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Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media



The concept of Social Media is top of the agenda for many business executives today. Decision makers, as well as consultants, try to identify ways in which firms can make profitable use of applications such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Second Life, and Twitter. Yet despite this interest, there seems to be very limited understanding of what the term “Social Media” exactly means; this article intends to provide some clarification. We begin by describing the concept of Social Media, and discuss how it differs from related concepts such as Web 2.0 and User Generated Content. Based on this definition, we then provide a classification of Social Media which groups applications currently subsumed under the generalized term into more specific categories by characteristic: collaborative projects, blogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual social worlds. Finally, we present 10 pieces of advice for companies which decide to utilize Social Media.
Users of the world, unite! The challenges and
opportunities of Social Media
Andreas M. Kaplan *, Michael Haenlein
ESCP Europe, 79 Avenue de la Re
´publique, F-75011 Paris, France
1. The specter of Social Media
As of January 2009, the online social networking
application Facebook registered more than 175
million active users. To put that number in perspec-
tive, this is only slightly less than the population of
Brazil (190 million) and over twice the population of
Germany (80 million)! At the same time, every
minute, 10 hours of content were uploaded to the
video sharing platform YouTube. And, the image
hosting site Flickr provided access to over 3 billion
photographs, making the world-famous Louvre
Museum’s collection of 300,000 objects seem tiny
in comparison.
According to Forrester Research, 75% of Internet
surfers used ‘‘Social Media’’ in the second quarter of
2008 by joining social networks, reading blogs, or
contributing reviews to shopping sites; this repre-
sents a significant rise from 56% in 2007. The growth
is not limited to teenagers, either; members of
Generation X, now 35—44 years old, increasingly
populate the ranks of joiners, spectators, and crit-
ics. It is therefore reasonable to say that Social
Media represent a revolutionary new trend that
should be of interest to companies operating in
online space–—or any space, for that matter.
Yet, not overly many firms seem to act comfort-
ably in a world where consumers can speak so freely
Business Horizons (2010) 53, 59—68
Social Media;
User Generated
Web 2.0;
Social networking sites;
Virtual worlds
Abstract The concept of Social Media is top of the agenda for many business
executives today. Decision makers, as well as consultants, try to identify ways in
which firms can make profitable use of applications such as Wikipedia, YouTube,
Facebook, Second Life, and Twitter. Yet despite this interest, there seems to be very
limited understanding of what the term ‘‘Social Media’’ exactly means; this article
intends to provide some clarification. We begin by describing the concept of Social
Media, and discuss how it differs from related concepts such as Web 2.0 and User
Generated Content. Based on this definition, we then provide a classification of Social
Media which groups applications currently subsumed under the generalized term into
more specific categories by characteristic: collaborative projects, blogs, content
communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual social worlds.
Finally, we present 10 pieces of advice for companies which decide to utilize Social
#2009 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. All rights reserved.
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (A.M. Kaplan), (M. Haenlein).
0007-6813/$ — see front matter #2009 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. All rights reserved.
with each other and businesses have increasingly
less control over the information available about
them in cyberspace. Today, if an Internet user types
the name of any leading brand into the Google
search, what comes up among the top five results
typically includes not only the corporate webpage,
but also the corresponding entry in the online
encyclopedia Wikipedia. Here, for example, cus-
tomers can read that the 2007 model of Hasbro’s
Easy-Bake Oven may lead to serious burns on chil-
dren’s hands and fingers due to a poorly-designed
oven door, and that the Firestone Tire and Rubber
Company has been accused of using child labor in its
Liberian rubber factory. Historically, companies
were able to control the information available about
them through strategically placed press announce-
ments and good public relations managers. Today,
however, firms have been increasingly relegated to
the sidelines as mere observers, having neither the
knowledge nor the chance–—or, sometimes, even the
right–—to alter publicly posted comments provided
by their customers. Wikipedia, for example, ex-
pressly forbids the participation of firms in its online
Such an evolution may not be surprising. After all,
the Internet started out as nothing more than a giant
Bulletin Board System (BBS) that allowed users to
exchange software, data, messages, and news with
each other. The late 1990s saw a popularity surge in
homepages, whereby the Average Joe could share
information about his private life; today’s equivalent
would be the weblog, or blog. The era of corporate
web pages and e-commerce started relatively re-
cently with the launch of Amazon and eBay in
1995, and got a right ticking-off only 6 years later
when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. The current
trend toward Social Media can thereforebe seen as an
evolution back to the Internet’s roots, since it re-
transforms the World Wide Web to what it was
initially created for: a platform to facilitate informa-
tion exchange between users. But does that mean
that Social Media is just old wine in new bottles?
Probably not! As we will delve into further, the
technical advances that have been made over the
past 20 years now enable a form of virtual content
sharing that is fundamentally different from, and
more powerful than, the BBS of the late 1970s.
This article discusses the challenges and opportu-
nities that emerge from this evolution for firms, and
provides structure to better understand the rapidly
evolving field of Social Media. We begin by providing a
definition and classification of Social Media by looking
at their historical roots, technical specificities, and
differences from other entities such as Web 2.0 and
User Generated Content. We then focus on six
types of Social Media–—collaborative projects, blogs,
content communities, social networking sites, virtual
game worlds, and virtual social worlds–—and present
ways in which companies can efficiently make use of
these applications. Based on this analysis, we then
derive a set of 10 recommendations companies
should follow when thinking about developing their
own Social Media strategy, be it with respect to these
aforementioned types or other applications which
might emerge in the future.
2. What is Social Media–—And what is it
As highlighted, the idea behind Social Media is far
from groundbreaking. Nevertheless, there seems to
be confusion among managers and academic re-
searchers alike as to what exactly should be includ-
ed under this term, and how Social Media differ from
the seemingly-interchangeable related concepts of
Web 2.0 and User Generated Content. It therefore
makes sense to take a step back and provide insight
regarding where Social Media come from and what
they include.
By 1979, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis from Duke
University had created the Usenet, a worldwide
discussion system that allowed Internet users to
post public messages. Yet, the era of Social Media
as we understand it today probably started about 20
years earlier, when Bruce and Susan Abelson
founded ‘‘Open Diary,’’ an early social networking
site that brought together online diary writers into
one community. The term ‘‘weblog’’ was first used
at the same time, and truncated as ‘‘blog’’ a year
later when one blogger jokingly transformed the
noun ‘‘weblog’’ into the sentence ‘‘we blog.’’ The
growing availability of high-speed Internet access
further added to the popularity of the concept,
leading to the creation of social networking sites
such as MySpace (in 2003) and Facebook (in 2004).
This, in turn, coined the term ‘‘Social Media,’’ and
contributed to the prominence it has today. The
most recent addition to this glamorous grouping
has been so-called ‘‘virtual worlds’’: computer-
based simulated environments inhabited by three-
dimensional avatars. Perhaps the best known virtual
world is that of Linden Lab’s Second Life (Kaplan &
Haenlein, 2009c).
Although the list of the aforementioned applica-
tions may give some idea about what is meant by
Social Media, a formal definition of the term first
requires drawing a line to two related concepts that
are frequently named in conjunction with it: Web
2.0 and User Generated Content. Web 2.0 is a term
that was first used in 2004 to describe a new way in
which software developers and end-users started to
60 A.M. Kaplan, M. Haenlein
utilize the World Wide Web; that is, as a platform
whereby content and applications are no longer
created and published by individuals, but instead
are continuously modified by all users in a partici-
patory and collaborative fashion. While applications
such as personal web pages, Encyclopedia Britannica
Online, and the idea of content publishing belong to
the era of Web 1.0, they are replaced by blogs, wikis,
and collaborative projects in Web 2.0. Although Web
2.0 does not refer to any specific technical update of
the World Wide Web, there is a set of basic function-
alities that are necessary for its functioning. Among
them are Adobe Flash (a popular method for adding
animation, interactivity, and audio/video streams to
web pages), RSS (Really Simple Syndication, a family
of web feed formats used to publish frequently
updated content, such as blog entries or news head-
lines, in a standardized format), and AJAX (Asynchro-
nous Java Script, a technique to retrieve data from
web servers asynchronously, allowing the update of
web content without interfering with the display and
behavior of the whole page). For the purpose of our
article, we consider Web 2.0 as the platform for the
evolution of Social Media.
When Web 2.0 represents the ideological and
technological foundation, User Generated Content
(UGC) can be seen as the sum of all ways in which
people make use of Social Media. The term, which
achieved broad popularity in 2005, is usually applied
to describe the various forms of media content that
are publicly available and created by end-users.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD, 2007), UGC
needs to fulfill three basic requirements in order
to be considered as such: first, it needs to be
published either on a publicly accessible website
or on a social networking site accessible to a select-
ed group of people; second, it needs to show a
certain amount of creative effort; and finally, it
needs to have been created outside of professional
routines and practices. The first condition excludes
content exchanged in e-mails or instant messages;
the second, mere replications of already existing
content (e.g., posting a copy of an existing newspa-
per article on a personal blog without any modifi-
cations or commenting); and the third, all content
that has been created with a commercial market
context in mind. While UGC has already been
available prior to Web 2.0, as discussed above,
the combination of technological drivers (e.g.,
increased broadband availability and hardware
capacity), economic drivers (e.g., increased avail-
ability of tools for the creation of UGC), and
social drivers (e.g., rise of a generation of
‘digital natives’’ and ‘‘screenagers’’: younger age
groups with substantial technical knowledge and
willingness to engage online) make UGC nowadays
fundamentally different from what was observed in
the early 1980s. Based on these clarifications of Web
2.0 and UGC, it is now straightforward to give a more
detailed definition of what we mean by Social Me-
dia. In our view–—and as used herein–—Social Media is
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.
Within this general definition, there are various
types of Social Media that need to be distinguished
further. However, although most people would prob-
ably agree that Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and
Second Life are all part of this large group, there is no
systematic way in which different Social Media ap-
plications can be categorized. Also, new sites appear
in cyberspace every day, so it is important that any
classification scheme takes into account applications
which may be forthcoming. To create such a classifi-
cation scheme, and to do so in a systematic manner,
we rely on a set of theories in the field of media
research (social presence, media richness) and social
processes (self-presentation, self-disclosure), the
two key elements of Social Media. Regarding the
media-related component of Social Media, social
presence theory (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976)
states that media differ in the degree of ‘‘social
presence’’–—defined as the acoustic, visual, and phys-
ical contact that can be achieved–—they allow to
emerge between two communication partners.
Social presence is influenced by the intimacy (inter-
personal vs. mediated) and immediacy(asynchronous
vs. synchronous) of the medium, and can be expected
to be lower for mediated (e.g., telephone conversa-
tion) than interpersonal (e.g., face-to-face discus-
sion) and for asynchronous (e.g., e-mail) than
synchronous (e.g., live chat) communications. The
higher the social presence, the larger the social
influence that the communication partners have on
each other’s behavior. Closely related to the idea of
social presence is the concept of media richness.
Media richness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1986) is based
on the assumption that the goal of any communica-
tion is the resolution of ambiguity and the reduction
of uncertainty. It states that media differ in the
degree of richness they possess–—that is, the amount
of information they allowto be transmitted in a given
time interval–—and that therefore some media are
more effective than others in resolving ambiguity and
uncertainty. Applied to the context of Social Media,
we assume that a first classification can be made
based on the richness of the medium and the degree
of social presence it allows.
With respect to the social dimension of Social
Media, the concept of self-presentation states that
Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media 61
in any type of social interaction people have the
desire to control the impressions other people form
of them (Goffman, 1959). On the one hand, this is
done with the objective of influencing others to gain
rewards (e.g., make a positive impression on your
future in-laws); on the other hand, it is driven by a
wish to create an image that is consistent with one’s
personal identity (e.g., wearing a fashionable outfit
in order to be perceived as young and trendy). The
key reason why people decide to create a personal
webpage is, for example, the wish to present them-
selves in cyberspace (Schau & Gilly, 2003). Usually,
such a presentation is done through self-disclosure;
that is, the conscious or unconscious revelation of
personal information (e.g., thoughts, feelings,
likes, dislikes) that is consistent with the image
one would like to give. Self-disclosure is a critical
step in the development of close relationships (e.g.,
during dating) but can also occur between complete
strangers; for example, when speaking about per-
sonal problems with the person seated next to you
on an airplane. Applied to the context of Social
Media, we assume that a second classification can
be made based on the degree of self-disclosure it
requires and the type of self-presentation it allows.
Combining both dimensions leads to a classifica-
tion of Social Media which we have visualized in
Table 1. With respect to social presence and media
richness, applications such as collaborative projects
(e.g., Wikipedia) and blogs score lowest, as they are
often text-based and hence only allow for a rela-
tively simple exchange. On the next level are con-
tent communities (e.g., YouTube) and social
networking sites (e.g., Facebook) which, in addition
to text-based communication, enable the sharing of
pictures, videos, and other forms of media. On the
highest level are virtual game and social worlds
(e.g., World of Warcraft, Second Life), which try
to replicate all dimensions of face-to-face interac-
tions in a virtual environment. Regarding self-pre-
sentation and self-disclosure, blogs usually score
higher than collaborative projects, as the latter
tend to be focused on specific content domains.
In a similar spirit, social networking sites allow
for more self-disclosure than content communities.
Finally, virtual social worlds require a higher level of
self-disclosure than virtual game worlds, as the
latter are ruled by strict guidelines that force users
to behave in a certain way (e.g., as warriors in an
imaginary fantasy land). We will now provide more
detail on each of these six different types of Social
Media, and discuss the challenges and opportunities
they offer companies.
3. The challenges and opportunities of
Social Media
3.1. Collaborative projects
Collaborative projects enable the joint and simul-
taneous creation of content by many end-users and
are, in this sense, probably the most democratic
manifestation of UGC. Within collaborative proj-
ects, one differentiates between wikis–—that is,
websites which allow users to add, remove, and
change text-based content–—and social bookmark-
ing applications–—which enable the group-based col-
lection and rating of Internet links or media content.
Exemplary applications within this category include
the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, a wiki currently
available in more than 230 different languages, and
the social bookmarking web service Delicious, which
allows the storage and sharing of web bookmarks.
The main idea underlying collaborative projects is
that the joint effort of many actors leads to a better
outcome than any actor could achieve individually;
this is similar to the efficient-market hypothesis in
behavioral finance (Fama, 1970). From a corporate
perspective, firms must be aware that collaborative
projects are trending toward becoming the main
source of information for many consumers. As such,
although not everything written on Wikipedia may
actually be true, it is believed to be true by more
and more Internet users. This may be particularly
crucial as regards corporate crises. For example,
62 A.M. Kaplan, M. Haenlein
Table 1. Classification of Social Media by social presence/media richness and self-presentation/self-disclosure
when online book retailer Amazon started to test
the idea of dynamic pricing, comments declaring
such a practice as unfair showed up instantaneously
under the Wikipedia entry on ‘‘time-based pricing.’
Yet, collaborative projects also provide some unique
opportunities for firms. Finnish handset manufac-
turer Nokia, for instance, uses internal wikis to
update employees on project status and to trade
ideas, which are used by about 20% of its 68,000
staff members. Likewise, American computer soft-
ware company Adobe Systems maintains a list of
bookmarks to company-related websites and con-
versations on Delicious.
3.2. Blogs
Blogs, which represent the earliest form of Social
Media, are special types of websites that usually
display date-stamped entries in reverse chronologi-
cal order (OECD, 2007). They are the Social Media
equivalent of personal web pages and can come in a
multitude of different variations, from personal
diaries describing the author’s life to summaries
of all relevant information in one specific content
area. Blogs are usually managed by one person only,
but provide the possibility of interaction with others
through the addition of comments. Due to their
historical roots, text-based blogs are still by far
the most common. Nevertheless, blogs have also
begun to take different media formats. For exam-
ple, San Francisco-based allows users to
create personalized television channels via which
they can broadcast images from their webcam in
real time to other users. Many companies are al-
ready using blogs to update employees, customers,
and shareholders on developments they consider to
be important. Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Micro-
systems, maintains a personal blog to improve the
transparency of his company; so does automotive
giant General Motors. Yet, as is the case with col-
laborative projects, blogs do not come without
risks. These generally present in two fashions. First,
customers who–—for one reason or another–—turn
out to be dissatisfied with or disappointed by the
company’s offerings may decide to engage in virtual
complaints in the form of protest websites or blogs
(Ward & Ostrom, 2006), which results in the avail-
ability of potentially damaging information in online
space. Second, once firms encourage employees to
be active on blogs, they may need to live with the
consequences of staff members writing negatively
about the firm. Microsoft’s former ‘‘technical evan-
gelist’’ Robert Scoble, for example, had a tendency
to fiercely criticize the products of his employer–
before he decided to leave the Redmond-based
software company in 2006.
3.3. Content communities
The main objective of content communities is the
sharing of media content between users. Content
communities exist for a wide range of different
media types, including text (e.g., BookCrossing,
via which 750,000+ people from over 130
countries share books), photos (e.g., Flickr), videos
(e.g., YouTube), and PowerPoint presentations
(e.g., Slideshare). Users on content communities
are not required to create a personal profile page;
if they do, these pages usually only contain basic
information, such as the date they joined the com-
munity and the number of videos shared. From a
corporate viewpoint, content communities carry
the risk of being used as platforms for the sharing
of copyright-protected materials. While major con-
tent communities have rules in place to ban and
remove such illegal content, it is difficult to avoid
popular videos–—such as recent episodes of comedy
dramas–—being uploaded to YouTube only hours after
they have been aired on television. On the positive
side, the high popularity of content communities
makes them a very attractive contact channel for
many firms; this is easy to believe when one con-
siders that YouTube serves over 100 million videos
per day. In 2007, Procter & Gamble organized a
contest for its over-the-counter drug Pepto-Bismol,
whereby users were encouraged to upload to You-
Tube 1-minute videos of themselves singing about
the ailments Pepto-Bismol counteracts, including
heartburn and nausea. In a similar spirit, kitchen
appliances manufacturer Blendtec became popular
for its bevy of inexpensive ‘‘Will it blend?’’ videos,
which have been watched by millions of people.
Other firms, such as Cisco and Google, rely on
content communities to share recruiting videos,
as well as keynote speeches and press announce-
ments, with their employees and investors.
3.4. Social networking sites
Social networking sites are applications that enable
users to connect by creating personal information
profiles, inviting friends and colleagues to have
access to those profiles, and sending e-mails and
instant messages between each other. These per-
sonal profiles can include any type of information,
including photos, video, audio files, and blogs. Ac-
cording to Wikipedia, the largest social networking
sites are U.S.-based Facebook (initially founded by
Mark Zuckerberg to stay in touch with his fellow
students from Harvard University) and MySpace
(with 1,500 employees and more than 250 million
registered users). Social networking sites are of such
high popularity, specifically among younger Internet
Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media 63
users, that the term ‘‘Facebook addict’’ has been
included in the Urban Dictionary, a collaborative
project focused on developing a slang dictionary
for the English language. Several companies are
already using social networking sites to support
the creation of brand communities (Muniz &
O’Guinn, 2001) or for marketing research in the
context of netnography (Kozinets, 2002). To pro-
mote the movie ‘‘Fred Claus,’’ a 2007 Christmas
comedy film, Warner Brothers created a Facebook
profile via which visitors could watch trailers, down-
load graphics, and play games. Likewise, the Adidas
custom soccer community on MySpace allows visi-
tors to associate themselves with one of two brands
of elite soccer cleats produced by the German sports
apparel manufacturer, and to access product re-
views and information on professional soccer play-
ers who play using ‘‘their’’ shoes. Some firms even go
one step further and use Facebook as a distribution
channel. Consider U.S.-based florist 1-800-Flower-, which offers a widget on Facebook called
‘Gimme Love’’ whereby users can send ‘‘virtual
bouquets’’ to friends or, with a click of the mouse,
be directly transferred to the company’s website to
send real flowers.
3.5. Virtual game worlds
Virtual worlds are platforms that replicate a three-
dimensional environment in which users can appear
in the form of personalized avatars and interact with
each other as they would in real life. In this sense,
virtual worlds are probably the ultimate manifesta-
tion of Social Media, as they provide the highest
level of social presence and media richness of all
applications discussed thus far. Virtual worlds come
in two forms. The first, virtual game worlds, require
their users to behave according to strict rules in the
context of a massively multiplayer online role-play-
ing game (MMORPG). These applications have gained
popularity in recent years, as standard game con-
soles–—such as Microsoft’s X-Box and Sony’s Play-
Station–—now allow simultaneous play among a
multitude of users around the globe. Examples of
virtual game worlds include the cod-medieval
‘World of Warcraft,’’ which counts around 8.5 mil-
lion subscribers who explore the virtual planet of
Azeroth in the form of humans, dwarves, orcs, or
night elves, to fight monsters or to search for trea-
sure; and Sony’s EverQuest, in which 16 different
races of players (e.g., wizards, clerics) travel the
fantasy world of Norrath. The rules of such games
usually limit the degree of self-presentation and
self-disclosure possible, although some users spend
so much time with these applications that their
character–—be it a warrior, a wizard, or a dragon
hunter–—starts to more and more closely resemble
their real life personality. Besides their use for in-
game advertising (similar in idea to product
placement in blockbuster movies), the high popu-
larity of virtual game worlds can also be leveraged
in more traditional communication campaigns.
Japanese automotive giant Toyota, for example,
used pictures and mechanics from the World of
Warcraft application in its latest Tundra commercial
to reach the 2.5 million players in the U.S. alone.
3.6. Virtual social worlds
The second group of virtual worlds, often referred to
as virtual social worlds, allows inhabitants to choose
their behavior more freely and essentially live a
virtual life similar to their real life. As in virtual game
worlds, virtual social world users appear in the form
of avatars and interact in a three-dimensional virtual
environment; however, in this realm, there are no
rules restricting the range of possible interactions,
except for basic physical laws such as gravity. This
allows for an unlimited range of self presentation
strategies, and it has been shown that with increasing
usage intensity and consumption experience, users of
virtual social worlds–—or ‘‘residents,’’ as they prefer
to be called–—show behavior that more and more
closely mirrors the one observed in real life settings
(Haenlein & Kaplan, 2009; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009a,
2009b). Arguably, the most prominent example of
virtual social worlds is the Second Life application,
founded and managed by the San Francisco-based
company Linden Research Inc. Besides doing every-
thing that is possible in real life (e.g., speaking to
other avatars, taking a walk, enjoying the virtual
sunshine), Second Life also allows users to create
content (e.g., to design virtual clothing or furniture
items) and to sell this content to others in exchange
for Linden Dollars, a virtual currency traded against
the U.S. Dollar on the Second Life Exchange.
Some residents are so successful in this task that
the virtual money earned that way complements
their real life income. Virtual social worlds offer a
multitude of opportunities for companies in market-
ing (advertising/communication, virtual product
sales/v-Commerce, marketing research), and human
resource and internal process management; for a
more detailed discussion, see Kaplan and Haenlein
4. Ten pieces of advice for companies
deciding to use Social Media
Social Media is a very active and fast-moving do-
main. What may be up-to-date today could have
64 A.M. Kaplan, M. Haenlein
disappeared from the virtual landscape tomorrow.
It is therefore crucial for firms to have a set of
guidelines that can be applied to any form of Social
Media, whether they are part of the aforementioned
list or not. Next, we provide such a set of recom-
mendations. Given that Social Media have both a
social- and a media-component, we split our advice
into two sections: five points about using media and
five points about being social.
4.1. Five points about using media
4.1.1. Choose carefully
There are dozens–—if not hundreds–—of Social Media
applications, and new ones are appearing on the
horizon every day. If you still need time to run your
core business, you simply cannot participate in them
all, especially since ‘‘being active’’ is one key re-
quirement of success (see below). Choosing the
right medium for any given purpose depends on
the target group to be reached and the message
to be communicated. On the one hand, each Social
Media application usually attracts a certain group of
people and firms should be active wherever their
customers are present. For example, if your main
target audience is book lovers, a content community
via which users share self-written novels or poems is
likely better suited to your purpose than a virtual
world which centers on fighting dragons and finding
treasures. On the other hand, there may be situa-
tions whereby certain features are necessary to
ensure effective communication, and these features
are only offered by one specific application. For
example, when the U.S. Army undertook an initia-
tive in 2007 to reach the Hispanic community,
it decided to utilize the social networking site
Univision rather than the more popular Facebook.
This choice was driven in part by the fact that
Univision–—a Spanish-language television network
in the U.S. and Puerto Rico–—is the social networking
application with the largest Latin American audi-
ence, due to an extensive range of telenovelas and
Mexican programs produced by Grupo Televisa.
However, another reason Univision was chosen is
because it offers a moderating service which checks
comments from users for appropriateness before
posting them on the site. In contrast, other appli-
cations, including Facebook, allow users to post
messages without supervision.
4.1.2. Pick the application, or make your own
Once you know which game you’re playing, the next
decision involves whether to make or buy. In some
cases, it might just be best to join an existing Social
Media application and benefit from its popularity
and user base. After all, there is no need to reinvent
the wheel if somebody has already done it, espe-
cially given that Social Media show positive network
externalities in the sense that they get more attrac-
tive to join the more participants they already have.
But in some cases, the right application might just
not be available yet. Japan’s Fujifilm, for example,
recently launched its own social network to build a
community of photo enthusiasts. In a similar spirit,
U.S.-based department store firm Sears collaborat-
ed with MTV music television to create a social
network around back-to-school shopping. Yet, what-
ever the ultimate decision–—to buy, make, or both–
it is vital that there is an understanding of the basic
idea behind Social Media. It’s all about participa-
tion, sharing, and collaboration, rather than
straightforward advertising and selling.
4.1.3. Ensure activity alignment
Sometimes you may decide to rely on various Social
Media, or a set of different applications within the
same group, in order to have the largest possible
reach. In this case, it is crucial to ensure that your
Social Media activities are all aligned with each
other. A prime example in this context is computer
manufacturer Dell and its ‘‘Digital Nomads’’ cam-
paign. Dell uses a combination of social networking
sites (Facebook, LinkedIn), blogs, and content com-
munities (YouTube videos) to show how its range of
laptop computers enable individuals to become a
nomadic mobile workforce. In a similar spirit, Chrys-
ler’s Jeep brand connects with its customers by
combining photos shared on the content community
Flickr, with groups on social networking sites such as
MySpace and Facebook. Using different contact
channels can be a worthwhile and profitable strate-
gy. But remember: one goal of communication is the
resolution of ambiguity and reduction of uncertain-
ty, and nothing is more confusing than contradicting
messages across different channels.
4.1.4. Media plan integration
What is true for different types of Social Media also
holds for the relationship between Social Media and
traditional media: Integration is key! While you may
consider these two arenas to be completely differ-
ent, in customers’ eyes they are both part of the
same: your corporate image. Consider the actions of
soft drink giant Coca-Cola. In June 2006, a pair of
performance artists shot a video featuring a series of
geysers they created by dropping Mentos brand
mints into 2-liter bottles of Coke; the clip became
a major hit on YouTube. Realizing customers’ enthu-
siasm for this performance, Coca-Cola fostered the
sensation by airing the video on late-night television
and ensuring broad digital distribution across differ-
ent content communities. Besides the advantage of
Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media 65
high impact/low cost media coverage, the campaign
also resulted in a measurable sales uplift.
4.1.5. Access for all
Although this might sound elementary, once the firm
has decided to utilize Social Media applications, it is
worth checking that all employees may actually
access them. Commonly, firms block Facebook,
YouTube, and Second Life on corporate PCs for fear
that staff might spend too much time networking
instead of working. While this is certainly a consid-
eration, it cannot imply that employees must have
special permission to be able to access the company
blog. At the same time, there is a need to curtail the
possibility of the entire organization spending all its
time producing funny videos and uploading them to
YouTube. One possible approach involves defining
groups of employees whose primary objective is the
management of corporate Social Media; all other
staff members are treated as occasional partici-
pants. Under this scenario, the first group is given
administrator rights–—which allows the opening of
new discussion threads and deletion of inappropri-
ate posts–—while the second group is not. Also, at
some point, it will be necessary to develop certain
guidelines for Social Media usage; as done, for
instance, by ‘‘Big Blue’’ IBM, which has a corporate
charta for appropriate behavior within Second Life.
For example, it is important to highlight that every
employee needs to identify himself or herself as
such when posting a comment on the corporate
blog. Otherwise, end-consumers could get the
impression that anonymous accounts are used to
enable employees to post fake messages and over-
ly-positive feedback, which could severely damage
the credibility of your whole Social Media campaign.
4.2. Five points about being social
4.2.1. Be active
If you want to develop a relationship with someone,
it is always advisable to take the lead and to be
active. Social Media are all about sharing and inter-
action, so ensure that your content is always fresh
and that you engage in discussions with your cus-
tomers. Consider the aforementioned blog kept by
Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Via this
outlet, the figurehead discusses–—on an ongoing
basis–—his corporate strategy, new product develop-
ment projects, and company values, and replies
directly to correspondence received. In considering
your Social Media efforts, be aware that firm in-
volvement must extend beyond responding to neg-
ative comments and defending product offerings.
Social Media is less about explaining why your baking
mix, detergent, or shampoo is better than anyone
else’s than it is about engaging others in open and
active conversation. Participants on Social Media
applications have the desire to actively engage
and to become both producers and consumers of
information, so-called ‘‘prosumers’’ (Toffler, 1980).
Be considerate of this need and act accordingly.
4.2.2. Be interesting
Let’s face it: nobody is interested in speaking to a
boring person. As such, if you would like your cus-
tomers to engage with you, you need to give them a
reason for doing so–—one which extends beyond
saying you are the best airline in town, or manufac-
ture the most robust kitchen blender. The first step
is to listen to your customers. Find out what they
would like to hear; what they would like to talk
about; what they might find interesting, enjoyable,
and valuable. Then, develop and post content that
fits those expectations. Coffee powerhouse Star-
bucks, for example, created the ‘‘My Starbucks
Idea’’ platform, via which customers can submit
new ideas for the company. These ideas are subse-
quently voted on by other users, with the winners
being considered for implementation by Starbucks
top management. As stated by Oscar Wilde in his
novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey: The one sin for
which there is no forgiveness is ennui.
4.2.3. Be humble
Never forget that Social Media existed before you
decided to engage in them; indeed, in many cases,
even before you knew about their existence. In this
light, do not expect that you know better how to use
them than others who have spent countless hours on
Facebook or Second Life, for example. Before you
enter any application, first take some time to dis-
cover it and to learn about its history and basic
rules. Only once you have gained the necessary
understanding, start to participate. When aero-
space and defense firm Boeing decided to launch
its first corporate blog, the site was designed such
that users were not allowed to comment on what
they saw. Yet, interaction and feedback are critical
elements of all Social Media, blogs included. Hence,
many readers perceived the Boeing blog as a fake,
and simply corporate advertising in disguise. If there
is one certain path to failure, it involves thinking
that Social Media is just about posting existing TV
spots on YouTube or putting prefabricated press
announcements on corporate blogs.
4.2.4. Be unprofessional
Have you ever noticed that in Hollywood blockbust-
er films, it’s not usually the handsome guy who ends
up with the girl, but rather the clumsy, charming
one? The same goes for Social Media, and firms
66 A.M. Kaplan, M. Haenlein
would be wise to avoid overly-professional content
offerings. There’s no need to spend $100,000 to
design the perfect MySpace presence, or hire a
professional writer to manage your corporate blog.
Instead, try to blend in with other users and don’t be
afraid to make mistakes! Bill Marriott, Chairman and
CEO of the Marriott International Hotel chain, uses
his blog, for example, to post regular updates and
stories from his travels to Marriott properties around
the world–—very much in the same way as would a
work colleague when describing her last vacation.
Social Media users are people like you, who under-
stand that things do not always go smoothly. And, if
you’re nice to them, they may even give you free
advice on how to do it better the next time.
4.2.5. Be honest
Last but not least, be honest and respect the rules of
the game. Some Social Media–—such as Wikipedia–
may not allow companies to be involved, so do not
try to force your way in. Consider Anheuser-Busch,
owner of SeaWorld marine mammal parks. Anheus-
er-Busch tried to ‘‘rectify’’ misleading information
on Wikipedia through the use of PR firms, and failed
miserably at it. Never expect that other participants
may not find out who stands behind some anonymous
user account; after all, you’re dealing with some of
the most technologically sophisticated people on
the planet.
5. Nothing to lose but their chains
Today, everything is about Social Media. Some in-
dustry gurus claim that if you do not participate in
Facebook, YouTube, and Second Life, you are not
part of cyberspace anymore. Social Media allow
firms to engage in timely and direct end-consumer
contact at relatively low cost and higher levels of
efficiency than can be achieved with more tradi-
tional communication tools. This makes Social Media
not only relevant for large multinational firms, but
also for small and medium sized companies, and
even nonprofit and governmental agencies. Using
Social Media is not an easy task and may require new
ways of thinking, but the potential gains are far from
being negligible. Dell, for example, states that its
use of Twitter–—a micro blogging application that
allows sending out short, text-based posts of 140
characters or less–—has generated $1 million in in-
cremental revenue due to sales alerts. Some firms
may even be too successful for their own good, as
illustrated by Burger King’s ‘‘Whopper Sacrifice’’
campaign: In December 2008, the fast food giant
developed a Facebook application which gave users
a free Whopper sandwich for every 10 friends they
deleted from their Facebook network. The cam-
paign was adopted by over 20,000 users, resulting
in the sacrificing of 233,906 friends in exchange for
free burgers. Only one month later, in January 2009,
Facebook shut down Whopper Sacrifice, citing pri-
vacy concerns. Who would have thought that the
price of a friendship is less than $2 a dozen?
A new trend is on the horizon, though; Watch out
for Mobile Social Media! Mobile Web 2.0 is very similar
to Web 2.0, as discussed earlier. In contrast to its
predecessor Mobile Web 1.0, which relied on propri-
etary protocols (e.g., WAP) and use-based pricing,
Mobile Web 2.0 is characterized by open standards
(e.g., a transition to the TCP/IP protocol, the tech-
nical foundation of the World Wide Web) and flat-rate
systems. Even the manual entry of web addresses
using small and difficult-to-handle keyboards is
becoming history. Soon, all items around you will
be equipped with Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) tags that will be able to automatically connect
to your mobile phone and send URLs to them, similar
to today’s text messages. This technical evolution is
laying the groundwork for moving Social Media ap-
plications away from desktop PCs and laptops, to-
ward mobile devices. Why log into Facebook if you
can easily update all your friends using Twitter? Why
wait until you return home to watch the new YouTube
video if you can do so conveniently on your iPhone?
According to Jupiter Research, the market for
Mobile Web 2.0 evolutions will grow from a mere
$5.5 billion today to an impressive $22.4 billion by
2013. Mobile Social Media applications are expected
to be the main driver of this evolution, soon ac-
counting for over 50% of the market. In one way, this
surge toward Mobile Social Media can even be seen
as another step toward Internet democratization
and closing the digital divide between developed
and emerging countries. In India, for example, mo-
bile phones outnumber PCs by 10 to 1. In Thailand,
only 13% of the population owns a computer, versus
82% who have access to a mobile phone. It is there-
fore not surprising that the Pew Research Center–—a
Washington-based think tank–—estimates that by
2020, a mobile device will be the primary Internet
connection tool for most people in the world. Making
Social Media applications mobile is likely to tap a
currently unexploited base of new users. Even if per-
capita spending in these countries may still be low,
vast population numbers make them relevant for
virtually any firm.
Obviously, Mobile Social Media does not come
without a price. Some would argue that while it
enables the detailed following of friends half-way
across the world, it can foster a society where
we don’t know the names of our own next-door
neighbors. Be that as it may, and independent of
Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media 67
whether or not one approves of such an evolution, it
seems undisputable that (Mobile) Social Media will
be the locomotive via which the World Wide Web
evolves. Businesses, take note–—and don’t miss this
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68 A.M. Kaplan, M. Haenlein
... At this juncture, social media, consisting of websites, blogs, and Internet-based social networks (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010), enable their users to create content, share news, communicate, and exchange information, in a fast and multidirectional way (Zhang et al., 2018). These channels have been used by organizations to improve their social media performance, increase network users' interest in their organization, and build online relationships with audiences (Parveen et al., 2015). ...
... Thus, resource management and the ability to adapt organizational strategies are fundamental to survival in this period. In this aspect, the use of social media in the corporate environment stands out for its cost-effectiveness (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Social media can be used by small and medium-sized businesses due to its low cost and minimal technical requirements. ...
... By using social media, startups can connect, communicate, and collaborate with network actors and other stakeholders who generate, modify, share, and discuss content with other users (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010;Mention et al., 2019). These resources from corporate use of social media can be especially beneficial for companies during difficult and highly constrained times, such as those of the Covid-19 pandemic. ...
... At this juncture, social media, consisting of websites, blogs, and Internet-based social networks (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010), enable their users to create content, share news, communicate, and exchange information, in a fast and multidirectional way (Zhang et al., 2018). These channels have been used by organizations to improve their social media performance, increase network users' interest in their organization, and build online relationships with audiences (Parveen et al., 2015). ...
... Thus, resource management and the ability to adapt organizational strategies are fundamental to survival in this period. In this aspect, the use of social media in the corporate environment stands out for its cost-effectiveness (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Social media can be used by small and medium-sized businesses due to its low cost and minimal technical requirements. ...
... By using social media, startups can connect, communicate, and collaborate with network actors and other stakeholders who generate, modify, share, and discuss content with other users (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010;Mention et al., 2019). These resources from corporate use of social media can be especially beneficial for companies during difficult and highly constrained times, such as those of the Covid-19 pandemic. ...
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Objective of the study: Examine which antecedent factors favored the use of social media and which, substantiated in the organizational resilience, provoked innovation in startups in times of pandemic. Methodology/approach: A survey was carried out on startups located in the South and Southeast regions of Brazil, listed on the StartupBase, obtaining 119 questionnaires answered by the managers. Structural equation modeling was used for the analysis of the hypotheses. Main results: The environment, measured by external pressure, and the organizational, measured by the dimensions of internal readiness and strategic benefits, figure as antecedents of the use of social media. The use of social media has a direct and positive effect on organizational resilience and, mediated by organizational resilience, has positive effect on innovation. Theoretical/methodological contributions: The literature is expanded by analyzing antecedents and consequences of the use of social media, particularly related to the capacity for organizational resilience and the promotion of innovation. Relevance/originality: Empirical evidence indicates that social media can help develop resilience in startups and, consequently, promote innovation in times of pandemic. Social/management contributions: The focus on social media revealed that it can generate benefits in periods of restrictions, since the use of social media substantiated in organizational resilience enables interaction and value creation.
... It appears both in Polish literature in the publications of Kaznowski [9] and Wiktor [3] and extensively in foreign literature [11]. Kaplan and Haenlein define social media, inter alia, as a group of web-based applications with ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 in order to create and exchange the user-generated content (UGC) [12]. ...
... The source literature attempts to classify different types of social media. In a model based on the theories referring to media research and social processes, Kaplan and Haenlein [12] used two dimensions, namely -1. social presence/media abundance and 2. self-presentation to divide social media into six types. ...
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Introduction Transformations in the area of technology and communication allowing easy access to information resulted in Polish cities facing the challenge of changing their promotional activity. This activity has been largely transferred to social media. The article presents the definition of social media, their classification and the activity of large Polish cities in social media. The analysis of the collected material was carried out using classification trees. Material and methods The CAWI method was used to conduct the research in four large cities (Warszawa, Wrocław, Gdańsk and Kraków). It covered 400 residents and 400 tourists. The analysis of the collected material was carried out using classification trees. Results The application of classification trees allowed identifying the main factors influencing the frequency of using city profiles in social media by tourists and residents along with distinguishing three segments of residents and three segments of tourists using social media. The size of these segments was analysed, and thus the purpose of carrying out various activities by large tourist cities in social media. Conclusions The importance of social media in marketing communication is recognized mostly by large cities. As a result, these cities change their marketing communication strategies because there are sufficiently numerous and relatively homogeneous segments of residents and tourists who receive the message addressed to them through social media. These activities are valued by their recipients since they allow them to interact.
This paper reviews how social media has impacted e-commerce and marketing. Social media has a big role today for companies and consumers. Businesses use it for communication, marketing, and other ways to gain profit. The youth around the world are heavy users of social media, including for online purchases. Therefore, businesses are increasingly employing social media within their companies to compete in this digital age.KeywordsSocial mediae-commerceMarketing
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The objectives of the research were (1) to find out the influence of Instagram on social behavior in using English of under graduate students (2) To find out the influence of Instagram on student’s motivation in using English and (3) To find out the students interest in using English on Instagram. The researcher applied mixed method namely triangulation mixed method design (QUAN-QUAL). The population of this research was the students of English Language Education Program FKIP Bosowa University Makassar. This research used purposive sampling. The sample of this research consisted of 40 students; 10 students from first semester and 10 students from third Semester, 10 Students from fifth semester and 10 students from seventh semester. The research data were collected by questionnaire which was analyzed by descriptive statistic through SPSS version 16 for windows program. The result of data analysis shown that College students had on social networking like Instagram may affect their social behavior. Instagram can encourage the students' motivation and attitudes towards learning English, and also increase interaction between teachers, students and others. Students’ interest in using English on Instagram. In using Instagram, the students are required to be active in using English to improve their ability
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The authors contributed equally to this work and are listed in alphabetical order. The authors thank the managers from the market research firm, Repères, especially François Abiven and Emilie Labidoire, for their help during data collection. The authors may be contacted at the following e-mail addresses:; ABSTRACT Virtual hyperrealities, also referred to as virtual social worlds, have experienced increasing managerial interest in recent years. Although they have also received some attention in the academic literature, the extent to which corporate presences within such environments can influence attitude toward the brand and purchase intent in real life remains unclear. Based on a survey conducted among 580 Second Life residents, we show that exposure to flagship brand stores within virtual worlds positively influences attitude toward the associated brand and real life purchase intent. We furthermore show that a user's purchase experience (shopping frequency, purchase frequency, spending per purchase) and the gratification derived from the use of their purchases have a significant moderating effect on these relationships. Our results are of managerial and theoretical importance as they provide empirical evidence for spill-over effects between virtual worlds and real life and help to develop recommendations on optimal store design within virtual social worlds.
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research technique for providing consumer insight. “Netnography ” is ethnography adapted to the study of online communities. As a method, “netnography ” is faster, simpler, and less expensive than traditional ethnography, and more naturalistic and unobtrusive than focus groups or interviews. It provides information on the symbolism, meanings, and consumption patterns of online consumer groups. The author provides guidelines that acknowledge the online environment, respect the inherent flexibility and openness of ethnography, and provide rigor and ethics in the conduct of marketing research. As an illustrative example, the author provides a netnography of an online coffee newsgroup and discusses its marketing implications.
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Drawing on an expanding array of intelligent web services and applications, a growing number of people are creating, distributing and exploiting user-created content (UCC) and being part of the wider participative web. This study describes the rapid growth of UCC and its increasing role in worldwide communication, and draws out implications for policy. Questions addressed include: What is user-created content? What are its key drivers, its scope and different forms? What are the new value chains and business models? What are the extent and form of social, cultural and economic opportunities and impacts? What are the associated challenges? Is there a government role, and what form could it take?
Several months ago, the virtual social world “Second Life” (SL) received considerable interest in both the popular and business press. Based on a series of 29 qualitative, in-depth interviews, this article investigates what types of behaviors consumers show within this environment and what business opportunities it offers for companies. The results indicate that users do not consider SL as a mere computer game but as an extension of their real lives. This has implications for how marketing managers can use this online application that go beyond those known from traditional computer or online games.