This section analyses the results referring back to the literature, allowing the researcher to compare and contrast what was stated in the literature and what was found in the study.
Followers and Conversation
The study found that 73% of the participants believed that followers were either important or very important on Twitter (Figure 1.3). Although the literature explains that a user’s popularity did not necessarily lead to a higher amount of engagement the majority of participants still believe that being popular is important. Furthermore the majority of participants highlighted that the numbers of followers an account has influences its Twitter presence (Figure 1.4). However when asked whether they agreed or disagreed with “A users popularity does not lead to a high amount of engagement” the majority agreed (Figure 4.1). This would produce assumptions that they do not believe a high number of followers lead to engagement. 100% of the participants believed that Twitter is not about the number of followers but it’s about making a connection and relationships with people (Figure 4.3). All these question show inconsistence in what value the participants put on followers.
The literature found an underlining value of Twitter from using the platform as a conversation tool. To test this the participants were questioned whether they would ask their followers for opinions, 87% answered that they would ask for opinions (Figure 1.5). This shows that the majority of the people asked in the study understood that Twitter is a two way communication tool and not just for promotions. This was explored further as the participants were asked whether they would allow followers to dictate major product design, 60% of the participants said they would not allow the followers to dictate product design. In contrast the literature found that Dell one of the leading companies using social media did this with great success. Participants views may be down to two reasons firstly they may not believe that their followers on Twitter are actually their customers or just because the strategy is too risky and costly if decision made are wrong. Finally the majority of participants believed that mentions are more important than retweets. To sum up although participants believe followers are of great importance than the academics the participants definitely understood that conversation is one of the main uses of the social networking site so much so that they would prefer to communicate with followers than spread promotions via Push-Push-Pull communication.
The majority of participants did not worry about negative comments on Twitter, with more males not worrying about negative tweets compared to females. This is a very confident approach to social media by the participants; however they may wish to bear in mind the comments by Gillin (2007). Furthermore when asked how many customers a bad tweet could cost a company (Figure 6.2) the answer were far from concrete. The two extremes of the answer were found with participants explaining that they simply did not know how many customers could be lost. Examples of responses include “No idea”, “Not a lot”, “0 if handled well”, “500”, “thousands” and “You can potentially lose all customers!” Possibly the most worrying response to the question was “I don’t know! A lot of ppl ignore other peoples view on twitter”. If we assume “ppl” is short for people, this participant’s views are very worrying as the comments inherently portrays that the participant does not worry about negative word of mouth. The literature concluded that bad tweets can be extremely damaging to a company with reference to examples.
The consequences of negative tweets could be huge for SMEs. The examples viewed in the literature all involved large organisations and the fallout from the negativity was fairly minimal in contrast with the size of the organisation. However any negativity associated with smaller organisations can be hugely damaging. It is fair to say that small local organisations live by their reputation and if this reputation is tarnished in anyway then the damage could be irreparable. Furthermore the damage could go as far as alienating any customers the business has and consequently could close the business due to the loss of sales
This area needs further research and publicising as larger organisations may already understand the threats, however from the results received it is obvious that the participants in this study are unaware to the problems they may face. This is possibly the most revealing aspect of the research as the aim is to understand SME’s views on social media.
Participants also believed that there are a lot more negative tweets about brands opposed to positive tweets. Zaidi’s (2011) study actually showed the opposite to be true.
The majority of participants also thought that the amount of noise on Twitter was not a problem for their organisation. This may be naive of the participants as Zimmerman & Sahlin (2010) explain that a major disadvantage of using Twitter is trying to gain visibility among millions of users. There was also very little difference between female and male response to this question with only two more men than women who explained they were worried about noise.
Finally the majority of participants also believed that 140 characters is not enough for what they wished to say on Twitter (Figure 4.2).
The majority of the participants who took part in the study said that they did not understand the term Push-Push-Pull communication (Figure 2.2). This could be seen as a massive disadvantage to the participant as the communication helps spread information about their organisation. However it is possible the participants may subconsciously understand the communication just not understand the term Push-Push-Pull communication.
The participants were also asked whether Push-Push-Pull communication (Retweet) automatically adds value 74% of the participants said no (Figure 2.3). This question arose during the research with very little literature found concerning the real value of Push-Push-Pull communication. This sample of users of Twitter definitely supports the view that the communication is not valuable on its own.
The participants were asked what they believed caused a tweet to be retweeted (Figure2.3). The views expressed agreed with the literature in the main, however fifteen participants did select that number of tweets has a correlation with retweets; this view is opposed by recent studies by Chi et al (2009).
Hayes (2012) has promoted that no matter what strategies organisations purse on Twitter, big or small, content is still key. The participants also agree with 96% believing that content influences their success using social media (Figure 2.6).
A consistent trend throughout the research was the amount of time needed to run successful social media campaigns. Zimmer & Sahlin (2010) explained that there is a huge amount of human resource needed to create a successful social media campaign. This was explored by asking questions relating to Third-Party applications that send automated tweets (Figure 3.1, Figure 3.2, Figure 3.3). Majority of the participants knew of these applications that could save them time. However 87% of the participants said they have spent longer on Twitter than planned. This could therefore mean that the participants are not using the time saving third party applications. However the participants also agreed with Thomas (2011) that these applications can cause damage, this may possibly be the reason why the participants do not use these applications. When asked whether they had spent more time than planned on Twitter there was very little difference between males and females with the same amount of responses explaining they had spent longer on Twitter than they had planned.
Many benefits of using Twitter were identified throughout the literature. Participants were also asked about the benefits they believed the social network gave their organisation (Figure 6.1). Only one participant reacted negatively to this by answering that Twitter has limited benefits. A handful of respondents believed that one of Twitters benefits included customer research; these responses agree with Vargo & Lusch (2004) view that one of the main benefits of using Twitter is gathering customer knowledge to form a competitive advantage.
Many of the responses were inherent examples of using Twitter as a valuable marketing tool, examples of this include reaching their target market, exposure and promotion. The participants in this study therefore have an differing view than the participants of Geho et al (2010) recent research who were undecided whether Twitter was a valuable marketing tool. Participants also agreed with Kaplin & Haelein (2001) explaining in their responses that a benefit of Twitter is using it as a sales platform. None of the participants explained that they would use Twitter to allow customers to access pre purchase information. However as some participants explained that a benefit of using Twitter is additional customer services, which can be linked with pre purchase information.
Other benefits that were recognised involved communication with customers, real time interactions, market research and giving an alternative positive view to a company and therefore improving a customer’s experience.
Large organisations were found to be using various practice of Twitter. Participants were asked whether they had firstly heard of these practices and secondly whether they had used any of the practices. Majority of the participants understood the practices; however only 38% understood “Surprise-and-Delight” and 10% of participants had never heard of any of the practices (Figure 5.1). Participants were also asked which practices they had used (Figure 5.2). The majority had used most of the practices with exception to “Surprise-and-Delight” which only 31% had used. Unfortunately “Surprise-and-Delight” is one of the tactics which SME’s could easily use because of their flexibility and it could make fantastic publicity and gain positive word of mouth, examples of this were seen in the literature.
A current practice that is becoming popular is using Twitter profiles along with brands, although problems have occurred. The participants in the study were asked about these profiles and mixed responses were given (Figure 6.4). The majority explained that it was a good practice however some understood the cautious approach needed and that the content on the profiles should not include the employee’s views. This is encouraging as the participants understand the potential threats of using these profiles. Following this question participants were asked who they believed owned the Twitter accounts (Figure 6.3), 52% responded by selecting the company, showing a split response and therefore this means no concrete view on the subject similar to the current on-going example of PhoneDog.
Twitter has quickly become a large part of the daily lives of the world’s population with 200 million members. The site is firstly a social media site however as the population grew the potential to use the site as a marketing tool grew. Large organisations have found many benefits of using Twitter and because of this SME’s began to use the website. Many benefits have been found from using the site however serious flaws have been found with large companies having to have large PR campaigns to rectify the problems caused from the site. One of the main benefits is the free access to the site, in contrast the main disadvantage came from the time commitment involved. The research explored the views of SME’s in the Liverpool area. Differences were made between large organisations use of Twitter, the academics views on the subject and the participant’s views.
Research was undertaken by asking SME’s in Liverpool questions about Twitter. The questionnaires were based around five sections these were; followers and conversation, negativity, Push-Push-Pull communication, time resource and Twitter practice. The questionnaires were administered electronically and additional hard copies were completed. Forty eight questionnaires were filled in and the data was then formulated into a range of graphs which have been included in the results section. The results were then analysed against the literature found.
Several opinions were found throughout the research. Some of the main findings include the participants believing in the inherent value of followers opposed to the academics disregard for the number of followers. However other questions during in the research tested this belief and the opposite then occurred. This shows that the participants are inconsistent with the values they place on followers.
The participants also had extremely naive view of negativity on Twitter explaining that they did not worry about negativity. This contradicted with Gillin (2007) who explained that negativity could have a huge adverse effect on an organisation as the view that one dissatisfied person tells ten people is outdated and dissatisfied customers can now tell millions with the new social tools available to them. This is very worrying as any damage caused by negativity could be far serious for smaller companies opposed to large organisations.
The participants did not understand the term Push-Push-Pull communication however assumption have been made that they do understand the communication just do not understand the term. Also the participants agreed with the literature explaining that they did not believe that a retweet automatically added value.
A range of benefits of using Twitter were explained by the participants, these benefits were in correlation with what the academics believed were benefits of using Twitter.
Finally the research found that participant’s had impressive understanding of practices of using Twitter. Unfortunately the tactic which was known the least and used the least was “Surprise and Delight”, the potential to gain good publicity from using this tactic is huge. With the SME’s flexible nature this tactic could be used to great success.
From the findings recommendations have been made both towards the SME’s and for further research. Also the research was limited to the area of Liverpool due to time and travel constraints. Further research would be valuable in other areas of the country to construct a more rounded view of the research.
Overall Twitter has been found to be a useful tool for businesses to communicate with their customers. However the new form of communication does have many flaws which have been highlighted. Participants have found to understand the majority of the aspects; however a huge problem has occurred concerning the underestimation of negativity on the social networking site.
The nature of the research has highlighted possible recommendations. These are:
- SME’s should be advised to improve their understanding of Twitter. SME’s need to change their naive view of negativity as it has the potential to cause them huge problems especially smaller organisations. Currently Get British Business Online, a Google initiative are running courses getting SME’s online (Getting British Business Online, 2011). These courses are free and therefore as many SME owners and employees as possible should attend these course to increase their knowledge.
- Also if these courses are not being run in the local area, local Chamber of Commerce’s hold events teaching such knowledge for a fee (Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, 2010).
Chris has completed a full dissertation, and I say thank you for sending me your findings.