Defining Social Media
Social media has taken over the world! Humanity has developed a pathological need to share and be informed quicker while making information easier to access. According to Merriam-Webster, Social Media is defined as multiple “forms of communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Today, this internet-based application is essentially a guidepost that allows companies to create, gather, share content and control how businesses are perceived in the marketplace.
The following post is a reflection from the article by Andreas Kaplan, and Michael Haenlein, Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. The article focuses on businesses incorporating the different types of social media and offering advice. This blog post will peruse to give examples of the types of social media mentioned and provide examples of how it is effectively used by WestJet Airlines.
Opportunities of Social Media
It was interesting to learn, in the above-mentioned article, that social media can be divided into different category elements of media research (social presence/media richness) and social process (self-presentation, self-disclosure)(Kaplan & Haenlein. 2009).
A short explanation of these category theories is that Social presence is influenced by intimacy and Media richness is the amount of information portrayed. On the left side of the table 1., Self-presentation is the desired control of interacting and influencing others while Self-disclosure is the divulgement of personal information.
To keep up with the major advancements in technology, businesses attempt to apply social media to their advantage but struggle on how to use it effectively. This is because firms are unaware of the classifications of Social Media and how that can affect their overall image.
WestJet utilises social media platforms properly by allows it to connect to their shareholders, customers, and employees in a timely and convenient manner.
So why is WestJet so successful? Some of the ingredients that make this airline so effective in marketing are; strategy, structure, execution, and their culture. In the 8th Canadian edition Marketing textbook, the authors state that “WestJet also continuously adapts to the fast-paced airline industry looking for new opportunities as well as responding to changing guests’ needs” (Crane, Kerin, Rudelius & Hartley. 2014). Listed below are four Social Media opportunity examples listed in the classification table and utilised by this Canadian airline.
This type of social media enables collaboration of content from multiple users. Collaborative networks score low on both ends of the classification table because users do not interact directly with one another. The article, Users of the world, unite!, explains that the idea behind this platform is that the combined information from multiple sources can be more beneficial than a single author. In other words, two heads are better than one. However, because the content is user generated, it is more difficult to control the information and the image portrayed. Companies can be greatly affected by collaborative projects because people generally trust word of mouth sources. What is written may not be true but a portion of the public will believe what they have read. Today, most people are skeptic and check multiple sites to confirm what they read while Wikipedia checks their sources to provide more accurate information.
WestJets online Wikipedia activity is relatively generic for the most part. What is surprising is that there is no mention of any crisis that WestJet has faced over the years. On the other hand, Wikipedia mentions a few of their multiple awards and recognitions, thus presenting the company in a positive way.
Blogs and Vlogs are the public forms of diaries from yester-year. These web pages are entries of personal opinions or popular events that have taken place. Blogs can cover many topics in multiple formatting variations, allowing the author control of their image. The article continues to mention that many companies use blogs to update their consumers, shareholders and employees with up to date information and developments (Kaplan & Haenlein. 2009). They score higher on the Self-presentation theory because the account allows users to disclose personal opinions and interactions via comments.
WestJet utilises this form of social media by linking their blog to their web page for easy reader access. The topics range from different Destinations, how their Owners Care, the different Operations. WestJet even released a blog post in 2016, relating their social media accounts. The author, Greg Hounslow, states that company is pleased to announce that WestJet now provides 24/7 support to their guests via their social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter (Blog, 2017).
Social Networking sites:
Social Networking sites are applications that allow users to create profiles and connect with one another. These types of networks require more interaction and personal information resulting in a medium amount of intimacy amongst users. Businesses generally attempt to join this form of social media first to gather awareness, gain market research and to promote their brand at a low-cost. Many don’t realise the effort needed to maintain network pages and to exercise them successfully. According to Statista, the leading social network worldwide as of January 2017 is Facebook with a total of 1.87 billion active users (Statista, 2017). Other social networking sites that companies utilise are Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more recently Snap chat to communicate with their target consumers.
Companies like WestJet can create pages for themselves to keep in touch with their customers. WestJets official Facebook page has over 765,900 followers and promotes being very responsive to messages and claiming to respond within minutes. They also use other social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even snap chat. This allows the Canadian airline to connect with the public and create a better customer relationship.
In the instance of a crisis, WestJet has been known to take to their social media accounts to provide crisis communication and damage control. In the article by Russ Martin, WestJet’s Expert Social Media response to bomb hoaxes, he states that “the airline’s transparent approach has helped calm nerves” (Martin, 2015). The airline had received four bomb threats in five days resulting in mass media and online attention. The threats were a hoax, but WestJet handled the crisis by being active on their Twitter account to calm the public. Instead of trying to keep the threats quiet, they were open and proactive in handling the situation which minimised greater potential damage to the company’s reputation.
Companies can exploit their social media accounts to promote their philanthropic or social responsibility and make a cause a part of their advertising and business model. WestJet does this well by filming videos and uploading them to Youtube and sharing them across all social media accounts.
Content communities are described in the article as sharing media content between users such as photos on Flickr or videos on Youtube (Kaplan, & Haenlein. 2009). These platforms generally don’t require detailed profiles and only contain basic information. Content networks do not share personal information or directly interact with each other, but they are categorised under Media Reseach because they are full of information. One of the risks associated with these channels is posting of copyright or inappropriate material. Most companies portray themselves by posting their commercials, new updates, developments, and their products.
WestJet has taken complete advantage of their cause marketing by posting videos of their Christmas miracles on their Youtube page. Their miracles vary from surprises from Santa, to Santa visiting a disadvantaged community in the Dominican Republic, and most recently the residents from the Fort McMurray wildfire.
WestJet also promotes other videos throughout the year such as their April Fools jokes, the reveal of their painted Disney planes, WestJets products and vacations offered.
Virtual Game/Social worlds:
Finally, there are virtual social and game worlds that allow users to create desired online environments and appear as either fantasy characters or avatars similar to their real life. No…. Not like Keanu Reeves living in the Matrix. These are online worlds are controlled and designed by the user whether they like realistic or magical experiences. Hence, the social process scores higher from greater user interaction and, depending on the world, the level of intimacy and information provided.
WestJet even has a virtual reality website. They take pride in simulating reality by helping their members to emulate the real world operations of WestJet Airlines (Virtual WestJet, n.d.). Virtual worlds could be a new advertising opportunity for WestJet by creating flight simulations to different destinations. They can promote the company by either partnering with online virtual world games or they can create their own simulation and add it to their website. This could help people who have never flown before or who enjoy the atmosphere on board one of their air crafts. Much like Google maps or Facebooks 360 degree view, WestJet could promote their experienced offered by posting it online.
What should Businesses Do?
Today, Social Media is a superfluous necessity. Heaven forbid a phone dies or the internet cuts out for more than an hour. The world is now consumed by the need to remain connected. Firms use this need to their advantage by communicating in a timely, effective, low-cost manner to their target markets. By understanding the different types of social media available, businesses can tailor their business plan to fit certain criteria needed to become prosperous. You need to understand the companies purpose before adding every trendy Social Media account. Not every form of social networking is beneficial to a business but when properly implemented, it can open multiple possibilities.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Crane, F. G., Kerin, R. A., Rudelius, W., & Hartley, S. W. (2014). Marketing (8th Canadian edition). Whitby, Ontario: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. 514.
Hounslow, G. (2016) WestJet is the first Canadian airline to provide 24/7 social media support. WestJet. Retrieved from https://blog.westjet.com/first-canadian-airline-to-provide-24-7-social-media-support/
Kaplan, A., & Haenlein, M. (2009). Users of the world, Unite! The Challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Elsevier. Retrieved from https://moodle.nait.ca/pluginfile.php/4309288/mod_resource/content/1/Kaplan%2C%20Andreas%20-%20Users%20of%20the%20world%2C%20unite.pdf
Martin, R (2015). WestJet’s Expert Social Media Response to Bomb Hoaxes. Marketing. Retrieved from http://www.marketingmag.ca/brands/westjets-expert-social-media-response-to-bomb-hoaxes-151231
Merriam-Webster (n.d.). Social Media. Definition of Social Media. Merriam-webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20media
Statista (2017) Leading Social Networks Worldwide as of January 2017, ranked by number of active users (in millions). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/
Virtual WestJet (n.d.) About the Virtual WestJet Group. Retrieved from http://www.virtualwestjet.org/