Many companies think that they can be reached globally with their Facebook account – “the web is global”. In fact, Facebook has a very limited reach in China and India, two very fast growing markets.
Social Media and Relationship Management
Social media have radically changed communication behavior and created new means to manage relationships. “Social media presents new opportunities but also risks for political actors. The moment they start using social media they enter an implicit communicative agreement with the public; they are expected to seek reciprocity and interaction and not, as they traditionally have done, prioritize the internal party organization, members, supporters, and the media, instead of the public.” (Karlsson, Clerwall & Buskqvist, 2013: 2).
In particular, social media platforms grant companies opportunities to contact and engage with existing and potential customers. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ have radically altered the possibilities for engagement of publics and relationship management. Social media enable users to participate, both passively and actively, in communication, such that they can integrate and co-create brand messages (Kozinets et al. 2010).
Social media enables real time communication among people and groups. As such, social networks are “Platforms […] which foremost serve to establish, nurture and manage social relationships as well as create new ones.” (Meckel & Stanoevska-Slabeva 2008: 21). They serve to “expand and care for relationship networks.” (Ebersbach, et al. 2008: 33).
Passive and active participation on brand pages both have measurable effects on the customer–brand relationship and consumer behavior. Thus, managers who invest in social media brand pages open an efficient channel to communicate brand messages, engage customers, and strengthen individual bonds with the brand (Jahn & Kunz 2012).
Boyd & Ellison summarize the three primary functions of social networks. According to which, social networks are “web-based services that allow individuals to
(1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,
(2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and
(3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” (Boyd & Ellison 2007: 211).
Social networking sites provide constant connectivity among consumers (Jansen, Zhang, & Sobel, 2009) and PR-managers are focusing on leveraging these social interactions among customers to achieve benefits for their customer relationships. In today’s connected world, online content is an integral part of a customer, and sharing online content can have a big impact on sales and the development of customer relationships (Godes & Mayzlin, 2009). CRM is as “a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation” (Greenberg, 2010: 34).
Social media and relationship management
All in all, social media seem to be the perfect channels for corporate relationship management:
- The company uses channels that already exist
- Enormous reach
- High usage
- Many active users searching for corporate and brand information
Belonging to the challenges is that human behavior has changed dramatically: users have evolved from passive receptors into active participants. Social networks are places where relationships arise, but also where they may end as quickly as they began (Stegbauer 2011: 252).
Global relationship management
Although there seem to be many opportunities for relationship management with target audiences there are some important problems in regard to Global Relationship Management:
- Social media channels vary widely worldwide
- Enormous cultural differences worldwide
- Regulatory differences
- Language differences
- Differences in design: pages are too colorful, loud and tacky for our tastes (China)
- Many channels we use in Europa are censored or restricted in use (“Great Firewall of China“ like for Facebook, Twitter and Google+)
- Popular users get arrested like the Sina Weibo user Charles Xue (12 million followers)
- Governments claim a „Real Name Policy“
One example of different uses and activities in Germany and worldwide: In Germany 9% of users are members in a brand community (15% worldwide). 8% write about brands on the web (world-wide 15%). 17% interact with brands (40% worldwide).
Examples of different Chinese channels
Many companies think that they can be reached globally with their Facebook account – “the web is global”. In fact, Facebook has a very limited reach in China and India, two very fast growing markets. The number of Facebook users in China is 597,520 (as of 25 February 2013), only 0.04% of the population. Its rank is 99th (Grothe & Weber, 2013). Is China a developing country in Social Media? Not at all:
Digital Brand Management around the World (www.post-mba.de)
China has 591 million internet users (Simcott, 2014). 57% are male users, 70% are under 35 years of age. 91% of the Chinese online population have a social media account. These social media are different to those in the rest of the world. The social media channels they use are a parallel universe to our social media channels:
- Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo: China’s Twitter
- Renren, Kaixin 001 and Qzone: China’s Facebooks
- Youku: China’s YouTube
- Weixin: China’s Whatsapp
- Jiayuan: China’s Friendscout 24
Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo are the largest microblog services. Both claim approximately 500 million users (Niklas, 2014). Sina Weibo is the favorite social network in China with 280 million active users and 500 million registered users (Simcott, 2014). Due to increased censorship, the network lost about 9 % of its user base in 2013.
Renren, Kaixin 001 und Qzone, China’s Facebooks, have over 100 million users each. Qzone is China’s largest social media platform with 600 million registered members (Niklas, 2014).
Social media channels differ world-wide (source: http://t.qq.com/)
Challenges for global relationship management
The example of Chinas shows that there are very different social media channels world-wide with different reach, users, cultures and languages.