IE Focus || Causes

By Enrique Dans, Professor at IE Business School, published on IE Focus

Social networks have the capacity to mobilize millions of people in defense of a cause, regardless of their location. The far-reaching impact of this is now starting to show.The expansion of social networks has had one extremely interesting effect: the proliferation of causes or claims capable of garnering the support of a large number of people, sometimes very quickly. When this occurs, the person promoting the cause in question cites the number of people involved as evidence of support, whereas sceptics and detractors try to downplay it by talking about of the scant value of support provided by merely using an index finger to click on a mouse. 

Who should we believe? Can we consider this type of group as tangible evidence of support, the virtual equivalent of a street demonstration with banners and slogans, or does the practically zero effort required to support the cause mean it is worth very little? The social importance of this issue is growing as the number of social network users increases: Spain has the highest number of social networks users in the world (according to the latest figures, we are talking about around ten million active users on Facebook and around eight million on Tuenti). As a result, many are starting to see social networks as a kind of “trend laboratory” or a gauge for measuring the “social mood”, a kind of permanent, real-time survey on the widest possible variety of subjects.

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Businesses, customers and small fry

IE Focus | By Enrique Dans, Professor at IE Business School

It’s time to put an end to deliberations. If there is anything that really is changing as a direct result of the popularisation of the net and the so-called social web, it is undoubtedly relations between businesses and their customers.

Open your account on Twitter (Sorry? You’re an executive and you still don´t have Twitter or you don´t know what it is?) And write something about well-known large business organizations with millions of customers, such as Telefonica or Iberia, often criticised for their customer service. In a matter of minutes, if what you have said about the company merits a reply, you will quite possibly find it on Twitter. Have a look at the Twitter accounts of Movistar or Iberia… What can you see? Businesses talking directly with their customers and offering to solve their problems. Businesses that listen to the small fry.

It might be a question about items on a bill, explanations about an incident or about an offer: the question is that, after many years of inflexible single-direction trading and contacting customers only to harass them by throwing new products and services in their faces, many businesses are finally starting to use bidirectional communication channels to maintain real relations with their customers. Such relations are much more genuine and make it worthwhile to manage exceptions or speak with a human voice if a problem can be solved and a customer can be satisfied. Trivial? At the moment, more or less testimonial. But undoubtedly a sign of the times. Times in which technology, far from isolating individuals, makes it possible to humanize relations and bring together those who are on both sides of the screen. How can invest millions in expensive CRM systems if our customers then speak about us in public and we pay them no attention?

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Marketing and social networks

IE Focus | By David Gracia, Professor at IE Business School

The social networking phenomenon is unstoppable, but there is still no business model capable of successfully exploiting the services these companies provide.Social networks are attracting more and more consumers´ attention. As a result, they are becoming an unbeatable opportunity for advertisers to showcase their products and services to potential consumers. However, advertisers´ and users´ interests are not always the same and social networks need to find a balance so that they can attract new users and, at the same time, capitalize on their services in an Internet culture ruled by freebies. It is a three-edged challenge: advertisers, users and the social networks themselves.

Social networks are a particularly attractive platform for advertisers. Facebook, which has just completed its sixth year, was visited by 460 million people in February, 13.3 million of them from Spain (according to figures released by Nielsen). If Facebook were a country, it would have the third-highest national population on the planet, with more than 400 million inhabitants.

The comparison between Google and Facebook is particularly interesting. On the one hand, the percentage of Internet users that use the search engine in Spain is 91%, whereas only 53% use the social network. On the other, the key factor lies in the time spent by users on the site: whereas with Google people enter, search and leave, whereas Facebook users are getting more and more involved in a growing number of activities. On average, users spend 1.45 hours a month on Google, which is very little in comparison with the 6.5 hours they spend on Facebook.

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