Dr Tania Maree, one of the authors of the textbook Consumer Behaviour: South African Psychology and Marketing Applications, presented to the second-year Marketing Management students during April 2019. It was a privilege for the students to meet Dr Maree and learn about some of the latest research on social media.
Dr Maree, a specialist on marketing communications and consumer behaviour, presented to the students a number of recent research studies focusing specifically on three different social media platforms, namely Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Research by Dr Maree and Dr Gene van Heerden explored customer engagement from the perspective of a Facebook brand community and highlighted the importance of understanding Facebook brand fans. Their research showed that it is important to know what types of fans are present in the Facebook brand community in order to develop effective social media campaigns.
Brand fans were classified into four main groups: the authentics, fan-atics, self-expressives and utilitarians. Results showed that fan-atics were the most captivated and gratified by the brand, making this group the most probable influencers.
On the opposite end, utilitarians were found to be the least captivated and gratified by the brand. Higher levels of materialism would thus be more likely to appeal to this cohort to enhance engagement. These are examples of a few factors that marketers would need to consider in designing future Facebook campaigns. Marketers need to develop appropriate content and design activities to appeal to these different fan groups in their marketing communication to influence consumer behaviour.
A further study by Dr Maree investigated LinkedIn users, with the purpose of composing a consumer profile of LinkedIn users within the Gauteng province. The study focussed specifically on social media use integration and LinkedIn user motivations and attitudes. A sample of South Africans between 18-25 years old was investigated in the LinkedIn study.
Overall, this platform was not prominent amongst this group. A reason for this may be that it is more of a professional network rather than a personal social one. It was suggested that LinkedIn could improve its communications with its network by providing more compelling content and improving features that enhance user experience to increase the usage of this platform. There may also be a need to better educate consumers within this target group of the benefits of using this platform for their future careers in professional networking.
The final study considered research conducted by Dr Maree and PhD graduate Dr Munyaradzi Mutsikiwa. This study explored the influence of perceived brand personality of YouTube users and the interrelationships between perceived brand personality, individual factors and behavioural outcomes.
A number of interesting findings were brought to light. The study showed that the social nature of social networking sites causes users to associate them more strongly with human personality traits than those specifically associated with brands. The stronger humanisation of social media brands suggest that users perceive the platforms to be more similar to people than to abstract brands. This is significant for marketers, as it allows for a possibility of developing stronger personal relationships between social media brands and its consumers.