with the customers who participated in their study yielded an increase in Facebook fans, the overall gain was only 2. …

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