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  1. Utilising Social Media Strategies to Enhance Competitiveness for Business    

     

    QUESTION

    Discuss the utilization of Social Media Strategies to Enhance Competitiveness for Business    

     

 

Subject Business Pages 35 APA

Answer

Utilizing Social Media Strategies to Enhance Competitiveness for Business:

 Itel Community Telco Company

 

 

Abstract

Consumers used the Internet to traditionally disburse content: they watched, read, and used it to purchase services and/or products. However, consumers are increasingly using platforms like content sharing blogs, wikis, sites, and social networking to modify, create, discuss, and share Internet content. This represents the social media wonder, which is significantly impacting companies’/businesses’ sales, reputation, and even survival. Social media has significantly transformed the way people communicate, both in social online societies and retail marketing of all sizes/shapes. With the increase in the number of vendors/retailers/merchants engaging and participating in social media links, it is necessary and appropriate to explore the effectiveness of this marketing medium by taking into consideration present-day cases. The aim of this paper was to explore how social media strategies/techniques are/can be used to enhance competitiveness for businesses. To realize this objective, a case study of itel Community Telco was done. the research was based on three questions: (1) what is social media?; (2) what are the present social media strategies suitable to help businesses better their online sales; (3) and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media as a standalone strategy? Both primary and secondary sources of information were employed. The study revealed that social media significantly enhancing businesses’ marketing campaigns and online advertising, attracts more customers, enhances businesses’ brands, and enhances businesses’ cost effectiveness. Thus, social media strategies/platforms substantially role plays in enhancing competitiveness for businesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media strategies to enhance competitiveness for business: A Case Study

 

Table of Contents

1       Introduction.. 5

1.1        The Reason for this Project. 6

1.2        Relevance. 7

1.3        Research Questions. 7

2       Literature Review… 7

2.1        Social Media. 7

2.2        Competitiveness and Social Media Strategy.. 8

2.3        Competitive Benefits of Social Media Employment in Organizations. 10

3       Methodology.. 11

3.1        Research Design.. 11

3.2        Research Context. 12

3.3        Site Selection.. 12

3.4        Data Collection.. 12

3.5        Data Analysis. 13

4       Results. 14

4.1        Australia. 14

4.2        Australia’s Telecommunications Industry.. 14

4.3        Use of Social Media in Australia. 15

4.4        Effect of Social Media Practices upon Itel Community Telco.. 18

4.5        Social Media as an Apparatus to Enhance Competitiveness. 20

5       Analysis and Discussion.. 21

6       Conclusion.. 24

7       Recommendations. 25

8       Lessons Learned.. 25

References. 27

Appendix. 32

 

 

 

Introduction

Information technology (IT) has substantially affected the way in which commercial activities are carried out globally, leading to, for instance, 24 hours of shopping around the globe, a quicker turnaround of goods and services and production, and better products and services. Commercial establishments employ social media to help them better their customer service and experience and advertise their services and products on comparatively a lower budget (Culnan et al. 2010). Consequently, those businesses with online presence as well as on social media have succeeded in enhancing their individual business competitiveness above their business rivals who have not represented their businesses of social media platforms (Bharati et al. 2014). According to Dewan and Ramaprasad (2014), social media handles are crucial in bettering businesses’ competitiveness (Dwivedi et al. 2015) as well as obtaining business worth (Bughin & Chui 2013) since they instantly generate real time facts/information with universal reach: most social media platforms like Facebook have more than one billion users (Garrido-Moreno & Lockett 2016; Gallaugher & Ransbotham 2010; & Harper 2015). As such, by employing such platforms, businesses have endless opportunities and potential to grow their businesses. Harris et al. (2013) assert that for businesses to remain competitive, they should employ social media since social media provides them with affordance like communication visibility (Jarzabkowski 2005) that cannot be achieved using the traditional forms of IT (Idemudia et al. 2016). For example, social media platforms enable new communication mechanisms and processes within and without businesses’ boundaries (Ciborra 2006) along with allowing customers and buyers to communicate with their counterparts on a scope and scale that could not be achieved by traditional IT (Joos 2008). Thus, information may become extra accessible and visible to the general public, and allow the monitoring or gathering of more information which indicates that social media handles possess material properties that are unique from other know-hows employed in organizations.

According to Avgerou (2017), the use of social media has started thriving in organizations, reconfiguring the changing aspects of organizational networks, culture, and power relations.  Nonetheless, the employment of the same in small business organizations has not be properly embraced. Similarly, few studies have been conducted on how social media use serves to provide a next setting for involvement/participation in establishments (Burke 2017). Most existing researches regarding social media have largely been along three principal streams. Foremost, is the body of study upon social media marketing (Castelló et al. 2016). Second regards the foretelling power of social media (Kaplan & Haenlein 2011). Third regards how organizations employ social media as an approach to realize organizational objectives (Jarzabkowski et al. 2007). Despite the fact that some organizations are starting to comprehend the importance of social media for their commercial establishments, they yet encounter several challenges: the challenge of formulating social media techniques/strategies (Bharati et al. 2014) along with how to employ as well as strategically incorporate social media strategies (Belasen & Rufer 2013). Additionally, they encounter the challenge about how they ought to organize as well manage social media in their establishments along with what broader transformations within establishments’ organizational processes and structure are required for social media implementation (Berthon et al. 2012; Bughin & Chui 2013 & Kietzmann et al. 2011). To bridge the gap in literature, using a case study of a telecommunications firm in Australia, this present research aims at: exploring how organisations employ social media strategies as an apparatus to better their competitiveness via understanding the origin of social media strategies along with their influences on processes and structure of organizations 

The Reason for this Project

There is presently a high number of individuals doubling up as consumers who can easily access different social media handles for business and socialization purposes (Leonardi 2011). The rate at which people utilize and access social media has been associated with the rising rate as well as reduced costs of the Internet and mobile phones (Braojos-Gomez et al. 2015; Dewan & Ramaprasad 2014 & Leonardi 2015). As such, it is befitting to comprehend the effect that social media handles have upon the way in commercial establishments function to be in a condition/position to use apt strategies for the wellbeing and benefit of the business entity. This research examines the role and function of social media strategies in commercial establishments so that they can be able to uphold their marketplace competitive advantages. The paper equally examines whether some commercial establishments exclusively employ social media to realize their competitiveness and look at the advantages and disadvantages of employing a standalone strategy. This research is also crucial since it helps in understanding how social media impact the rise of processes, structure, and strategy in an organization.

By carrying out this study, this research makes several contributions. Foremost, the research provides a comprehension of the rise of a social media methodology in a company and the effects upon its processes and structure due to the influence of social media impact, a topic upon which there is presently a lack of literature (Culnan et al. 2010). Secondly, taking into consideration that most researches regarding social media are carried out in western first world countries (Dwivedi et al. 2015), this study employs a case company from Australia which will help us understand the technical and socio-economic challenges contributing to the universal ‘digital divide’ (Jarzabkowski 2005).

Relevance

Participating as well as understanding demands of buyers and consumers remain crucial during this social media age. Businesses, in this period, can only stand to realize their competitive advantages by embracing/employing innovative as well as effective strategies by employing online platforms to attain high volumes of sales. 

Research Questions

Motivated by the aforementioned concerns about and gaps in literature, this research suggests the following research questions:

  1. What is social media?
  2. Which social media strategies are suitable to help business enhance their online sales
  • What is the role of social media in achieving business competitiveness
  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media as a standalone strategy

Literature Review

Social Media

Social media refers to both the conduits as well as the content that is disseminated via interactions between organizations and people (Harper 2015). Nevertheless, it is devastatingly the product of buyers and consumers. Web 2.0 know-hows transform broadcast media one-to-many (monologues) into social media exchanges (many-to-many) (Bharati et al. 2014). Idemudia et al. (2016) state that social media is the outcome of Internet-based applications that build upon the technological basis of Web 2.0. Social media content includes pictures, texts, networks, and videos. Texts were the first forms of social media, which was essentially in the form of blogs initially. Blogs refer to websites that were written and owned by people who maintain frequent diaries and commentaries that may encompass graphics, videos, text, and links to other web pages and blogs and are often presented in opposite chronological manner (Burke 2017). Micro-blogs, like Twitter, are social media platforms that allow utilizers to read and send short messages, which are often limited by the number of characters within the message (Castelló et al. 2016). Picture-sharing sites like Flickr, allow utilizers to share and store images. Video-sharing sites, like YouTube, allow utilizers to upload as well as share videos (Belasen & Rufer 2013). Networks like Facebook are platforms upon which utilizers can find as well as add friends along with contacts, disseminate to friends, as well as update their personal profiles. From the conduit perspective of social media, social media comprise several channels via which interactions between entities and people, is disseminated and facilitated. 

Currently, social media are highly scalable (can be employed to reach as many people as possible) and high accessible (significantly easy to get) (Avgerou 2017). These channels employ web- and Internet-based know-hows to change media monologues into media dialogues (Braojos-Gomez et al. 2015). These media support information and knowledge democratization, and transform people from just content consumers/users into content generators/producers (Garrido-Moreno & Lockett 2016; Bughin & Chui 2013; Gallaugher & Ransbotham 2010 & Joos 2008). According to Leonardi and Vaast (2016), social media refers to ‘‘a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.’’

Competitiveness and Social Media Strategy

An organization’s competitiveness refers to how the organization realizes its marketplace oriented objectives/goals along with its monetary goals/objectives along with the worth that it creates that its competitors are unable to adopt (Kietzmann et al. 2011). According to Harris et al. (2013), the great innovation in the present world has been pointed out to be a great facilitator of organization’s competitiveness, with the innovation allowing businesses to maintain their global economic visibility. All organizations are keen on commercializing new products and changing their long processes so that they be able to be well positioned in the present competitive business world.

Studies have shown that there exists a crucial relationship between an organization’s competitiveness and its strategy (Liu et al. 2005; Luo et al. 2013 & Orlikowski 2007). Burke (2017) asserts that the selection of a strategy is a crucial determining factor in an organization’s ability to compete favourably within any marketplace. In the context of social media, Leonardi (2011) defines strategy as an idea of employing social media for purposes of competitive advantage and value creation. Though limited, some researchers have examined the social media strategy concept. For instance, Leonardi (2015) contends that a successful social media methodology functions to increase a company’s profitability by way bettering interactions between people as well as making them to undertake arrays of corporate initiatives/functions without fee. Jarzabkowski et al. (2007) advance the social media strategy by employing the Porter’s (2008) generic approach, which gives companies two main options to seek: the differentiated social strategy, a strategy that permits a company to increase its customers’ willingness to pay without a corresponding rise in price and the low-cost approach which assists a company to cut down its prices without the corresponding fall in its customers’ willingness to pay. Similarly, Kaplan and Haenlein (2011) debate that a company will have a tactical decision upon selecting a strategy to employ: the tactical decision is either to implement social media at the functional or company-wide level. Parveen et al. (2015) explain that a firm-wide strategy requires structural transformations, and it assists an organization to be more competitive in the long run. Conversely, Castelló et al. (2016) reason that the functional strategy is restricted to a specific function in the firm, like the operational strategy or marketing strategy.

In a study by Dwivedi et al. (2015), it was established that functional execution is not very useful to an organization in the long run. Nonetheless, owing to the complexity about the firm-wide strategy employment, companies can begin with functional approaches then get on the firm-wide approach (Belasen & Rufer 2013). Avgerou (2017) note that the tactical choice crucial particularly when taking into consideration that social media may be employed by several departments in the company like marketing, customer service, design, and public relation. Nevertheless, the employment of social media in several functions within a company has been shown to have the potential of exposing the company to risks associated with social media that can have significant detrimental effects upon the company (Joos 2008), with concern regarding security and privacy (Dewan & Ramaprasad 2014).

In another study about social media strategy, Idemudia et al. (2016) outline three components for employing social media strategy with the intention of enabling an organization to acquire a complete commercial worth from social media. According to the study, the three components include: community building, mindful adoption, and absorptive capacity. Mindful adoption connotes the careful choice by a company to employ social media handles (Braojos-Gomez et al. 2015; Gallaugher & Ransbotham 2010 & Harper 2015); community building denotes the exchanges held by a company with customer base/communities available over the social media handle to sustain and retain its customer base; whereas absorptive capacity connotes the process/mechanism developed by a company to help is sourcing its deserving business value from communities that are available on the social media handles (Orlikowski 2007). Similarly, according to Culnan et al. (2010), a company should encourage the coordination of utilization, for example, by providing connections of their social media handles from their sites. Leonardi and Vaast (2016) add that a company should address risk management concerns, for example, through the development of policies regarding social media use. Furthermore, a company, according to Jarzabkowski (2005), should develop procedures to process its unstructured transactions, for example, connecting social media with its client/customer service.

Evidently, the abovementioned studies have largely examined how social media can be leveraged by organizations to give the organization business worth as well as increased competitiveness, along with how a company can manage social media. However, the studies have not addressed how companies reconfigure their structures and processes in their effort to create strategies for leveraging social media to get business worth as well as increased competitiveness.  Also, the studies have been based in the United States (U.S.) and explored large organizations.

Competitive Benefits of Social Media Employment in Organizations

The invention of the Internet has led to the creation of a wide playing ground for commercial competition. Social media, according to Saunders et al. (2009), significantly role plays in businesses, assisting in bringing together customers and businesses in innovative ways. While small-business entrepreneurs may be limited by their resources, social media has made it more advantageous for them to fairly compete with large businesses globally. There are a number of competitive advantages of employing social media in an organization. First, social media functions to help in the marketing of an organization’s businesses. Once a company has created its business niche that sets it out among its competitors, an organization can use social media platforms to disseminate its information/message to the general public or its customer base. Leonardi (2015) reasons that the special/unique aspect of a company’s brand is what the company’s business provides above other competitors within a marketplace. With commercial accounts at sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, a company can present its brad and message professionally for peers, customers, and potential employees to behold. Harris et al. (2013) add that social media can equally be an effective strategy to promote a company’s loyalty incentives as well as sales to its customers.

According to Liu et al. (2005), social media handles also function to better a company’s relationship with its customers. Leonardi (2011) established that social media has been employed by companies to create places where the companies can interact regularly with their customers for two main reasons: to increase companies’ online visibility within their industries and to create a sense of society/community for their customers. A regular exchange with customers, according to Scott and Orlikowski (2012), can help in keeping the customers engaged/involved with a company as well as fostering deeper feelings of customer loyalty. Through social media, Jarzabkowski et al. (2007) note that companies use social media platforms to respond to their customers’ questions, gather feedbacks that can be used to better a company’s products and services, and to promote a company’s expertise, hence placing the company on vantage grounds against its rivals. 

According to a study by Kaplan and Haenlein (2011), social media can also be used to attract quality staff. Companies have presented themselves over social media platforms as excellent companies to work in and for. Companies create positive depiction of themselves over social media avenues while others encourage their staff to network with the intention of promoting their businesses as well. Using social media, companies also link up with universities as well as other professional institutions to help increase their exposure as well as recruit high-skilled/quality people to their businesses. Social media has been used to solve problems.

Methodology

Research Design

To meet the objectives of this study, the researchers obtained information both from primary and secondary sources. On the one hand, several libraries were reviewed to obtain documents that were relevant to the objectives of this study. Literature were obtained from renowned experts in the social media, technology, and e-commerce digital platform fields. Databases like EBSCO, CDU, and Google Scholar were used because they are managed by accredited institutions and organizations as well as universities, hence considered credible sources that satisfy minimum thresholds. Due to the huge number of literatures that were obtained, keywords were like social media, social media platforms/networks, social media strategy, and competitiveness were employed; those materials that contained these words and their suitable combinations were included while those that never contained them were excluded from this study. To ensure that extant materials were used, the search was restricted only to materials that were published between 200 and 2018 in English were considered for this study (Bryman & Bell 2015). The use of the keywords and inclusion criteria eased the process of selecting on materials to use for this study and the use of the publication years was significant because it allowed the researchers to gain better understanding of the role played by social media in the present time (Kietzmann et al. 2011). The appendix contains a table (Table 3) of the 17 materials that were selected through this process along with summary of their contents as well as gaps. Also, to better gather information regarding the aim of this study, a cases study technique was employed. Pan and Tan (2011) state that a case study technique gives valuable means of gathering/acquiring a comprehensive understanding of actual-life occurrence via a way of combining a study’s phenomenon with its settings, thus providing a richer comprehension of the process and context within which a study is enacted.

Research Context

The case study for this study was Itel Community Telco, a telecommunications firm in Australia. However, to collect a deeper insight from the industry, four other Australian telecom firms were used. For the research to be capable of providing the context as well as show the Itel Community Telco’s competitiveness, it was equally necessary to have an overview of social media undertakings from Australian telecomm companies, Telstra Corporation, Vodafone Hutchinson Australia, and Optus.

Site Selection

The choice of a case for this research was founded upon selection of a sector that has a high implementation social media density. This selection was informed by Yin’ (2013) perspective which states that companies adopt social media because of social competitor pressure, along with the findings of Hoffman and Fodor (2010) which highlights that social media employment relies upon a sector. Similarly, the choice of the telecom sector obeyed the suggestion by Kietzmann, et al. (2011) that high technology industries like the telecom sector are faster in employing new know-how since they are faced with quick dwindling product cycles. Also, Australia was chosen for this study as a substitute for examining the effect of social media in companies because most studies that have been conducted on this topic have been done in the context of western countries (Leonardi & Vaast 2016).

Data Collection

From secondary sources, a systematic review was conducted to gather relevant information with regard to the study’s objectives. Pan and Tan (2011) assert that companies are important producers of virtual materials which often tend to play a crucial role in constituting a company’s identity and image. The advantage of this technique, according to Bughin and Chui (2013), is that information is publicly accessible besides being well disseminated. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were also employed to gather primary data from Itel Community Telco Company. Tan (2011) states that semi-structured interviews are helpful since they permit researchers to hear what study respondents say regarding the research’s topic. Interviews were conducted with managers and staff of Itel Community Telco. The managers were chosen as the informants since managers actively and significantly role play in decision making concerning social media whereas staff are the real employers and their actions are crucial to the outcomes of strategy (Yin 2013). The interviews began by seeking an understanding of the background of the study’s participants and their roles/responsibilities in the company and how the company uses IT. 12 interviews were carried out with various respondents from Itel Community Telco who were chosen from various departments of the company. The interviews were done on one-to-one, to eliminate other respondent bias as well as preserve the respondent’s confidentiality. Each interview took about one hour and was done in English.

Data Analysis

Data analysis was carried out by use of an inductive methodology that gathers information and explores it to obtain issues and themes that emerge to focus upon (Bryman & Bell 2015). The assessment was performed through structuring and content analysis of data by use of narratives: narrative structuring was employed for interviews, while content analysis was performed for virtual data gathered. Interviews were transcribed before being translated for assessment. After transcription of the data, a thematic assessment was done to the interviews’ transcripts. Narrative structuring refers to the account given upon the experience of a speaker in an orderly manner, indicating the flow of associated events which convey meaning/relevance and its importance for the narrator (Pan & Tan 2011). The importance of narrative structuring is that is assists to eliminate fragmentation of information/data besides taking into consideration the organizational and social context within which events happened (Bryman & Bell 2015). This research’s data analysis encompassed four main stages. First was summarizing. The key points that were obtained from every interview were summarized as a way of minimizing the cumbersomeness and having a manageable content. The summaries were coded with regard to the initial transcript. Clustering was done after summarizing, which role played in easing the process of analyzing data by showing contents’ origin and enabling themes’ formulation. Other steps were narrating and displaying data gathered.

Results

Australia

Australia is a sovereign nation comprising the Australian continent and the Tasmania Island along with other smaller islands. It is ranked the largest nation in Oceania and the sixth largest nation by area size in the world (Country Reports 2018). The country has about 24,863,826 according to the Australian Population Live report (Australia – Wireless Telecommunication Services 2018). Australia, a wealthy nation, has a marketplace economy with comparatively low poverty rate and high GDP per capita (Fixed Line Telecoms Industry Profile 2015). With regard to average wealth, Australia was ranked second after Switzerland in 2013 (Wireless Telecommunication Services Industry Profile 2017). Additionally, it ranked fifth in 2017 according to the Index of Economic Freedom, twelfth largest economy as well as the sixth highest GDP per capita (standing at US$6,291) globally (Wireless Telecommunication Services Industry Profile 2017).  In 2016, Australia was ranked second in the UN 2016 Human Development Index (Statista 2018). Among the country’s sectors that have significantly influenced its economic status is the telecommunications sector.  Dial An Exchange (DAE) recently approximated that the direct valued added to the Australian economy was $7.6 billion, which consequently added a worth of about 6.5% (Country Reports 2018). These imply that the industry contributed approximately $22 billion to the Australian economy. Another report by Wireless Telecommunication Services Industry Profile (2017) revealed that the mobile telecom sector contributed about $17.4 billion to the country’s economy during the  2008-2009 financial year.

Australia’s Telecommunications Industry

Telecom firms in Australia are majorly involved in upholding, providing, or operating access to facilities used for transmission of text, data, sound, video, and voice over wire, cable, satellite, and wireless networks (Connolly 2016). Telecommunication, thanks to the boom in connectivity, has become an essential component in daily operations and lives in Australian economies and therefore has significantly influenced the way businesses and interactions are realized. Demand for the utilization of telecommunications along with actual usage has served to increase in the few years past in Australia. According to Australia – Wireless Telecommunication Services (2018), Australia is currently a home of among the biggest sectors and firms from the FMCG, banking industry, and retail, among others. Nevertheless, among the world’s leading telecom firms are also in Australia. The top firms in the country include Telstra, Vodafone Hutchinson, Singapore Teleco, TPG Telecom, and Macquaire Communications alongside other companies like My Net Fone, Vocus, M2, Queste Communications, and Netcomm Wireless (Fixed Line Telecoms Industry Profile 2015). A summary of Australian marketplace share of the companies under investigation in this research is as shown below.

Figure 1: Share by Percentage of Mobile Phone Australia’s Marketplace from 2010 to 2017

Source: Statista (2018).

Use of Social Media in Australia

Nearly 80% of Australian population are currently using social media platforms. According to Connolly (2016), social media utilizers are among the active globally, with approximately 60% of the nation’s population being active users on Facebook, and about 50% of the nation’s inhabitants logging onto Facebook at least on time daily. A summary of social media use in Australia is as given in the figure below.

Figure 2: Statistics on Social Media Use in Australia as At July 2018

Source:  GlobalStats. (2017).

According to Connolly (2016), the use of social media is largely influenced by an individual’s demographic (like age) and economic factors (like level of income). For instance, about 24.6 million Australians were found to use Facebook according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Clock. However, the number of users of Facebook was found to follow a trend according to different age brackets as shown here below.

Table 1: Facebook Demographics in Australia

 

Age Bracket

Number of Users*

1

13 – 17

940,000

2

18 – 25

3,500,000

3

25 – 39

6,100,000

4

40 – 55

4,100,000

5

55 – 64

1,600,000

6

65+      

1,200,000

Source:  GlobalStats. (2017).

NB: *approximate numbers of total utilizers, unnecessarily active in the past month

Figure 3: Facebook Demographics in Australia

Studies have indicated that the growth of the Internet has led to and enabled the growth of the usage of social media both in rural and urban areas, and this has resulted in a substantial marketplace opportunity for telecom companies and an opportunity for increased competition (Treem & Leonardi 2012). The use of social media has been shown to be growing fast largely because their usage is somewhat addictive besides being of significance to users/consumers (Saunders et al. 2009). Noting the behavioural change amongst users/consumers along with the increasing usage of social media by the Australians, telecom companies would be keen with what contemporary affordances can equip them with, with the intention of increasing their business value and competitiveness.

Table 2: Trend in Social Media Penetration in Australia

Social Media Platform

Total Users

1

SnapChat

25%

2

Facebook

60%

3

Instagram

35%

4

YouTube

50%

Source:  GlobalStats. (2017).

Figure 4. Trend in Social Media Penetration in Australia

Effect of Social Media Practices upon Itel Community Telco

From the figures that were gathered, it became evident that the effect of social media upon strategic initiatives in Itel Community Telco is varied. Social media seemed to affect the company’s marketing initiatives like advertising, sales, and promotion along with information sharing, feedback, product development, structure and outsourcing. To comprehend the effect of social media in the company, this section presents some of areas in which social media has impacted on Itel Community Telco.

First, social media has impacted Itel Community Telco’s sales processes. The promotion and advertising that Itel Community Telco does through its social media accounts is recognized as a determining factor for the company’s increase in sales processes (Wade & Hulland 2004). Additionally, the company’s product development manager and marketing staff associated the provision of free social media by as an important sales factor to the company. The researchers noted that Itel Community Telco offers free access to social media avenues only when a client purchases the company’s ‘selected product,’ implying that free social media served as a promotional apparatus to propel Itel Community Telco’s sales.

Secondly, researchers found that social media is assisting in information sharing in Itel Community Telco. For large firms like Itel Community Telco, which presently has above one thousand employees across the country (Whittington 2014), sharing information concerning the company is sometimes hard because of bureaucracies as well as the centralization process about disseminating fact/information; accordingly, people hoard information (Sinclaire & Vogus 2011). Itel Community Telco has several branches and departments across Australia. Within their structure, the company’s public relations office, which closely works with its marketing unit, are the overseers of the firm’s communication. Information in Itel Community Telco was concentrated within this department, and when they desired to share the same, it was found to be hard since not all employees of the company had access to old-fashioned communication tools like desk telephones or computers. Nonetheless, with social media, which is currently accessible to most people through mobile apparatuses, has swayed the dissemination of information in the firm since the company’s employees can easily share facts/data/information (Scott & Orlikowski 2012). Additionally, the researchers found out that social media has role played in enhancing how Itel Community Telco shares information with its stakeholders and the public.

During the study, it was noted that initially when Itel Community Telco wanted to disseminate information with the public, they characteristically would employ television or press conferences as a way of sharing information. The respondents agreed that such techniques were not as efficient and effective as social media. For example, providing information through old-fashioned media tools like magazines would entail a client having to purchase a magazine as well as opening a number of pages to get the information (Stefan et al. 2017). Therefore, information reached only few individuals. Nonetheless, now with the dawn of social media, it has become considerably easy to share information with stakeholder as well as get feedbacks.

Thirdly, social media has role played in enhancing Itel Community Telco’s process of getting feedback from their clients/consumers, which according to Berthon et al. (2012) is strategically significant. Initially, Itel Community Telco could gather feedback from their customers through old-fashioned ways like via suggestion boxes within its offices. The company equally obtained feedback via their call centres. Nonetheless, the researchers found out that Itel Community Telco is presently obtaining feedback from their employees and customers through various social media avenues. Treem and Leonardi (2012) assert that feedback obtained via social media platforms has a dissimilar effect relative to the way feedback/response was previously obtained, pointing out that feedback on social media is sufficiently visible other staff, competitors, and customers. Initially, feedback would not be handled in urgent modes, yet presently feedback is taken earnestly. Itel Community Telco’s communication overseers, customer service, marketing, and public relations, role play in monitoring the feedback as well as provide responses.

Additionally, Itel Community Telco’s staff at their personal capacities visit their company’s social media channels to see the feedback, particularly on issues with which there are worried. Therefore, the feedback acquired from social media channels across various processes in the company’s different functions like human resources, management, and network control along with product development in the company. The study also revealed that the feedback has resulted to supplementary processes as well as changes that are being introduced in Itel Community Telco to assist in reception of response acquired from social media channels. For example, Itel Community Telco, according to an interviewee, had had to make transformations to its call centre so that the response from social media channels can be made visible to the individuals in customer services. Thus, the feedback assists Itel Community Telco to perceive how they have been carried out as well as enabling them to reflect regarding their weaknesses (Stonehouse & Snowdon 2007). As such, social media has substantially affected operations at Itel Community Telco.

Social Media as an Apparatus to Enhance Competitiveness

The existence of business competition among telecom firms in Australia has compelled the companies to use social media for competitive and commercial reasons. Interviewers with Itel Community Telco’s management and staff mimics social media undertakings of rivals to uphold their competitiveness.  Among the ways that telecom companies in Australia employ social media to uphold their competitive advantages is by offering free use of social media channels (Bharati et al. 2014). From the interviews, the researchers noted that Itel Community Telco has equally imitated this strategy by its rivals and carried out its activities in somewhat distinct manner, providing free use equally on other social media channels (Sinclaire & Vogus 2011). According to Braojos-Gomez et al. (2015), Australia’s telecom companies pride themselves in offering free social media accessibility since they are the principal internet service vendors. As such, since utilizers link to the Internet to communicate through social media channels through their network set-up, they undoubtedly assume an in-between duty between users and social media channels. Additionally, Itel Community Telco employs social media to trademark/brand itself as a youthful company that is capable of competing with other telecom firms to entice/attract youths who are the principal users of social media and the Internet (data) (Huang 2012). According to Wade and Hulland (2004), the youths are globally driving the demand for the Internet services.

Social media is equally affecting competitiveness in how services and products are developed. Telecom companies have two chief products: voice and data services (Stonehouse & Snowdon 2007). From the voice and data services, Itel Community Telco generates various service packages or bundles. The reason for which Itel Community Telco is providing such packages imply that the company has in mind their competitors and customers (Treem & Leonardi 2012). Stefan et al. (2017) assert that youth are considerably susceptible consumers and customers, owing to the high unemployment rate as well as their desire for trendy/quality products. This necessitates that an organization should develop products and services having such qualities and are affordable. Similarly, social media contents, like video and streaming, need high-speed package of the Internet (Whittington 2014).  Such concerns have functioned to influence the development of services and products by Itel Community Telco. For example, the provision of the fourth generation (4G) network services that offer a quicker internet link relative to 3G or 2G. In case a firm is unable to provide good internet services, consumers/customers will lament through social media channels and this may make them shy/shift to other vendors (Hoffman & Fodor 2010).

Analysis and Discussion

From the study, the research noted several facts. The study indicated that the community of social media users in the telecommunication sector play a vital role in the industry: they are responsible for providing feedback and sharing information about a telecom organization’s contents, feedback that is crucial to reorganization/repositioning of a company for the better. For instance, feedback is used to inform/feed Itel Community Telco’s recruitment as well as training processes. Such activities foster the significance of the online community to Itel Community Telco’s social media strategy. This result is in agreement with former study by Bharati et al. (2014) which examined the role and significance of online communities within a company’s social media strategy. For example, Kessler (2013) stressed the importance of online communities as the basis of a company’s fruitful social media strategy. For a company, the presence of an online community is so important that some companies have employed spammers (unrealistic follower) to indicate the worth of their company (Garrido-Moreno & Lockett 2016 & Coleman et al. 2013). Notwithstanding this, Lange-Faria and Elliot (2012) emphasize that online communities play a vital role in carrying out organizational operations like creating a recipe for a company’s value as well as competitiveness.

Similarly, the provision, by telecom companies, free social media was found to crucial to a company. This is an intricate component of Australia’s telecom industry. Telecom companies in Australia assert their provision of free social media due to their monopoly of the Internet system in the nation (Wade & Hulland 2004), which serves to give them a go-between responsibility between users social media sites and social media users. Conversely, free social media arises in Itel Community Telco wherein there has been an increase in the use of social media along with high employment rates among the country’s youth (Kessler 2013). A combination of such factors elucidates the growth and development of the free social media approach of Australia’s telecom firms (Whittington 2014). Tactically, the free social media approach has helped Australia’s telecom firms to foster their competitiveness between themselves with the acceptance that the free social media assists consumers and customers to purchase service packages (products). For instance, from an interview with Itel Community Telco’s product development and marketing managers, the researchers established that the employment of the free social media strategy helped in enhancing the company’s brand and increasing the company’s sales, findings that are supported by Huang (2012), Stefan et al. (2017) and Bharati et al. (2014).

The study also revealed that social media has served to invigorate some of Itel Community Telco’s processes like feedback and information sharing processes. By stimulating those processes, social media helped in enhancing Itel Community Telco’ effectiveness right within the company by providing affordances that initial know-hows could not realize with effectiveness and efficiency, findings that are backed up by Hoffman and Fodor (2010). The study revealed that the feedback process made Itel Community Telco’s communication visible, pointing out the presence/availability of affordances of the social media, which served to increase accountability within Itel Community Telco and its staff. Equally, the process of acquiring feedback was identified as a major reason for Itel Community Telco to employ social media, as argued by Kietzmann, et al. (2011). For instance, the company’s CEO who had the responsibility of overseeing Itel Community Telco’ strategy stated how social media had helped him to effectively and efficiently source for ideas from various individuals in and out of Itel Community Telco, which consequently assisted him in the development of Itel Community Telco’s strategy. The revitalized processes prove the impact that social media has on a company’s existing processes, which indicate how transformations change in an overlapping way. 

Furthermore, the employment of social media was found to create new practices within an organization: both shared (organizational) and individual practices. For instance, individual practices within Itel Community Telco included a branch manager’s undertaking to sell via social media communities/groups as opposed to employing street promotions that need substantial resources and effort, as noted by Berthon et al. (2012), Kessler (2013), and Coleman et al. (2013). Conversely, organizational /shared practices that were found to be taking place at Itel Community Telco include management of the company’s social media websites via customer service. These practices were found by the researchers to have influences upon the company’s structures and processes. For example, to carry out the shared practices, Itel Community Telco was compelled to upgrade its call centre so that they could be able to receive queries from social media channels. According to Braojos-Gomez et al. (2015), such new enactments have the effect of making an organization to outsource some of their practices that are related with social media to meet the company’s skill deficiency. For instance, when exploring the outsourcing of Itel Community Telco’s social media, the researchers discovered the company did not have that position within its organogram and this expounds why the company has a gap in skills regarding the management of social media. Owing to the fact that the company’s structure is a centralized one that has formal components, some transformations within its structure cannot happen due to the structure’s rigidity which is influenced by the company’s bureaucracy (Lange-Faria & Elliot 2012 & Leonardi 2011). Nonetheless, the effect of social media activities/practices upon the company’s structure was found to be likely to occur when its organizational structure was reviewed. Taken wholesomely, all these imply that the social media activities/practices enact structure and process in an imbricative way, while the new structure and processes comprise of many components from the company’s pre-existing ones (Ciborra 2006; Stefan et al. 2017 & Stefan et al. 2017).

Regarding competitiveness, the study found out that the employment of social media by Itel Community Telco was founded upon mimicking its competitors’ social media practices. In an interview with Itel Community Telco’s product development and marketing managers, the researchers noted that Itel Community Telco’s managers believed that for them to survive in Australia’s competitive telecom industry, a company must mimic activities/practices/processes of their rivals so that they are not left behind by their rivals, an outcome supported by Braojos-Gomez et al. (2015; Kietzmann, et al. 2011; Mangold & Faulds 2009). Harris et al. (201) established that companies often tend to mimic strategies, activities, processes, and practices so that they do not lose their competitive advantage. Harper (2015) add that social rival pressures can cause a company to opt to imitate strategies and practices as a way of enhancing their competitive advantages.

Similarly, Itel Community Telco entwining its services and products with social media was equally found to be important in bettering the company’s competitiveness. According to Mangold and Faulds (2009), entwining of products and services make a company’s development strategy an essential means of upholding the company’s competitiveness. Essentially, products and services developed by entwining within the telecom sector take into consideration of the marketplace (Culnan et al. 2010), customer demands (Jarzabkowski 2005), and technological demand (Ciborra 2006). A customer or consumer who requires products and services that have social media components give a company a meaning to entwine social media and products/services (Gallaugher & Ransbotham 2010), subsequently generating its relevance to gaining enhance competitiveness. What is more, Idemudia et al. (2016) suggest that companies often develop their services and products using new know-hows to help them cope their customers’ demands as well as threats from their rivals. Dwivedi et al. (2015) also add that some companies use social media profiles for knowledge dissemination and content promotion. Therefore, the product development approach that is ensuing here as a result of social media impact is useful to make a telecom firm like Itel Community Telco to survive the changes.

Conclusion  

The aim of this research was to explore how organisations employ social media strategies as an apparatus to better their competitiveness via understanding the origin of social media strategies along with their influences on processes and structure of organizations. The paper began by examining what social media is, defining different terms used in connection with it. It then explored competiveness and social media strategy before discussing the general competitive advantages associated with the employment of social media in organizations. Using the case of Itel Community Telco, a telecomm firm, the study established that practices and processes associated with social media within an organization enhanced the company’s competitiveness. Particularly, competitiveness within Itel Community Telco was bettered by the product development approach and imitation. Additionally, social media processes and practices in Itel Community Telco were found to enact structure and processes in an imbricative way, despite not occurring simultaneously. Generally, there several roles played by social media in bettering a company’s competitiveness.

Recommendations

This study has given new insights regarding how social media functions to influence a company’s structure, processes, and strategy. However, it has been unable to prove the influence of social media upon a company’s structure owing to the fact that the research was not longitudinal. Future longitudinal researches could prove useful, taking into consideration that Saunders et al. (2009) suggested that longitudinal researches help to document as well as explain the processes through which misalignments IT studies like institutional practices and social media are (re)solved. Therefore, it can assist in understanding how structural transformations occur to embed the new processes and practices linked with social media within an organization. Further studies are needed to explore the effect of social media upon a company’s organizational structure for a period of time since this will help in shedding more light regarding the speed with which imbrication of a company’s structure occurs. Also, there is need for empirical studies on how social media and digital know-hows can assist in furthering the understanding of how structures as well as constraints of social media approaches can influence a company’s influence competitiveness.

Lessons Learned

From this research, a number of lessons have been learned. First, the study has taught that organizations’ management need to be receptive and amenable to new transformations. This study has revealed that changes arise fast, particularly in processes. For this reason, the study has taught that companies need to be flexible enough to allow new processes and practices. This study has also taught that flexibility can be bettered when a company is agile/quick to learn and adopt new processes, strategies, and practices which are enacted. 

Secondly, the study taught that companies ought to enhance their collaboration/association/corporation between their different actors, stakeholders, and departments both within and without the companies. The study has indicated how various departments operate to enhance a company’s smooth operation of its social media channels/accounts. For this reason, the study has taught that a strong collaboration should exists between a company’s departments to provide a synergy for the company to make the best use of social media channels. Similarly, the study has evidenced that collaboration within a company functions to help the company to avoid dangers and risks that are linked with social media channels.

Thirdly, the study taught that companies need to invest in training and research and development. Investing in research as well as developing employees by way of training will assist a company to develop a new stock of capabilities and skills that are crucial to the company’s emerging practices, strategies, and processes in the company. The research taught that some new practices and process arise since social media needs a new stock of capabilities and skills. Companies can sufficiently and effectively leverage social media the more when they have the capabilities and skills within them as opposed to relying upon external sources to bridge the gap.

Lastly, the study taught that companies may fail to fight and capture the potential commercial worth from social media channels when they fail to coordinate actors, accommodate new changes, as well as invest in the capabilities and skills. With the market continually changing, organizations ought to be changing their processes and structure to allow new processes, practices, and strategies linked to social media to better their competitiveness. Failure to make such changes, a company may not be able to compete effectively in a marketplace.

The process of doing the research was characterised by challenges and good occurrences. On the one hand, one challenge that occurred during the process of doing this project was a sudden collapse and crush of a computer’s Microsoft window. While conducting online research, the computer abruptly hanged without warning before it unexpectedly shut down. This happened yet the document that had been developed was not saved. Realizing this, a quick round of cold and warm booting were run on the computer. After several trials, the computer was recovered. However, on recovery of the document that was being worked on, it was noted that a substantial part of the work, which was not saved through Microsoft’s word auto-save capability, was deleted. This called for more work. On the other, a good point that happened during this research was that several print and online materials and software were readily available in the university’s library that allowed the search and analysis of facts and figures to be easy and simple.

 

 

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Appendix

Table 3: Materials That Were Used and a Summary of Their Themes

Authors/text citation

Source/Journal title

Main Findings

Evidence used

Discipline

Methodologies

Hoffman, D.L. and Fodor, M., 2010. Can you measure the ROI of your social media marketing? MIT Sloan Management Review52(1), p. 41.

 

Ebsco

The author agrees the increased concern on measuring return on investments of social media. Understanding the reason why customers are motivated to use social media should be the starting point to measure RON of social media.

Professional

Social media marketing

Descriptive

Kaplan, A.M. and Haenlein, M., 2010. Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons53(1), pp.59-68.

 

Science direct

 It defines social media and differentiates it with other terms such as Web 2.0, User Generated content. It also provides ten guidelines for companies that use social media

 

Social media and marketing

Descriptive –uses or incorporates other people perspectives on the topic of social media.

 

Kessler, E. (2013). Social Media and the Movement of Ideas. European Judaism, 46(1), 26-35. doi:10.3167/ej.2013.46.01.04

EBSCO

It focus on how social media is used across interfaith communities. It cuts across people boundaries

 

Lange-Faria, W., & Elliot, S. (2012). UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN DESTINATION MARKETING. Tourisms, 7(1), 193-211.

EBSCO

It defines social media and explains the changing utility of social media. Many travellers use social media to plan and make decisions about their destinations and trips

Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P. and Silvestre, B.S., 2011. Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business horizons54(3), pp.241-251.

 

Sciencedirect

Focuses on the changing use of social platforms. Nowadays social media impacts on a firm’s reputation, sales and survival. The article uses seven functional building blocks; identity, sharing, conversations, presence, relationships, reputations and groups to demonstrate the use of social media

Griffin, J. (2014). Social media risk management: Why it matters and what you need to know. Governance Directions, (7), 417.

EBSCO

It is important to appreciate and understand the risks inherent in the use of social media to mitigate the same. Managers have to remain cautious qualitative about these risks as they pursue their objectives and goals.

Parsons, A. L. (2011). SOCIAL MEDIA FROM A CORPORATE PERSPECTIVE: A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGES. Allied Academies International Conference: Proceedings Of The Academy Of Marketing Studies (AMS), 16(2), 11-15.

EBSCO

In marketing, corporate stand a chance to market and brand themselves using social media. The article defines social media and focuses on its effectiveness and roles in the corporate sector

Schetzina, C. (2011). Social Media ROI: Fact or Fiction? Phocuswright Innovation Edition, 1-8.

EBSCO

It is evident that nowadays business is using social media to calculate their return of investment. It is a parallel form to market and reach customers besides the traditional approaches/strategies

Precourt, G. (2014). Editor’s letter: What do we know about social media? Journal Of Advertising Research,

Hampton, C. (2017). Social media: What works (and what doesn’t)? Social media can be a powerful tool for community banks–but it’s not as simple as sending out a few tweets. Our dos and don’ts will guide you. Independent Banker, 67(9), 46.

EBSCO

It defines social media and offers insights on how it can effectively work as well as pitfalls involved with use of social media

 

 

Qualitative

PARADISO, C. (2016). The World of Social Media. Insurance Advocate, 127(18), 12-34.

EBSCO

The article acknowledges the wide spread of social media. it covers the impacts of social media and its adoption in the business models

 

Social media

Qualitative

 

54(1), 4-5.

EBSCO

It provides elaborate meaning and definitions of social media. Social media has become essential medium to advertise products and goods for companies

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