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Measuring the impact of social media on small and medium sized businesses in the UK

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Measuring the impact of social media on small and medium sized businesses in the UK

Literature Review

            The review of literature in this study deliberates on scholarly books, journal and articles that have been written in the light of social media impact on business firms while paying key attention to previous research on impact of social media on small and medium sized businesses in UK. This review of literature also takes keen reflection on the social media metrics that are imperative for the growth of small and medium sized business firms. The review of literature is informed by research models used in similar researches, as well as the results and recommendations of those studies.

Factors that Influence Business Growth

            Fisher (2009) defines social metrics as a statistical measure of social media significance for an organisation where a firm gathers data about how social media content is received by prospective audience and their reaction towards it. Grant et al (2014), indicates that most small and medium sized businesses are not aware of the social media metrics that may assist them in assessing the value and impact of social media to the business. The author indicates that social media grant the businesses access to unprecedented information which without effective management adds less or absolutely no value to the organization. Brammer, Hoejmose and Marchant (2012) indicates the need for small and medium sized firms to learn about effective utilisation of social media through adopting various social media measurement tools that are necessary for the growth of the business. The author further indicates that not all social media measurement tools are favourable for any type of business and argue that different metrics are adaptable to different businesses and the choice of social media.

According to Gronum, Verreynne and Kastelle (2012), growth of a business firm through social media is reliant on managerial knowledge on the available social media metrics. Training is therefore crucial in order to improve the key management’s knowledge on the most important metrics of social media to adapt for growth of the business. The owners or management of the SMEs have significant individual influence on the tactics and strategies for use of social media in the organisation. Connectively, Kiron et al (2012), indicates that SMEs’ owners who believe in social media as a key success factor for their business have implemented measurement strategies in their firms unlike those business owners who do not see the significance of social media to growth of their firms. McAdam et al (2014) indicates that growth and expansion of SMEs operations in respect to social media use are heavily reliant on the social metrics used by those businesses. The author concluded those entrepreneurs’ who believe in various metrics of social media and perfectly utilise them are likely to achieve growth in their businesses.

Hulbert, Gilmore and Carson (2013) in their study established the “brand search volume” as a major social media measurement tool for a business that is an imperative growth indicator for small and medium enterprises. In the study, the author indicated that marketing through word of mouth has been replaced by online social media which is a technological makeover. Further the study established that social media is the most powerful tool that can be used by SMEs to engage their customers and to consequently improve their revenue base. The study established that customers who learn about a particular brand on social media are very likely to search for it in the internet through search engines. Google Insights and Google Analytics were highlighted as the main tools used in estimating the volume of brand search. These system tools allows the company to monitor the number of views a specific brand has attracted from youtube , number tweets and retweets that a brand has received as well as the volume of facebook search. Consequently, the authors indicated the importance of monitoring the search volume of brands to improving the ability of the firms to learn about their capacity in engaging customers via social media.

According to Berthon et al (2012), use of “Klout Score” as a means of vetting social media has been breakthrough in the marketing strategies of small and medium business and has resulted to the most cost effective growth strategy. The study indicated that “Klout Score” allow firm to realise the engagement of free social media platforms such as facebook, instagram, twitter and youtube through evaluation of the number of times a particular brand has been searched after popularising it on these platforms. Further, the measure allows a business firm to know how well it is engaging with various followers of social media. The study conducted a survey on a number SMEs investigating the impact of social metrics to business growth of the business. Most business firms that took part in the research were evidenced to have a positive profitability trend since they started using “Klout Score” as a measure of social media significance.

Heller and Parasnis (2011) indicated “lead growth” as a major social media measurement strategy that business firms need to adapt. The author indicated that lead growth enables the business firm to establish whether the brand campaigns on social media are leading to growth of the business. Use of specific programs like Marketo enables a business to learn the number of social media interactions with prospective customers occurs before one really becomes a customer. The author indicates that collection of this data enables the business firm to know the weight of every customer interaction episode hence allows the management to learn on how to align future social media marketing strategies.

Fisher (2009) highlights “acquisition” as a key social media performance indicator to business units that small and medium sized business firms can use to establish the significance of social media to their operations. In the study, the author indicated that acquisition signifies the number of referral visits from social networking sites and enables the business to learn about the value of individual social media platform to the organization. This also enables the organisation to learn about the frequency of visits from a particular customer as well as visits from new prospective customers. Specific online applications such as Google Analytics are used to establish the acquisitions for a specific business firm. In a study, the author established that acquisition enable business firms to know strength of their social media networks as well as the level of social engagement via their social media platforms. Additionally, the metric allows the organisation to assess accurate and momentous business growth.

Kaplan and Haenlein (2012) indicated that a prominent policy question is whether social media metrics leads to increased growth of SMEs. The author suggested for a longitudinal study in SMEs that use social media metrics to evaluate the significance of social media in their business operations and those that do not use any social media measurement tools. Conversely, the author indicated that there was need to investigate the cost of small and medium businesses not using social media metric tools in their operations. Chittithaworn et al (2011) conducted a longitudinal study on the effects of social media metrics in growth of small and medium business in Thailand. The study found out that 62% of the SMEs that participated in the research reported having their business improve after adopting a formal social media measurement strategy. The study established that this was a strong indication that social media measurement strategy in small and medium business leads to business growth.

Bell and Loane (2010) indicates “share of voice” as the most inefficient metric to measure the significance of social media. This measure allows a business organisation to know how many times it has been mentioned by the people in social media sites and comparing to the time that business rivals have been mentioned. Through this measure, it is difficult to establish whether the mention of the brand is positive or negative hence does not guarantee any significant growth to the business. Additionally, the metric requires use of advanced web based applications whose rights are quite expensive for small business firm and are complex to use. This according to the author makes the metric inefficient for small and medium sized firms based on the cost and the relevance as well. Gilmore, Carson and Grant (2001) in a study cited that most small and medium business firms lack a social media plan hence experience challenges in instituting and understanding on how to use social metrics. The author indicates that most SMEs set up social media connections in various social media arenas with no specific strategy on how to leap the benefit from such platforms. Most of them fail to integrate their business objectives with social media objectives hence fail to recognise the significance of social metrics in assessing contribution social media to the business growth.

Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden (2011) in a study highlighted lack of social media strategy as major factor that contributes to the failure of SMEs to use social metrics in evaluating the significance of social media to the overall business performance. The study established that most small and medium business organisations are reluctant to interact with their current and prospective customers due to little concern on significance of social media to business performance. This in turn leads to little concern on the importance of social metrics to these organizations. Additionally, the author indicated that most SMEs have financial constrains while monitoring growth through social metrics additional labour and capital investment.

Technology and Influence

There has been an evolution in the internet technology from the use of simple web pages to acquire information about a particular product or organization to the inception of internet for commerce (Martin and Matlay, 2003). Bell and Loane (2010) indicates that Web 2.0 technologies have facilitated the development of social media which have consequently proved to be a major success factor for business firms. The author indicated that Web 2.0 is not by itself a technological breakthrough that facilitates social media by contains new technology elements such as the Adobe Flash technology and Really Simple Syndicate (RSS) technology which are key components in supporting social media platform. In a study about influences of social technology to business performance Ellison (2007) indicated that business organizations are using the latest internet technology to enhance their business operations as well as to take advantage of new market opportunities. The study conducted a survey in UK firms where they asked the business executives how they deployed latest social media technology to the advantage of their businesses.

In a study, Bughin, Byers and Chui (2011) indicated that social technologies can improve the financial performance and market share of a business firm when integrated in the work operations of the employees. In their survey, the authors indicated that it requires dedicated effort of organizations to have a working social media platform that has adequate ability to give positive results to the organization. From a survey of business enterprises that have experimented the use of social media, a big percentage of the respondents did not have adequate information on application of the new networking technologies in their business operations indicated that they leaped less benefits hence became less networked while a small percentage knew how to use the new technologies leaped increased benefits and hence have embraced the social networking technologies. Daniel, Wilson and Myers (2002) established that small and medium sized business firms are embracing new internet networking technologies in boosting their agility, as well as managing their organisational complexity. From a survey of SMEs, the study results indicated the willingness of firms to fully adopt and integrate their business operations with networking technologies for performance improvement.

Mehrtens, Cragg and Mills (2001) conducted a survey on the influence of internet technologies on SMEs in New Zealand. The study applied a sample of seven small business firms to determine factors influencing use of internet technologies. The study established that among the factors that significantly affect adoption of internet technologies in small business firms include perceived organisational benefits, external pressure and readiness of the organisation. Additionally, the study established that social networking cites and blogs were the most sought after technologies while e-commerce technology followed. These technologies were identified to be used as internal social tools as well as improving customers’ and suppliers’ relations with the business. McAdam et al (2014) indicates that technology is an imperative factor for SMEs in order to boost the existing capacity and to improve the quality and efficiency of production. The study indicates that SMEs tend to be slow in adapting and implementing innovative technology but are swift with internet technology especially social media due to low implementation costs.

According to Zeiller and Schauer (2011), research has indicated that small and medium business firms adopting internet and e-commerce technology rapidly. However, there is limited methodical research investigating the manner in which these business firms adopt such technology. In a study, the authors sought to establish how small and medium business organisations in UK are adapting to e-commerce and internet technology through investigation of the sequence and level of adoption. The study was carried out using mailed questionnaires to business organisations that were sample for the research. The study found out that there exist several distinct stages in adoption of internet technology in organisation. Constantinides, Romero and Boria (2009) in a study established that the motive behind adoption of latest internet technology by SMEs and large organization is to improve competitiveness in their respective industries. The EU encourages business organisations to adopt the latest internet technology in a systematic manner through a stipulated model. The model requires businesses to start from the bottom most stage of adoption and progress to the top of the ladder. Of the twelve business firms investigated, all of them perceive high value on social media. The study results indicated that perceived growth of the organisations by the owners is the main reason for adoption of internet technologies by SMEs.

Kaynak, Tatoglu and Kula (2005) established that use of social media technologies in a business enterprise drives innovation in the firm. Particularly, the author indicated that use of social technologies give a business firm insights, reflections and ideas on the best way to serve their customers and facilitates businesses to learn innovative ways to run the business or discover new products and services that they can deliver to their customers. Better customer relations as well as efficiency in providing goods and services leads to overall growth of the firm. The author further indicated that social media technology has improved efficiency in sharing information between consumers and business organisations hence firms are able to exchange opinions with their customers leading to gathering more market information while learning the consumer behaviour. In a study, Lawson et al (2003) sought to investigate social influences and incident in acceptance of new technology in social networks by SMEs. The study established that most SMEs are adopting the new social media technology as a result of social influence. With the firms already using social media technology, social influence makes them to continue applying this technological niche in their business operations.

Social Media

            Social media can be argued to be an evolution of the internet and retransformation of the World Wide Web to create a platform to facilitate exchange of information among users. The platform of social media dates back to 1980s Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) where users were allowed to log in and share data and software as well as sending private messages and posting public messages on the board (Berthon et al, 2012). Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) indicate that there exists confusion in researchers and businesses conceptualisation of how social media should be defined and its difference with Web 2.0 concepts and the User Generated Content (UGC). The authors consider Web 2.0 as the platform that led to the development of social media. This was through provision of a platform where content and applications are not developed by individuals but rather progressively modified by all users in the network in a collaborative manner. The authors define UGC as the sum of all means which people utilise social media.

Kaplan and Haenlein (2012) indicates that social media was originally developed for as a tool for improving convenience for connecting and sharing information with friends but later was adopted by business firms as a communication tool. Currently, many businesses have adopted social media as a primary customer communication and interaction tool and assist them in relationship management as well as marketing of goods and services. Jussila, Kärkkäinen and Aramo (2014) investigated the utilisation of social media in inter-business relationships. The paper sought to establish the gaps, opportunities and challenges of using social media by business firms. The paper also sought to examine the differences in use of social media between business to consumers and business to other businesses. After an empirical survey of 125 business firms exhibiting both business to business and business to customer social media relations, the paper established that there exists a considerable gap between the superficial potential of social media in each of the business relations. The paper suggested that most business firms have no adequate knowledge on how to use social media to enhance business to customer relations as well as inter-business relations.

Meske and Stieglitz (2013) in a study established that business organisations need to embrace and implement social media technologies in order to thrive. The author suggests that businesses need to increase their online presence through social media as an effective promotion strategy. The author further indicates that there is eminent need for users to understand how to use social media as a business tool. According to Wamba and Carter (2013) small and medium businesses have an equal capacity with large firms in adapting social media in their business operation due to the cheap implementation costs. Additionally, the barriers to implementation of social media are few since there is no need of extensive resources. The author further indicated that adoption of social media can help SMEs to increase the number of customers as well as their market base which is likely to contribute to the firms’ growth strategy. Social media has the ability to facilitate small and medium business firms in expanding their scope of business through online market penetration. Marketing through social media is likely to increase sales capacity of SMEs.

Derham, Cragg and Morrish (2011) conducted a study on the value of social media in small and medium business organisations. The main area of the study was how SMEs are gaining value from the use of social media. The study established marketing management and management of customer relationship as the major areas where SMEs derive the most reputable value of social media. Bulearca and Bulearca (2010) recognised that social media enables a business organizations to connect with potential and existing clients, connect with them and create a sense of community within the organisation. Further, the author indicated that a website that is rich with information concerning an organisation can help it to improve its customer relations by providing more articulate marketing strategies, new tools of communication and channels of distribution, reduced time period in marketing of customized goods, all time technical support team and real time community interactive tool. The author also recognises social media as an effective tool for organisations to acquire new customers while retaining their current customer base. It also allows creation of online groups where both current and prospective customers can interact and exchange ideas.

Derham, Cragg, and Morrish, (2011) recognised that adoption of social media in SMEs is not homogenous owing to their individual differences. The author indicates that unlike large organisations, small and medium businesses are directly controlled by their owners who have different ideologies in respect to business strategies. The owners usually have different educational levels, different ages, different perceptions towards e-business, dissimilar business goals and objectives, as well as difference in attitudes towards establishing social networks with other businesses and customers. Further, SMEs receive different level of pressure from their customers and suppliers to adapt to use of e-business. This hence makes SMEs different in adopting social media in the business strategies. Additionally, some SMEs are not driven by typical objectives of a normal business such as profitability, business growth and competitiveness but more by social concerns and ideologies of the owners. Ainin et al (2015) conducted an empirical study on social media tools use by SMEs. The motive behind the research was to fill the gap of inadequate empirical research on the adoption of social media by small and medium business firms. The research particularly aimed at establishing the impact of the business owners and managers and the organisational environment on utilisation of social media, specifically Facebook. The study established that innovativeness and size of the firm, industry sector as well as the age of the owner or manager have significant influence on adoption of social media.

Wamba and Carter (2014) conducted a study on use of social media by small and medium business enterprises in UK. The study sought to establish the perception of manager on the use of social media by SMEs. All managers from the firms that the researchers investigated on had a positive attitude towards use of social media in business operations. Each business firm had a social media strategy where they devoted time to the management of social media content. This is where the firms made regular posts while the content of the posts was tailored to suit the social media platform and the targeted audience. The quality and content of the posts seemed to be a great concern for the mangers. The study established that managers of small and medium business organisations appreciate social media and acknowledge its importance to business operations.

Conclusion

            The review of literature has provided a deeper insight on the significance of social media metrics on small and medium business firms. The literature review has re-evaluated various previous researches on the subject matter and their consequent findings. Although only a few researches have covered the topic and geographical area of the study, the review of literature has re-examined relevant information for the study. The review has established the position of other researchers on factors that influence growth of a business firm, influence of technology and social media. From the review of literature it is visible that impacts social media in small and medium firms is a broad area which leaves a big gap for further study.

 

 

Reference List

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