Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Promotion Mix and Consumer Engagement on Social Networking Sites: A Cross-Cultural Case Study of Starbucks Posts on Facebook (USA) and Kaixin (China)

Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Promotion Mix and Consumer Engagement on Social Networking Sites: A Cross-Cultural Case Study of Starbucks Posts on Facebook (USA) and Kaixin (China)

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The landscape of marketing communication has significantly changed in recent years due to the advent of social media. Social media marketing has become a global phenomenon as myriad social media platforms attract and connect millions of consumers worldwide. Among many social media applications, social networking sites (SNSs) might be the most prominent with their connection and interaction power, and have entered the public consciousness and permeated many people's daily lives (Spiegler, Hildebrand, & Michahelles, 2011). Facebook, for example, hosts the largest online community in the world, with 901 million monthly active users and more than 125 billion friend connections across the globe at the end of March 2012, according to the statistics released by Facebook (2012).

Although approximately 80 percent of Facebook's monthly active users are outside the United States and Canada (Facebook, 2012), this globally popular social networking site is not accessible in China, which has the largest number of Internet users ironically. But the marginal usage of Facebook does not cloud the popularity of SNSs in China. Rather, according to a report by Synthesio (2011), a Paris France based global multi-lingual social media monitoring and research company, in 2011, about half of Chinese Internet users, or 600 million Chinese, use more than one social networking sites, and one-third connect at least once a day. The two most promising SNSs in China are Renren (renren.com) with 120 million members and Kaixin (kaixin001.com) with 75 million, targeting different segments of the population though. While the majority of Renren's members are students, Kaixin's membership mainly consists of young employees (Synthesio, 2011).

Such rapid growth of SNSs in popularity across the globe has promoted many corporations to invest in marketing communications on SNSs (Boyd & Ellison, 2008). With their social exchange and engagement functions supported by the Web 2.0 technology, SNSs present marketers unprecedented media opportunities for customer relationship building, not only peer to peer among consumers but also between marketers and their customers (ETarridge-March & Quinton, 2009). Therefore, SNSs provide brand marketers new platforms to build their online brand communities through integrating a variety of communication tools, or promotion mix elements. For example, Starbucks has accumulated more than 30 million fans on Facebook since it created its fan page in 2008 (Starbucks, 2012). As Mangold and Faulds (2009) argued, social media is a hybrid element of the promotion mix. In other words, SNSs offer marketers opportunities to manage and run integrated marketing communications (IMC) programs all in one medium.

Flowever, there is a lack of empirical studies of how brand marketers coordinate and control the various elements of the promotion mix on social network sites in literature. Marketers might be more interested in knowing and predicting the effectiveness of their IMC programs on SNSs. The judgment of whether a marketing communication works is directly related to the communication and media objective(s). By the same token, identifying the measurement of the effectiveness of IMC on SNSs depends on what marketers want to achieve. However, the objectives of using SNSs might be different from those of using traditional media for IMC. Whereas traditional media is all about reach, in social media environment, the focus of marketing communications should be on capturing and continuing attention via engagement (Hanna, Rohm, & Crittenden, 2011). Hoffman and Fodor (2010) emphasized three objectives that take advantage of the distinctive characteristics of social media: brand awareness, brand engagement, and word of mouth. The latter two that involve a user's behavior and experience within the online brand community especially reflect the unique connection and interaction features of social network sites. Thus, one of the purposes of this study is to examine a possible relationship between the employment of the promotion mix elements on social networking sites and brand engagement. …

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