Spark New Zealand (2016), formerly known as Telecom New Zealand, was once a business-consumer orientated company, that focused on long-term contracts with few bells and whistles. This changed when they had chosen a new name and started a strategic shift towards ‘transforming for the ‘new digital age’ (Fletcher,2014).
I have chosen these to analyse the use of social media by the business;
- Use of social media technology
- Employee social capital
- Community of Principles
In terms of finding the effectiveness of the external and internal approach to social media, I have used the following;
- CISCO’s S.O.C.I.A.L. Philosophy
- Return on investment
Use of technology
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are all Web 2.0 technology. Web 2.0 is a loose term for technologies and methodologies that all share similar characteristics (McHaney, 2013) . One of these attributes, of course, is the ability for different people to collaborate together, which is in fact, the direct interaction between the consumers and the business (Boyle & Kroenke, 2016).
Another characteristic is the fact that as these technologies only improve with use by these consumers, which have the following likes, follows, or subscribes;
- Facebook : 204,642 likes
- Twitter: 60300 followers
- Instagram: 11,600 followers
- YouTube: 1482 subscribers
Quantity does not mean quality
However, as previously mentioned, having a huge volume of people on your chosen social media platforms does not necessarily mean customers are actively engaged in your products or service (Victor, 2015). Hence, Spark has implemented a number of measures that include;
- Direct monitoring: Ability to message customer services team through Facebook with real reps going through comments and posts (finding leads)
- Being ‘genuine’: Putting in interests and values that including TED Talks on Twitter and a comedic arm wrestle picture on their Instagram
- User-friendly technology: Mobile capabilities for chosen social media platforms and use of their specific phone app
Employee Social Capital
and Community of Practice
As a daughter to one of the employees at the Hamilton office, I was privy to some of the implementations that Spark has made that has impacted on social capital.
- Continuous improvement groups with particular purposes and supporting strategic direction creating community of practices
- Encouraged linkages: Having groups of customer service reps within the levels and had friendly competitions including office decorating contests
Positive social capital enables employees to have a strong fellowship towards each other and the company in extension through the creation of positive norms (Mello, 2012). Another advantage is there is an intentional knowledge network through having a community of practice. Advantages such as shared knowledge and reduced resource loss have been capitalised (Wenger, 2006).
Relation to social media
Due to the emphasis on creativity and individuality within a collaborative setting, employees extend these values towards customers (OECD). Furthermore, by having shared knowledge among employees, the customers should benefit from the shared ‘practices’ that have been learned from the network (Archibald & McDermott, 2010).
Cisco’s S.O.C.I.A.L. Philosophy
In terms of finding the valued effectiveness of Spark’s social media approach through external use and internal ‘guiding’, comparison between two companies should be used for comparison. In terms of Spark in relation to CISCO’s S.O.C.I.A.L. philosophy (Cisco, 2013) is suitable due to their similar innovative values in their respective technological fields and the fact they are strategic partners (Spark, n.d.).
Have a noted corporate public relations document which outlined strategic goals and plans as well as results including the use of social media platforms (PRINZ, 2015).
Spark has a corporate governance statement, which includes a section on market disclosure. The use the stakeholder analysis and the employment of a disclosure officer means that transparency is at least a goal (The Telecom Group, 2013).
The use the same content throughout their chosen platforms with their consistent mixture of fun and thought-provoking ‘posts’.
Spark’s employees are encouraged to respond to customers in the same way they are being communicated to. Thus, it is more organic interactions as opposed to the professional default some customer services fall back to.
Although they are not particularly active on their YouTube account, they are adding enough content on their other platforms that they are not seen as inactive but are not overloading consumers by oversharing content.
Spark has consistently included the use of technologically savvy employees who are most likely ‘digital natives‘ with real-time monitoring (Chandler, 2014).
They have used new social media platforms when they are on the rise such as Snapchat and focussed on ‘community building‘ to ensure their social media efforts maximise value (Spark Business, 2016).
Return on Investment
In monetary terms, Spark’s social media campaigns appear to not be hindering the business. Here are some of its notable 2015 Key Performance Indicators;
- A 16.10% increase from 2014 in its net profit margins totalling $375 million
- An 8.6% increase in new mobile connections from 2014 totalling 2178
It has been noted in the past that the returns from social media can be valuable to a business (SocialMedia, 2015). This is supported by the extensive measures Spark has done including retraining and hiring staff to be more social-media orientated and facilitation of social media campaigns, the business appears to be thriving.
However, in Fodor & Hoffman’s (2010) article, the use of quantitative or monetary measures for the calculation of return on investment may not be practical due to the nature of the investment. This is due to the fact that its short-termism and ignores other qualitative measures.
Fisher (2009), suggests the use of goals to measure against and make sure there are benchmarks put in place before implementation. I believe their primary aims were to increase individual consumers and thus, market share, through these factors;
- Implementation of social media profiles
- Increase direct engagement
- Continually improving their processes in engagement
I believe that Spark has succeeded with these which will be evidenced by the following ‘social analytics’ as provided by Solis (2011) with his adaption, learning and engagement variables;
- Innovation: Spark has continually improved their social media strategy in response to societal demands, particularly from their consumers
- Customer experience: Although there is proof of negative feedback, Spark responds quickly due to their direct engagement policies, diminishing potential damage
- Engagement: Spark uses direct engagement through competitons held on social media but also do corporate governance through their foundation (Spark New Zealand, 2016)
It is my opinion therefore, that Spark has made a high-value social media orientated strategy that is thriving due to their clear long-term direction. They are particularly successful due to their empowerment and training of staff, understanding the social media environment in relation to their strategic goals and their awareness that quantitative value is not the only success factor.
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