We are happy to announce Mr Robert L. Ferrari, our student from Italy, as the winner of the writing competition – “ The impact of social networking sites on business in my country”. Robert is awarded 100 USD as prize.
It is an engrossing article where Robert sheds light on how social networking sites have influenced business in Italy. Read on:
Social networking sites (SNS) are second generation web applications regarded as a communication technology that enables businesses to make entrepreneurial decisions based on information about their online customers' profiles. SNSs are crucial in building and maintaining relationships, offering information about promotions, collaborating in content generation, and participating in social interaction. They are widely believed to offer business, public, and governmental entities, impactful means of enhancing their communications, processes, and, ultimately, performance.
Web 2.0 (or Social Web) has evolved tremendously in the past decade; users are more than simply passive recipients of content generated by specialists, they may also produce, modify, and share content through blogs, wikis, and social media platforms inter alia Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin. Analysing how companies leverage social networking and social media technologies is a fascinating endeavour, especially given their capacity to facilitate information exchange across groups, including corporate enterprises and government entities. Social media platforms are programs that enhance information and social interrelationships among users and organizations, and they are founded on the facilitation and reciprocation of user-generated content in as much as it empowers people and businesses with a foundation from which to pursue further advancements.
Web and social media platforms facilitate the flow and circulation of information across a broader audience, increasing the odds of innovative ideas being funded by potential investors, as well as the proliferation of the stakeholder network encompassing these concepts, and even endorse the sustainability and success of their objectives with little or no start-up capital. In Italy, the percentage of people and companies employing social media and social networks has ramped up threefold in the last few years.
Italian businesses are forging ahead in social media, establishing an online presence through employment of social networking applications. The most popular platforms are Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Snapchat and Netlog, followed by local social media platforms inter alia ItalyLink (for sharing interests with Italian lifestyle aficionados), Vinix (for professionals and lovers of the Italian Food & Beverage industry), Fubles (for local soccer events), and more. Facebook is no longer the most used social network in Italy, although penetration appears among the strongest at around 38%; As of the beginning of this year, YouTube has eclipsed Facebook as the most popular social network in Italy, though by a small margin, respectively 85.3% against 80.4%, as displayed in Figure 1.
This indicates either YouTube or Facebook are capable of reaching more than 80% of the total Italian population, which is currently in the realm of 60.36 million, reaching 39.30 million for YouTube and 31 million for Facebook. Figures 2 and 3 illustrate that YouTube has a higher proportion of male users, while Facebook, on the other hand, displays an evenly distributed audience mark. Even among chat applications, Facebook trails WhatsApp by 5%. While Instagram appears to be on the increase, it still lags behind in Italy, even among youthful users, with a solid 67%, reaching 25 million users, whereas interestingly, female audiences tend to be the dominant users at 53.8% against their male counterparts.
This very first piece of research tells us something important: the Internet has overshadowed tv entertainment as a popular medium. Furthermore, what is being experienced at this moment is neither more nor less the renowned social phenomena of a generation striving to isolate itself from the preceding by forsaking some ingrained habits in favour of newer, more genuine behavioral patterns.
Nonetheless, companies' active engagement in social media remains constrained, despite the fact that Web 2.0 technologies are rapidly being used for marketing and public relations. Moreover, consumers have a rising and considerable effect over product offerings and sales strategies. All of these opportunities have piqued professional and academic interest in the study of the Social Web in general, and notably the SNS, as means of effective marketing strategy, and as a new interaction environment for customers and enterprises. In relation to economic investments, the chart in Figure 6 indicates that 28% of companies prefer investing predominantly on Facebook, 13% on YouTube, and next to nothing on Instagram and WhatsApp, both of which appear to have dominance in terms of Influencer Marketing, leaving plenty of room for future business consideration.
In addition to social networks, and as displayed in the graph in Figure 7, most companies turn to blogs (71%) and forums (55%) for social actions which, despite the impact of Facebook, continue to resist. The employment of Chat/IP Voice stands out at 48%, while the observation that nearly 30% of businesses do not advance beyond the utilization of social networks may be alarming. The latter value should be maintained under control in order to ascertain how the Web will position itself in the coming years; notably, a comparison of the trend of this data and the employment of search engines would be beneficial.
As displayed in Figure 8, most companies devote one or two individuals (56%) to managing communication on social networks and given that certain firms are comprised of up to five individuals (38%), this highlights the issue of a cultural clash between organizations who see a potential in the employment of social media and those who compete at the highest level through a solid team and a powerful strategy. Despite the benefits of social networks, many companies lack a realistic framework for managing communication in social networks.
Having said that, it is a matter of concern to discover that, in the majority of circumstances (36%), organizations are either out of the loop, misinterpret the measures to be undertaken, or lack social communication specialists. Corporate communication is still controlled by employees within the organization in 29% of situations, but only 18% have full-time personnel devoted to social projects, and even fewer (7%) have a team zealous to relentless management of communication through social media. On the other hand, another 18% of businesses rely on employees who independently support (or drown) Web communication. Companies that rely on outside agencies account for 15%.
The graph in Figure 8 depicts the organizations' target market; it is noteworthy that 40% target B2C, 40% target B2B, and 20% exhibit an equally balanced approach across both strategies. Additionally, 38% strategize on application development, 11% on monitoring, reputation, and analytics, 12% on advertising campaigns, and 15% on content distribution. According to extensive research, 40% of firms do not engage in any marketing effort. Furthermore, 35% would rather strategize on development, in order to see their community, improve and get more involved.
This is quite encouraging considering firms are now realizing how crucial it is to build ties with their consumers. Many businesses (38%) crave their own APP, but only a handful have a clear understanding of what this APP should accomplish. Advertising efforts are relatively minor (12%), but what is most concerning is that 60% do not appear to have a clear notion of marketing activities, therefore missing out on their potential.
Most organizations appear to be using social networks to attain leads or future consumers; however, only 43% aim at leads, whilst the majority recognize the actual purpose of social networks or aim at brand and communication enhancement (71%). Another fascinating aspect is the desire to form one's own community (45%). Ultimately, the main objective of organizations that engage in social marketing is to broaden their brand and increase interaction. Companies who see the value of social networks choose to invest in training so that they may be implemented more successfully.
In conclusion, when considering a social media campaign in Italy, an organization must consider having a clear target in mind and that sound information is available to everyone prior to launch; for instance, it stands to reason sustaining a clear understanding of audiences and members, targeting their ages and geographical locations, whether rural or urban, and the type of interest they may entertain. Businesses who recognize the potential of social media will accelerate their advancement and embrace a new way of conducting business, while those who ignore the innovations may find themselves fading into oblivion.
Businesses' aims of generating leads, developing healthy connections, and defining an identity, are still relevant. Innovative enterprises who recognize the momentum and extent of this are astute to leverage social media to their advantage. Businesses may employ social media to establish meaningful interactions and get to identify potential customers intimately. A company may develop a fan base and get feedback from their target demographic. It has the potential to generate new traffic streams that will drive consumers to their products and strengthen their brand's identification in the eyes of the customer. Nevertheless, innovative approaches, inter alia experiential marketing and guerrilla campaigns, are necessary, while striving to remain competitive: millennial Italians foresee being astonished and impressed.