How I’m using my social media marketing dissertation findings in my job as Content Executive at Engage Comms

Bethany Brogden graduated with a 1st in her dissertation from Newcastle Business School before joining Engage Comms as a Content Executive in September 2017.

Throughout my university experience, I often thought to myself ‘when am I ever going to use this in a real life situation?’ and now here I am, working in the industry and in a job, that I practically wrote my dissertation on – crazy how things fall into place. Writing my dissertation was the hardest but most rewarding piece of work I have done to date and I think it’s great that I am able to use it today and probably in the future. It has given me the theory, foundation and understanding of how social media marketing has an impact on the user and why this is incredibly important in engaging and converting them into paying customers – which is what all clients want in one form or another…

Understanding the social media marketing industry

As we all know, social media is ever changing and constantly evolving. Working on this basis and the understanding that social media marketing, when done correctly, can aid competitive advantage, it was important that my work was as recent as possible and the research I gathered was the most up to date so that when I provided a conclusion, it could be used as a background for future research within the same topic. I focused the dissertation on the beauty industry as it is a sector that is growing at an incredibly fast rate and expanding its target market constantly – and one which the growth of social media has had the greatest impact on in terms of customer engagement/loyalty.

Quick wins vs long term reputation

A key finding from my dissertation was to do with brands engaging with users in a negative way as to encourage them to purchase. The make-up industry portrays individuals as models of perfection which should be followed and admired. Pointing out flaws, blemishes and differences as a negative is how they persuade you to purchase their product. Today, people want to look younger, have plumper lips and lots more besides in a bid to look like this ‘perfect model’ and brands are guilty of playing on this – to the possible detriment of the customer’s wellbeing and the brand’s long term reputation. It is not just the make-up industry that has fallen into this trap, there are plenty of industries that play on the negative to have positive impact on short term sales. Although this is great for cash in the short term, it is not great for the image of the brand and it does not promote brand loyalty which will have a negative effect on performance in the long run.

Nothing is ever free

Another of my key findings was that forming mutually beneficial relationships with users is essential in increasing customer engagement. Forming a relationship with the user through interesting content that is brand relevant and exclusive, builds continuous, sustainable, interaction. Fast response time for social media messages and the personal responses to user’s social media posts is seen to have a huge impact on the brand image which in turn, promotes brand loyalty. The ‘push/pull’ approach – i.e. giving something to receive something – is essential when looking to increase social media reach. This is often done through freebie competitions or giveaways – you know the score, ‘follow this page @…, like this picture and tag 3 friends that would love this too’. It actually works! But, again, a long term approach is needed. Brand ambassadors who are ‘dropped’ once they’ve done the job of referring others will then become the opposite of brand advocates – and influential brand enemies are never a good thing to have!

Scare tactics are old news

Throughout the research I conducted, one of the most prominent finding was that consumers of lifestyle products in 2017 HATE negative marketing. Gone are the days when brands could ‘scare’ customers into buying a product to fulfil a fabricated immediate need. What social media users prefer is empowering messages and positive vibes, which lead to better brand image, greater engagement, and ultimately increased sales. People love to hear and see that brands believe in good causes and want to make users feel good about themselves. They should not be about making someone feel bad to clinch a sale. In this day and age, consumers see through this and talk to each other about it online which reinforces the ‘consumer as king’ ethos of social media.

How can this be transferred?

No matter what the industry, this concept can be carried over. The theory of making people feel good about doing something, whether it be purchasing a product or service, donating or sponsoring something, completing an educational qualification… It’s all the same. People want to know that, as a brand, what you have to offer will benefit them in the long run, and for the better. This done through not showing them what they do not have, but empowering them to improve and be better, but with no ‘perfect model’ to compare it against is how it works.

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