The Role of Culture in Social Media Marketing. A Systematic Literature Review

Master's Thesis, 2018

84 Pages, Grade: 1,7



List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem definition
1.2 Objectives of the work
1.3 Structure of the work

2 Theoretical background
2.1 The phenomena “Social Media Marketing”
2.1.1 Social Media and its evolution
2.1.2 The term “Social Media Marketing”
2.1.3 Objectives of Social Media Marketing
2.1.4 Strategic approaches
2.1.5 Platforms for the use of Social Media Marketing
2.1.6 The importance of social media in modern marketing
2.1.7 Challenges in dealing with Social Media Marketing
2.2 The culture factor
2.2.1 The term “Culture”
2.2.2 Cultural aspects in traditional marketing

3 Methods
3.1 Search strategy
3.2 Inclusion and exclusion criteria
3.3 Literature selection procedure
3.4 Data extraction

4 Results
4.1 General overview of current research
4.2 Scientific insights from the perspective of consumer research
4.2.1 Cultural influence on social media engagement and usage
4.2.2 Cultural influence on social media perception
4.3 Implications from social media practices in multicultural settings
4.3.1 Optimization of marketing strategies and activities
4.3.2 Cultural branding on social media

5 Discussion

6 Limitations

7 Conclusion



List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures

Figure 1: Classification of Social Media Marketing

Figure 2: Localized/ Generalized Social Networks

Figure 3: Descriptive and Explicative Aspects of Culture

Figure 4: Composition of the Final Set

Figure 5: Geographical Areas Covered by the Review

List of Tables

Table 1: Top global sites and mobile applications in the world

Table 2: The pre-defined keyword sets

Table 3: Search hits based on keyword-based search

Table 4: Categorization of research design

Table 5: Most widely-researched country samples

Table 6: Most studied reference culture theory/ framework

Table 7: Presentation of the focal points

Table 9: Detailed view on the final set of papers

1 Introduction

Social media has not only changed the way private individuals communicate with each other, but also hold an enormous potential for internal and external corporate use. According to the Global Digital Report 2018, there are 3.196 billion social media users worldwide and these figures are expected to continue growing rapidly (We Are Social & Hootsuite, 2018). Moreover, 71 percent of internet users are social media users and two thirds of the world's population owns a mobile phone with social media applications (eMarketer, 2017). These meaningful statistics accurately depict the fact that there is no way around dealing with social media for businesses. In the corporate world, therefore, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. are elementary components of corporate communication for different stakeholder and target groups (Barnes et al., 2012).

However, digitization and the dynamic evolution of new technologies are not the only radical changes that can be observed in the world. Advancements in transportation and communication technology caused the growing interaction and integration of national economic sectors. Companies orientate themselves across national borders, close deals and establish new foreign branches (Hill, 2008). In doing so, the management must consider national and cultural ways of thinking and trading in other countries, since disregard of language, culture and other local practices can heavily influence success or failure of global business activities, which entails enormous costs for companies (Miroshnik, 2002).

1.1 Problem definition

The fact that social media plays an extremely important component in the worldwide dynamic technology development is an irrefutable fact. Companies are forced to integrate social media in the most diverse areas in order to be lucrative in the long term, to save costs and to survive in competition. Typical fields of application include all departments that deal with external corporate communication, e.g. HR for recruiting and talent acquisition (Jung et al., 2014), PR for professionally maintaining a favorable public image or in the marketing department as revolutionary marketing and sales platforms (Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 2010; Hanna et al., 2011). According to a new study, 69% of marketing employees stated that marketing activities on social media helped to increase important marketing indicators and strengthen customer and brand loyalty (Social Media Examiner, 2018). Nevertheless, social media offer great opportunities, but also hold challenges. A major challenge is to choose the right medium which depends to a great extent on the target group (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

Especially, in an international context the demands on marketing managers’ increase as a more sensitive use of social media is required (Hochreiter & Waldhauser, 2014). With a sophisticated concept that understands and respects different national cultures, social media can contribute to the success of several marketing activities and campaigns, to a comprehensive pre-situation analysis when entering reaching markets and to interact with global consumers on different channels (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013).

Globalization and all its effects are no longer a trend, but an integral part of life. Therefore, one could strongly assume that companies that have positioned themselves on the international market have a comprehensive understanding of how to apply social media globally. But a closer look at the media still reveals too often how cultural characteristics are ignored and how companies are badly affected by cultural blunders (Dua, 2017; Fromowitz, 2017; James, 2014; Stampler, 2013). That culture differences are still insufficiently taken into account when developing international social media marketing strategies raises the question of whether there is not a lack of clear guidelines in the business world on which companies can orient themselves.

Not only had the practical necessity moved the author to deal with this topic. The constructs "culture" and "social media" or “culture” and “marketing” have already been discussed and analyzed countless times in the literature. Hence, in conducting a detailed literature review, meaningful analogues and parallels between the valuable findings could be concluded without reinventing the wheel at first instance. The current master thesis aims to examine the role of culture in social media marketing by exploring the following research question:

How do cultural differences influence the effectiveness of social media marketing?

1.2 Objectives of the work

A systematic literature review as a specific type of literature review forms the basis for examining the role of culture in social media marketing in this master thesis. It provides an overview of previous high-quality findings and studies with results, methods, weaknesses and open questions. Moreover, the findings can be synthesized in order to subsequently create transparency for academics and economic actors on the current state of knowledge and to make meaningful use of the information collected. The review also aims to meet following research objectives:

- To demonstrate the current state of research
- To explore relevant literature from renowned scientific journals
- To critically analyze and synthesize the results and solution approaches

1.3 Structure of the work

The first chapter gives the reader a brief introduction, provides the purpose of the research and the planned content. The second chapter provides the theoretical background by a detailed explanation of major terms, their evolution and the underlying theoretical concepts. The research method, including the search strategy, the literature selection and data extraction procedure are described in the third chapter. The results and findings are summarized and illustrated in a meaningful manner in the fourth chapter. The aim of the fifth chapter is to the adequately discuss and contextualize the major findings. The focus is hereby both to highlight research gaps for scholars and at the same time to demonstrate the extant knowledge on which marketing professionals can orient themselves when developing international social media marketing strategies. Limitations of the literature review are demonstrated in the sixth chapter, whereby the objectives of the research are concisely addressed and the chosen research strategy is reviewed. The research work ends with a conclusion and a future outlook for studying the role of culture in social media marketing.

2 Theoretical background

This section will provide the context for the systematic literature review in detail by describing the underlying basic concepts. In the first phase, "Social Media Marketing", the historical and conceptual classification as well as the significance and applicability are critically presented. This is followed by an overview of the different approaches to culture and its significance in global marketing activities. Hence, a solid understanding of the contents as well as the basis for further analysis is created.

2.1 The phenomena “Social Media Marketing”

2.1.1 Social Media and its evolution

A world without Social Media is hard to imagine. Being a big disrupt in digital technology, it has woven itself in all spheres of life that no one questions what the term actually means and where the origins lie. By dividing the term into its two parts being “social” and “media”, the idea behind this phenomena can be illustrated. “Social” refers to the inherent and instinctual needs of human beings to connect among each other. The tool one chooses to establish or maintain those connections indicates the second part of the term “media” (Safko, 2012).

From a general perspective, Filo et al. defined social media being as a bundle of new media technologies sharing content among organizations and individuals (Filo et al., 2015). The most cited definition to this day, however, is from Kaplan and Haenlein describing social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user- generated content” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). In the times of Web 1.0, which marks the first stage of Worldwide Web, mostly companies, providers or technically experienced individuals produced content and published them online. Web 2.0, however, has revolutionized the way individuals collect information and how they interact among each other as many online technologies on which users can create and edit content were introduced. The content published in this way is referred to as user-generated content which clearly differentiates social media from traditional mass media and former online media (Böker et al., 2013; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

A review through the literature shows that there are different interpretations when determining where the beginnings of social media lie. Some researchers see the evolution when the first mails were sent by the Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1971, enabling an active exchange of messages (McIntyre, 2014; Edosomwan et al., 2011). Others see the beginnings in the late 70s when Randy Suess and Ward Christensen developed a forum software called Bulletin Board System (BBS), which allowed the latest news to be discussed and exchanged among their circle of friends (Wise & Shorter, 2014; Whiting & Deshpande, 2014). It can nonetheless be noted that the early beginnings of social media are marked with pioneer chat tools and online news that fostered the exchange of information such as “A News” by Steve Daniel or Compuserve being the first introduced chat in the early 80s (Wise & Shorter, 2014). However, the technological advancements in the latter decades in particular play a decisive role in the development of social media. The possibility to participate by creating content without programming knowledge fundamentally changed the Internet (Meckel & Stanoevska-Slabeva, 2008). This resulted in more user-friendly and flexible platforms and applications which were no longer merely a medium for information, but also an opportunity to cultivate social contacts and a modern way to socialize with like-minded individuals (Weinberg, 2015; Molenaar, 2012). Modern social media as it is known today began to appear when the earliest social networking sites were introduced. Keeping in touch with peers and interacting with other users were the main reasons to join networks like ICQ (1996), the first global instant messaging client or Six Degrees (1997) which included glimpses of today’s social media features like creating a profile and having a friends’ list (Boyd & Ellison, 2007; McIntyre, 2014). The dawn of Social Media is marked with the launch of a multitude of platforms such as Friendster in 2003, Facebook in 2004 or YouTube in 2005 that offer different possibilities for communicating and for sharing information online (Edosomwan et al., 2011). Not only technological advancements were significant for the development of social media, but also the expansion of the Internet through Wireless Lan or mobile surfing has led to the increase of social media platforms and social media users (Meckel & Stanoevska-Slabeva, 2008).

Social media is often associated with social networks or social networking sites. Social media are platforms or channels on which individual profiles are created and user-generated content is uploaded and shared. Family and friends can also be invited to have access and actively participate on the profiles (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Therefore, social media is the environment and medium in which social networks take place as individuals with shared interests join together and build relationships through community (Paquette, 2013; Edosomwan et al., 2011; Mangold & Faulds, 2009).

2.1.2 The term “Social Media Marketing”

As social media has become such an immense force changing lifestyles of many consumers, companies implement these new mediums to their corporate communication strategies. Most importantly, marketing departments direct their efforts to social media platforms where most individuals are present, in order to achieve business goals (Hanna et al., 2011). Therefore, social media marketing has developed itself as an own subfield in the wide-ranging segments of modern marketing. It is a new discipline of Online Marketing which covers all marketing measures that are initiated and carried out with the use of the Internet to consumers. Social media marketing, on the other hand, specifically comprises measures that are delivered on social media (Lammenett, 2015).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Classification of Social Media Marketing

Source: Own illustration; following Lammenett (2015)

With the increased importance in both academia and practice, authors hold different viewpoints of what is meant by it. Some researches view the sub-segment as a facilitator to connect and interact with existing and future customer (Dwivedi et al., 2015; Pham & Gammoh, 2015; Choi et al., 2016), while others emphasize reaching business goals by increasing consumer equity, loyalty and purchase intention (Felix et al., 2017; Tuten & Solomon, 2013; Vineran, 2017).

From a marketing perspective, Jara et al. (2014) define the term as a new marketing tool that encourages higher attention and participation from consumers. Dwidevi et al. (2015) extends this view by emphasizing the established dialogue between consumers and businesses when approaching via social media with promotional information. On a strategic level, the new subfield incorporates defined roles of employees, a social media culture, well-considered decisions on the social media scope and organizational anchoring. For this reason, in management research it is understood as an interdisciplinary and cross-departmental concept (Felix et al., 2017). An organization-independent, multi-stakeholder definition was developed by the authors Rauschnabel et al. (2012). A distinction is made between reactive and proactive social media marketing. The use of social media to achieve corporate goals without actively providing own content on social media platforms is described as reactive social media marketing. Proactive social media marketing, on the other hand, is a strategic and cross-divisional management concept in which social media is actively used by producing own content to target stakeholder groups (Rauschnabel et al. 2012).

Depending on the perspectives and the key aspects, there are various concepts and elaborations. To summarize in simple words: Social media marketing is any type of marketing measures that is directly or indirectly communicated using social media to meet business goals whereby the objectives can be broken down to both relationship and online marketing (Agresta et al., 2011; Vineran, 2017).

2.1.3 Objectives of Social Media Marketing

It is important to understand in the context of social media marketing that managers should not misunderstand social media as pure sales and advertising channels and solely strive for monetary goals. Rather, the focus should be exploit opportunities to enter the dialogue with stakeholders and to build trust (Hoffman & Fodor, 2010). Similar to Rauschnabel et al.’s definition of the new marketing domain, the authors Felix et al. (2017) distinguish between proactive and reactive social media marketing objectives. Proactive goals include increasing sales or lead generation, which are proactively initiated by companies to encourage users to create and share content. On the other hand, companies also use social media in a reactive way, for example, by overserving and analyzing customer conversations. These aim to understand the attitude of customers towards the brand and to obtain information about the respective markets (Schultz & Peltier, 2013; Felix et al. 2017). Based on several authors (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013; Garzotto, 2016; Kreutzer, 2018) and recent academic reports and studies (BITKOM, 2012; Stelzner, 2018; German Institute for Marketing, 2018), the following objectives are being pursued by social media marketing:

- To increase in brand awareness and company exposure
- Stronger customer loyalty and better customer acquisition
- To increase traffic and visitors numbers
- Useful market insights
- Rising sales
- To establish business contacts and grew business partnerships

Many companies tackle the topic according to the motto "We have to do social media marketing!" without thinking about it in concrete terms. The risk of failure is high for such approaches. Therefore, as a major first step, it is important that the objectives are defined in advance. This ensures that the strategies developed subsequently contribute to a successful orientation of a company in today’s digital market (Buchenau & Fürtbauer, 2015)

2.1.4 Strategic approaches

Now that the various objectives have been explained, the way to achieve them will be outlined. In academic and practice, a common distinction is made between passive, reactive and proactive social media marketing approaches.

Authors agree that an active social media marketing strategy requires an up-front passive strategy. "Social Media Monitoring" is an established element in the passive approach and functions as a complementary channel to classical market research. It involves the continuous and systematic search, collection and preparation of data and content. As an up-front step before active efforts, social media monitoring is especially useful for locating the target group in the multitude of social media (Buchenau & Fürtbauer, 2015). Further aims of monitoring activities are to gather opinions, criticisms and suggestions about products and services and to track down what is disseminated about a company. Over and above, it is also useful to observe the online presence of competitors and to identify new trends in the market. Today, the market offers both free and paid data analytics tools. Social media monitoring is indispensable as an up-front phase prior to the active strategy in order to position oneself. Nevertheless, comprehensive social media activities require continuous monitoring (Hettler, 2012).

In the reactive approach, the company steps out of the observer role and reacts to existing conversations about the company on the web, e.g. in social networks, blogs or forums, by replying to comments and answering questions. The aim is to avoid and regulate a negative image of a company and to maintain customer relationships (Felix et al., 2017; Schweidel & Moe, 2014)

In contrast to passive and reactive behavior, the proactive approach involves self-initiated measures that do not only involve reacting to existing conversations, but also triggering dialogues. The authors Seiter and Fischer describe three ways of proactive approaches:

- Brand presence and information

The activities within this approach aim is to show general presence on social media and provide information that goes beyond the existing information, e.g. to update the audience on current events. Furthermore, they provide contact points on social media platforms, where existing and prospective customers can gather current news and other information. Therefore, companies, typically create a profile and fill it with content that provides information about the brand, the products or their services.

- Proactive dialogue communication

Activities within proactive dialogue communication are to promote and drive conversations with users and to include the target group in the communication. The focus here is on the involvement and engagement of users. The authors stress that this approach is particularly advisable when new products are introduced or to investigate whether a basic readiness is given for a yet to launch product. Conversations are mainly intended to evoke positive emotions and that lead to a change in behavior (Bruhn, 2012).

- Customer integration and brand enthusiasm

The activities of this grouping are similar to the previous actions, but differ in the intensity of involvement and integration of users. Measures for this are, for example, to encourage users to vote on new products, to participate as product testers and to bring customers together in brand communities. The resulting user-generated content and the positive recommendation is free advertising for a company and a brand. The intention behind is to have a more effective influence on consumers by recommending the company and the brand to their friends and followers via social media, also known as eWOM (electronic-word-of-mouth). By engaging customers to report unconventionally and free of charge on their product and brand experiences, a user and his acquaintances can be turned to customers (Gruber, 2008; Seiter & Fischer, 2013).

With regard to the ideal strategic approach for effective and successful social media marketing, the integrated social media strategy has proven itself in the corporate use. The integrated social media strategy combines passive and active marketing measures. The advantage of this is that continuous feedback on the success of active measures can be obtained through social media monitoring. This makes it possible to optimize the active measures quickly. With an integrated strategy companies can benefit from advantages that both active and passive measures offer. However, the strategy requires precise coordination and alignment to be effective (Weinberg, 2015; Hanna et al., 2011; Mangold & Faulds, 2009).

2.1.5 Platforms for the use of Social Media Marketing

To successfully achieve the pre-set objectives and implement the social media marketing strategy, measures on the respective social media platforms must be initiated. Nowadays, individuals use more than one social medium – 24% of adults use more than one and 16% use more mainly up to three channels (Greenwood et al., 2016; Gonxhe, 2016). Due to the multitude of social media platforms, there is also a fluent transition between them and they are partly overlapping in terms of features and purposes. Under these circumstances, companies are forced to choose suitable social media channels for different target groups to publish tailored content.

Various social media channels are available for marketing purposes whereby this master thesis focuses on the four currently most successful forms of appearance. For the selection of these channels, the top 15 global sites of Alexa's website ranking are used The rankings are based on the highest traffic, daily visitor numbers and page views (Alexa Inc., 2018). In addition, the most frequently used mobile applications are included as social media are mostly accessed by smartphones (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010; Scott, 2015; Hartmans, 2017).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Top global sites and mobile applications in the world

Source: Own illustration; Alexa Inc. (2018) and Hartmans (2017)

According to these statistics and by categorizing the results, the most popular social media websites and applications are social networks, blogs, multimedia sharing platforms and instant messaging.1

- Social Networks/ Social Networking Sites (SNS)

Social Networks are websites where individuals connect with friends and extended circle of acquaintances. Users of these pages usually create a profile with personal data and their background for identification purposes. Friend requests allow to connect to other members and to become "friends" on the respective network (Zarrella, 2013). The leading social network is Facebook, which was launched in 2004 and has 2.20 billion monthly active users around the world (Lipsman et al, 2012; Facebook Newsroom, 2018).

In general, social networks can be divided in generalized vs. specialized and global vs. local ones:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: Localized/ Generalized Social Networks

Source: Own illustration; following ADTELLIGENCE White Paper: “Cashing in”

Connection – Monetizing Today’s Social Networks” (2009)

If no special target groups, but rather a wider audience are addressed, these are "generalized" social networks such as Facebook. “Specialized” social networks aim at a specific target group such as LinkedIn, a web-based social network for maintaining existing business contacts or MySpace with a focus on music to connect with artists and bands (Zarrella, 2013). The distinction between global and local social networks refers to whether they are only used in a specific local market or worldwide. This is of particular interest in the background of social media marketing measures in several countries. Internet censorship in some countries has led to rise of successful cloning of social networks such as the Chinese social networks Sina Weibo or Renren, which have similar purposes and features in their use (Bamman et al., 2012). In the global context therefore, companies need to pay special attention on social networks as different ones are more frequently used in other countries or are even banned.

- Blogs

The term "blog" is a short version of the word "web blog" and is a website created by an Internet user. The author can express in texts or so-called posts his experiences and statements in the form of texts, messages and links and design them using images, audio and video files (Safko, 2012). In the multitude of prevailing types of blogs, corporate blogs, microblogs and watch blogs are the most relevant from a company perspective (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013). A corporate blog is the blog of a company or business. Authors write posts that are used for information and discussion purposes. In external corporate communications, these blogs serve as a source of information about the company and its offerings that provide deeper insights than on a conventional company homepage. Microblogging is a shortened form of blogging, whereby the posts cannot exceed a certain number of characters and thus offers a more precise and faster way of communication (Jansen et al., 2009). – the most successful microblogging site with 336 million active users – attracted more attention in 2009 when high-profile celebrity members started sending short-messages (“tweets”) via applications on mobile phones and the Web (Twitter, 2018; Zarrella, 2013). Watch blogs differ from the other two types as they are not administrated and run by the company itself. The authors and operators of watch blogs are interested in introducing specific subject areas into public perception and discussion. These blogs therefore critically report and discuss companies and their offerings (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013).

- Multimedia sharing platforms

Multimedia sharing platforms focus on user-generated content in the form of video sharing or photo sharing. Although these portals have some of the features of a social network or community, most of the users are merely viewing the sites’ content and are not registered members. The best known portal for video sharing is YouTube, which was launched in February 2005 and has been an almost unprecedented success ever since (Burgess & Green, 2018). Photo sharing is about uploading, publishing and sharing digital images and photos. The best known photo sharing portal today is Flickr which was launched in 2004 and also offers the possibility to publish photos and videos visibly for everyone (van Dijck, 2010). Google Photos or Pinterest. Instagram, which has a growing number of businesses using it, is a hybrid of microblog and media sharing portal (Zarrella, 2013).

- Instant Messaging

Another digital technology which users have adopted in their communication and has gained recognition from global businesses is instant messaging (IM). Even though it is integrated in many social networks as a special feature, IM is one of the latest trends in social media marketing (Tantau, 2018).

Instant Messaging facilitates online-conversations with other individuals through sending messages in real time. Short messages are sent to which the recipient can respond immediately (Flynn, 2012). With the proliferation of smartphones and mobile Internet access, instant messaging has become one of the most widely used applications on mobile devices (Frosch et al., 2016). Prevailing IM services are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and QQ Messenger, the latter two being Chinese applications (We Are Social & Hootsuite, 2018). Although the number of IM users has fallen in 2010 due to the rise of Facebook and Twitter, statistics reveal that most individuals spend more time on IM than on social networks and the number of messaging apps users is also expected to grow (Kelly, 2010). Especially in an international context, the spread and number of users of IM is of particular interest. Most messaging services users live in Asia Pacific (75.9%), followed by Europe (65.6%) and Latin America (64.1%). One might also assume that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most frequently used IM, but WeChat is used just as often and has the highest ratio of daily active users (eMarketer, 2017). Other local IM messenger are Japan’s most popular messaging application Line or Kakao Talk, a Korean application which is used by 93% of smartphone owners in South Korea (Bobrov, 2018). While in western countries marketing measures through IM applications are rather unusual or even not permitted for data protection reasons, these media are common social media marketing channels (Berthon et al., 2012; Steckman & Andrews, 2017; Liu, 2017). Therefore, IM messaging services and applications need also special attention from businesses who want to perform successful marketing activities abroad.

- Other forms

Nevertheless, in addition to the previously described social media channels, there are others that play a subordinate role in social media marketing based on today’s usage and distribution. Other relevant forms include forums, wikis or on-demand music streaming and radio services. Forums (such as motor-talk) in particular play a major role when users search for information and experience reports about products. In addition to company presences and shopping offers, forum entries are usually displayed in the upper third of the search results. From a user perspective, the product or company-related reviews and discussions are independent and therefore reliable. Wikis are so-called knowledge portals on which each user can create, edit and delete content (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013). On-demand music streaming are considered as a new type of social networks as users generally register by connecting to their social networks and the main purpose besides listening to music is to connect with others who share the same music interests (Treseder, 2018). Companies have already made use of the marketing opportunities these services such as Pandora or Apple Music provide as they are becoming rapidly popular over the past years (Cakebread, 2017; Wlömert & Papies, 2016)

2.1.6 The importance of social media in modern marketing

Shift of power

At the beginning of the Internet, companies were usually only omnipresent with a company website that was very limited in its functionality and was solely used for information purposes. Today's fast-moving consumer world, characterized by short product lifecycles and saturated markets, has also vehemently changed marketing activities (Molenaar, 2012). This led in particular to the fact that marketing measures no longer have the purpose of convincing the customer to purchase a certain product. Rather, the maxim is to include the customer's opinions, to adapt the products accordingly and therefore bind the customer in the long term (Berthon et al., 2012). Social media has empowered customers through the transparency and wealth of information, thus businesses have also changed their way of approach. As a result, social media platforms are the most utilized marketing tools nowadays to keep and win new customers (Weinberg, 2015; Berthon et al. 2012). Incidents such as the case when a passenger of United Airlines was involuntarily pulled out of an overbooked flight or initiative videos from Greenpeace against Nestlé show the strong weight the voice of users have (Victor & Stevens, 2017; Armstrong, 2010) Therefore, businesses must adjust to these shifts in power and adapt their efforts to the new circumstances (Buchenau & Fürtbauer, 2015).

Positive effects of social media marketing on business performance

The adoption of social media marketing has a number of positive effects that extend on many business domains. The use of social media has proven positive impacts on a firm’s stock performance than traditional media (Goh et al., 2013). Moreover, an effective implantation improves key financial figures like sales or return on investments, but also non-monetary indicators that measure, for example, the increased spread of information about brands show positive developments (Alves et al., 2016). Nevertheless, it must be noted that improvements only become apparent after engaging in social media marketing for a certain period of time.

Recent studies, including the Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2018, reveal this asynchronous effect (Stelzner, 2018). More than half of the marketers state benefitting from better sales results in sales and exposure with more years of social media experience. Criticism has long been expressed that the implementation of social media marketing is difficult or not measurable and thus the cost-benefit factor can’t be calculated. However, today specific tools are available to measure the effects of both monetary and non-monetary indicators. In this context, a structured social media marketing controlling and suitable measuring tools must always be ensured (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013).

Cost-effective and tailored measures

Social media marketing has prevailed itself as a cost-effective extension of traditional marketing as it offers a very favorable price-performance ratio. Start-up companies especially use the measures, as they primarily require more time than costs compared to traditional marketing measures (Weinberg, 2015; Kirtis & Karahan, 2011). In general, it cannot be said that social media marketing measures are inexpensive, as they depend to a large extent on which goal is pursued with an activity, how many and which networks are to be used and who is in charge (Heymann-Reder, 2012). Nevertheless, social media marketing enables businesses with selected social media platforms to foster target-group oriented communication. Especially for companies that are globally active, it offers a cost-effective way to create transnational brand awareness and conduct cross-border marketing measures. Through wisely selecting and supervising the social media channels and adapting the campaign concepts, companies can benefit from social media on the global scale (Okazaki & Taylor, 2013). An example can be given by the most popular social networks Facebook and Twitter. Although they belong to the most popular social media channels in the world, they are banned in China which is one of the most important and fast-growing markets in the world. Nevertheless, through the selection and well thought-out use of “local” social media channels, the Chinese market can still be entered extensively and customer groups can be won over (Chiu et al., 2012; eMarketer, 2012).

Massive reach through viral content

Another major aspect revealing the significance of social media marketing is the easy way to give brand or product recommendations to family, friends and large circle of acquaintances. Users from various platforms search for information and evaluate products and services. Functions such as liking or sharing allow users to express their positive associations or experiences with the brand. In the best case, the post is also liked or shared among a friend's circle, which generates viral content that is distributed extremely quickly on social media channels (Miller & Lammas, 2010). This enables companies to generate a fast and low-cost distribution of advertising messages with a high reach. However, the entrepreneurial success is not ensured by the multitude of social media marketing measures. Content on social media channels should not be designed according to the push principle, but in a meaningful and creative way so that virality causes the level of awareness to increase enormously within a very short time (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013; Weinberg, 2015).

Akey success tool across all types and sizes of businesses

Especially start-ups and young companies are known to be the winners of modern marketing, as they use the web and social media to establish themselves as companies and brands (Ceyp & Scupin, 2013). However, this circumstance holds true for the past, as reports and studies show that the number of companies that have implemented social media marketing regardless of type or size has increased significantly and is expected to grow more in the near future (Tomorrow Focus Media, 2011; German Institute for Marketing, 2018; We Are Social & Hootsuite, 2018). The participated businesses, which range from start-ups to multinational corporations rated the current importance of social media marketing as high and view the integration as essential to survive in the digital future. Comparative studies also show that within 5 years a significantly higher number of companies make use of social media marketing independently of the industry or geographic location. Small and medium-sized companies have also anchored social media marketing in their corporate communications to a higher level than before. Furthermore, results show that social media marketing does not only work in the B2C sector, but also proves to be advantageous in the B2B. Based on the studies, it is clear that social media marketing does not only play an important role for start-ups or globally active companies anymore. To survive in regional, national and global competition and to stand out from the competition at best, social media marketing has become a key success factor (Leitherer, 2018).

2.1.7 Challenges in dealing with Social Media Marketing

Apart from the many benefits that social media marketing has to offer, existing risks and possible disadvantages should not be neglected. The prevailing risks lead companies to new challenges that have to be faced in order to make the greatest use. Gabriel & Röhrs (2017) divide them for different areas of application such as governmental or health sector. They summarize the following specific risks for corporate use that are also applicable for marketing-related activities:

- Lack of competence: Despite the increasing number of companies using social media, studies show that most companies lack the know-how to introduce and integrate the technologies. Most companies have major weaknesses in planning, executing and managing social media marketing as a result of undefined responsibilities and a lack of qualification measures and trainings (Felix et al., 2017).
- Reputational risk: Social media marketing activities are likely to be exposed to high levels of reputational risk than traditional marketing and presents a threat to businesses. Due to the viral content in social media, the probability is higher to suffer from reputation damage (Aula, 2010).
- Uneconomical efficiency: Another noticeable risk factor is that the procedure of implementing the media into corporate use is usually conducted unsystematic without a concrete target formulation or a technical concept.
- Lack of acceptance: Authenticity is the key to social media success. Thus, social media marketing should be accepted by all involved parties e.g. customers, business partners, own employees as it is crucial for the long-term success (Michaelidou et al., 2011).
- Maintenance problems: Another big mistake, which is often not sufficiently taken into account, is that corporate social media engagement requires a long-term commitment that adapts to changing conditions. Outdated technology or erroneous content often lead to a higher risk of failure, since the current social media presence is no longer being maintained or updated to current circumstances.
- Poor flow of information: Other risks are obvious push information or undesired information overload. Users of the social media consistently reject excessive advertisements or dominant suggestions to buy. Also information about each and every news or status update leads to a reactance reaction.
- Regulatory affairs: Violations of rights, in particular data protection rights, trademark rights and copyrights, pose another major risk in social media marketing. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in the EU by the end of May also reflect the increasing importance of these risks. The penalties for inappropriate handling of social media have been significantly increased and companies must comply with even stricter rules to protect personal data (Lua, 2018). Thus, businesses fear of unintentionally making mistakes and thus damaging the image.
- Technical risks: Companies can also suffer from hacking, whereby unauthorized access to social media platforms is gained by other parties. The leakage of information and infringe of privacy can also cause serious damages for businesses (Williams & Hausman, 2017).

There are many risks associated with the use of social media marketing in business. An important prerequisite for avoiding risks is the development of social media skills among all employees (Michaelidou et al., 2011). Another risk-preventing action is to formulate comprehensive policies and guidelines for the cross-functional use of social media. Furthermore, an integrated risk management that not only recognizes risks that have already occurred, but also performs scenario analyses and future forecasts and fends off corresponding risks can contribute significantly in managing the risks (Gabriel & Röhrs, 2017).

The successful use of social media marketing in companies ultimately depends on a solid social media strategy with concrete objectives and the selection of suitable social media platforms. Furthermore, professionally qualified employees are essential to fully exploit the opportunities and to manage risks. To their field of activity belongs also to regularly verify social media marketing measures in terms of cost-benefit ratio and quality in order to ensure that customers and hence companies benefit from added value.

2.2 The culture factor

2.2.1 The term “Culture”

“The business of international business is culture.”

With the increasing importance of international business, the construct of "culture" has also developed into an extremely complex area. Culture-related issues have also increasingly attracted the attention of researches for decades and led to landmark contributions that are commonly used by corporations. It is a fact that intercultural understanding, communication and cooperation are indispensable for companies seeking success in international business. But what exactly does this influencing factor mean?

Culture is a phenomenon that is difficult to grasp and cannot or only insufficiently be described in a few words as it is deeply rooted in human consciousness and hence, its exploration is limited (Spencer-Oatey, 2012). Most researches distinct between descriptive and explicative culture aspects (Keller, 1982), whereby this kind of distinction is mostly found in the literature in the form of an iceberg (Hall, 1976) or an onion (Hofstede et al., 1990).

The descriptive aspects of culture include the behavioral results, i.e. observable artifacts such customs, clothing, social structures, architecture or works of art which are visible and accessible, but are not sufficient to explain and understand cultures (Schein, 2004). Explicative aspects, on the other hand, are the underlying causes of behavior (e.g. other values, morals, settings and standards) that cannot be directly observed and therefore are difficult to access (Holzmüller & Berg, 2001; based on Kluckhohn & Kelly, 1972). In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of culture, it would be necessary to examine both the framework conditions. However in practice, research on the visible aspects has led to essential contributions, whereby the explicative ones are among the least researched cultural determinants (Müller & Gelbrich, 2004).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3: Descriptive and Explicative Aspects of Culture

Source: Holzmüller & Berg, 2001; based on Kluckhohn & Kelly, 1972

Other concepts have also become widespread that address the different mental programming of individuals, such as the cultural understanding of Geert Hofstede, which is based on worldwide research. He describes culture as “the mental software” which includes patterns from earliest childhood and how it affects how someone thinks, feels and act in a particular way. Hofstede refers also to the collaborative, shared and group level of culture. He described culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another” and aggregates “common characteristics that influence human group’s response to its environment.” (Hofstede, 1980).

By exploring the term from various disciplines, management scholars have interpreted the cultural concept in various ways based on their research interests. Due to the variety of backgrounds (e.g. economists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists) there is no consensus on the definition or conceptual description of culture. The multitude of definitions was already expressed by the authors Kroeber and Kluckhohn in their work from 1952, in which 164 cultural definitions were combined (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952). To date, the number has increased, depicting a non-linear and heterogeneous progress when defining and conceptualizing the term (Rohlfer & Zhang, 2016).

2.2.2 Cultural aspects in traditional marketing

Cross-border business relations already existed in the Middle Ages, but the greatest transformation, however, has taken place in the middle of the twentieth century with remarkable occurrences like greater openness of national economies and trade liberalization (Kutschker & Schmid, 2011). In the last decades, the area of international business has developed itself into a wide area with a bundle of several disciplines: international management, international finance, international marketing etc. The issues deriving from cultural differences therefore is present in each of those areas and partly overlap and complement one another (Adamczyk, 2017).

Culture study in international management has gained attention from various scholars and managers, ever since Edward Hall described "culture" being the silent language in cross-border business activities (Hall, 1959). The earliest contributions by pioneers such as J. E. Lee and E. Hall emphasized that overseas operating companies need to analyze their working environment to successfully work in foreign markets (Lee, 1966; Hall, 1959; Yaprak, 2008). In 1976, Hall has furthermore differentiated between high-context (HC) and low-context (LC) cultures, whereby the prevailing communication styles is greatly influenced by the cultural context the conversation takes place (Hall, 1976). In cultures, where HC communication prevails, a substantial amount of contextual background information such as allusions or the circumstances influence the understanding of a message. HC communication is based on the indirect way of communicating, whereby nonverbal means of communication such as body language, voice, facial expression, eye contact etc. play an overriding role in the communication process. In a LC culture, little context information is needed as communication occurs in a direct and explicit way. There is little room for interpretation for the message recipient. Individuals behave in a factual and objectively oriented manner; hence, problems are addressed directly. Information is mainly conveyed through words and meanings that are expressed explicitly. Other channels such as facial expression, eye and body contact play only a minor role (Kim et al. 1998; Würtz, 2005; Hall, 1976).


1 Due to the subordinate role of wikis in the area of social media marketing, these are discussed under "Other forms".

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The Role of Culture in Social Media Marketing. A Systematic Literature Review
University of Bamberg
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role, culture, social, media, marketing, systematic, literature, review
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Nivedha Mahendran (Author), 2018, The Role of Culture in Social Media Marketing. A Systematic Literature Review, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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