RLCS, Revista Latina de Comunicación Social
Revista Latina

DOI, Digital Objetc Identifier 10.4185/RLCS-2013-996en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS # 68 | 2013 | Audio-visual explanation of the author | Exposición audiovisual en euskera

 

How to cite this article in bibliograhies / References

JÁ Pérez Dasilva, A Genaut Arratibel, K Meso Aierdi, T Mendiguren Galdospín, I Marauri Castillo, L Iturregui Mardaras, MM Rodríguez González, D Rivero Santamarina (2013): “Companies on Facebook and Twitter. Current situation and communication strategies”, at  Revista Latina de Comunicación Social

Companies on Facebook and Twitter. Current situation and communication strategies

JÁ Pérez Dasilva [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, jesusangel.perez@ehu.es
A Genaut Arratibel [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, aingeru.genaut@ehu.es
K Meso Aierdi [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, koldo.meso@ehu.es
T Mendiguren Galdospín [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, terese.mendiguren@ehu.es
I Marauri Castillo [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, inigo.marauri@ehu.es
L Iturregui Mardaras [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, leire.iturregui@ehu.es
MM Rodríguez González [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] – mirenr@gmail.com
D Rivero Santamarina [CV] [aORCID] [gGS] Department of Journalism II - UPV/EHU, diana.rivero@ehu.es

 

Abstract
Introduction. Given their influence, companies are being forced to integrate social networks in their communication strategies. Objectives. This article aims to provide an overview of the use of Facebook and Twitter by the main commercial brands in Spain and to analyse the communication strategies of the companies that tend to receive more complaints from the public. Method. The study is based on the examination of the social network accounts of the three brands with the highest advertising investment in each of the 15 industry sectors. A total of 5,433 tweets and 3,000 posts were analysed. Conclusions. The study confirmed the massive presence of these companies is the social networks and demonstrated the extreme variability of the number of followers, the traffic and the nature of the information published. However, it was also demonstrated that the use made of the different social networks and the communication strategies required by the different companies are distinguishable and identifiable.

Keywords
Social networks; Online marketing; Corporate communication; Web 2.0

Contents
1. Introduction. 1.1. The role of users in social networks. 1.2. Social networks as prescriptive channels. 1.3. The role of companies in social networks. 1.4. Objectives. 2. Method. 3. Results. 3.1. Presence. 3.2. Presence across sectors. 3.3. The telephony and banking sectors: difficult communication environments. 4. Discussion and conclusions. 5. Lists of references.

Translation by CA Martinez Arcos, Ph.D. (Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas)

[ Research ] [ funded ]
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1. Introduction

The success of the social networks is turning them into new consumption prescribers because they are becoming one of the main channels to access content across the internet. A report from Nielsen Online (2010) concluded that internet users do not access online content only through search engines (as it was customary), and that the recommendations and links published by their friends in the social networks are increasingly becoming their starting point in the internet. In September 2010, Facebook was the second source of traffic for a large part of the content websites in Spain, just after Google’s search engine.

The data presented below reflect this trend very well: 13% of the audience of Youtube (nearly two million users) and 11% of the audience of Blogger (over one million users) have their origin in Facebook. The Nielsen Online report identified more than 200,000 comments that offered links to other websites, especially those offering audiovisual content and news, as well as blogs offering the latest curiosities in the internet.

Of the 2,100 million internet users that exist in the world, nearly 24 million are Spanish (Fundación Telefónica, 2013), and of them 16.6 million connect to the internet every day. In addition, during 2012 the percentage of internet users who maintained online profiles and regularly visited social networks went from 39% to 56%, while the percentage of internet users who joined the "conversation" on the internet increased from 28% to 49%. A report by Cisco in 2011 also highlighted the importance that the social networks are acquiring with very revealing data: 54% of the young Spanish university students that participated in the survey declared that for them keeping their Facebook profile updated was more important than keeping appointments, attending parties and even spending time with friends.

In light of these data, companies have to realise that it is necessary to include the social networks on their brand strategies and communication plans. In addition to giving companies massive access to millions of people (due to the virality of online content), the social networks offer companies the opportunity to interact with its users and to reach their audience in a simple and cheap way. The context is attractive: "eight hundred million active users on Facebook, one hundred million on Twitter, ninety millions in Google+: it is natural that companies have begun to realise that [...] it is necessary to be in the social networks" (Pavan et al., 2012: 1).

1.1. The role of users in social networks

Technology has changed the dynamics of the social mobilisation, and the current situation is the result of a technological democratisation that has created “connected multitudes” that want to speak out. It is a context in which people are no longer satisfied with being connected but want to participate more and more, and use the internet because it offers them new mechanisms of action, collaboration, and recognition and the ability to share information.

These 'talented' amateur communicators can publish a large amount of original information on blogs and social networks that can help us resolve our doubts and to make the right buying decisions, because "these participative forms are excellent places to find information and comments that will help us to dissipate our doubts" (Bowman and Willis, 2003: 42). Along the same line, Gangadharbatla (2008) sees the social networks as the best possible marketing tool.

According to Tascón and Quintana, the internet and its forms of participation increase the capacity of influence of citizens who know that they can now increasingly influence institutions and large companies, since "the role of an individual in the internet is determined by what this individual brings to it and the value that others grant to this contribution, in a collective review process" (2012: 27). To be precise, 64% of users who post comments do so primarily to offer advice and share experiences with the community (TNS, 2012: 30).

This was predicted by Bowman and Willis more than one decade ago:

“participatory news websites, with their transparent and more intimate nature, are attracting legions of fans who contribute and collaborate with others. In addition, recent surveys suggest that people begin to trust online sources more and seek more and more diverse sources of news and perspectives” (Bowman and Willis, 2003: 51).

The social media have materialised a reality that has been described with such terms as personism, the wisdom of crowds (Surowiecki, 2004), smart mobs (Rheingold, 2004), and collective intelligence (Lévy, 2007). However, there are authors like Rheingold and Keen (2007) that warn us of the superficiality, chaos and lack of useful information that may be involved in the evolution of the Web 2.0. Thus we cannot ignore the fact that, quality aside, users’ messages have multiplying consequences. The negative or positive assessment of a product or service, which was previously limited to a reduced environment, acquires on the internet an impact that can reach millions of people.

The figure of the "prosumer" has emerged on the internet. The prosumer can be defined as "the person who enjoys the consumer society, but also brings its own values and proposals" (Ramos, 2011). These communities are based on contents created in a collaborative and participatory manner, but the interest of the social networks does not lie on the contents as much as it does on their ability to establish valuable connections and relations (Cerezo, 2008).

1.2. Social networks as prescriptive channels

According to the study Digital Life published by TNS in 2012, 81% of internet users look for information online before buying a product or service, especially in categories of high involvement, like travelling services, mobile phones and vehicles (TNS, 2012: 32). The reasons for using the internet to obtain up-to-date and useful information before acquiring a product or service include: taking a profitable and economic decision (66%), finding detailed and valuable information about products (60%), and preparing for in-store purchases by seeing the product and the nearest point of sale (55%).

In relation to the tools used to look for information about products and services, the most used instrument in Europe since 2009 is the search engine, used by seven of ten users, followed by manufacturers’ websites, consumer opinion websites, retailers’ websites, and price comparison websites. However, the social networks have increased their presence, and by 2012 already 54% of the internet users considered the social networks as a good place to learn about products and brands (TNS, 2012: 31).

According to the Nielsen Facebook Report The Value Of Social Media Ad Impressions (Nielsen Online, 2010), 27% of Spanish internet users visit the social networks to get help on their purchasing decisions. The report also mentions that the intent to purchase a product or a service increases up to 8% when someone speaks of them in social networks. This report suggests that friends’ recommendations on social networks reinforce brand recall by 16% and sometimes by 30% when it is mentioned in the user’s wall comments.

The number of users who use the internet seeking guidance in their purchasing decisions is increasing more and more. However, consumers not only purchase but also recommend: they comment, assess and value. This function is no longer the monopoly of magazines, television or experts. The multiplied influence capacity of the internet user, together with the design and maintenance of the good name of the company (or brand) on the internet, the so-called “online reputation”, are two of the great challenges of a reality that promises great benefits, but also generates quite a few uncertainties.

Taking into account the previous notes, there is no doubt that the internet has been integrated into people’s purchase behaviour and enjoys a great power to influence our consumption behaviour. Social networks have become a tool to be taken into account in companies’ corporate communication strategies because they allow them to get in contact with millions of potential customers who spend more and more time on the internet. For example, while 81% of all internet users in the world connect to the internet to get information about a product they are planning to buy, 56% already buy products online.

Moreover, as mentioned, of all internet users in the world, 84% are in the social networks and 33% follow or are friends with brands. Some studies point out that "brands that communicate in real-time through networks such as Twitter and Facebook generate a greater degree of trust among consumers (Martínez Pradales, 2011: 20). According to the report issued by The Cocktail Analysis (April 2012), the presence of brands on social networks is accepted a priori. According to this study, 65% of Facebook users interacted with at least a brand in 2011, and 62% of them did so basically to obtain discounts, promotions and offers. Following at a great distance are Tuenti and Twitter where only 32% of users stated to have had any contact with a brand.

1.3. The role of companies in social networks

The internet has become a channel to be taken into account to increase the "social capital" or "identity capital" of a brand or person. According to Sonia Fernández (2008: 2), the social networks are very successful because they generate this capital, and do so with great intensity. A person or company with strong social networks generate a great identity capital which, without a doubt, will be greatly beneficial. It is an investment, a way for users to promote themselves to their imagined audience. Social networks allow us to increase our value and thus to increase our opportunities, whether it is to sell a product or find a job.

Companies are becoming aware of the importance of being present in this new environment and some are beginning to take the first steps on websites like Twitter and social networks in general. For example, of the 75 largest companies operating in the Spanish market, 68% have a presence on Twitter (Izo, 2010: 18), but they are just individual initiatives led by the marketing departments that bet on this channel as a way to target consumers: “The strategy in social networks is still not integrated in the companies. Despite there are channels in Twitter, they are not integrated in the majority of the websites of the companies or in the rest of the communication elements.” (Izo, 2010: 20).

The use of the social networks by companies was uneven in 2010, but begins to be part of the strategy of companies despite the fact that almost half of them do not take advantage of this channel to “talk” to their consumers (Anuncios, 2010: 4). According to the study carried out by the advertising agency NCA and the IE Business School on the influence of brands in the society 2.0 (2010):

“60% of companies use Facebook as the means par excellence to feel close to their customers and provoke positive comments about their products. Twitter, the instant microblogging website, is also known by the brands, and already half of them "tweets" their news and announcements. On the other hand, 27% of companies have at least one corporate blog to establish a fluid dialogue with their clients.”

Today the internet resembles a great conversation and companies are realising that they have to be present in it because, whether they like it or not, all brands are a subject of conversation on social networks. Therefore, they have to participate in the "conversation" because users probably want to talk to them, and someone in the company must deal with this:

“Beyond understanding this as one channel to publish corporate information, [the internet] is a space that enables companies to connect with customers and talk to them (...) above all, the conversation allows you to know your customers and learn from them, and lets them to know you better and to achieve a greater connection with the company, which translates into business results.” (Izo, 2010: 19).

For now, companies are doing their homework and some are advanced pupils, as demonstrated by the review of the activity of the 20 first advertisers in the ranking of Infoadex (Anuncios, 2010: 4).

In this line, a very relevant study is the one carried out by IESE Business School about the uses and attitudes of the Spanish companies towards the social media. Based on interviews to 681 executives, the study points out that 64% of companies do not include social media in their marketing or communication plans. The study also points out that although the Spanish companies are interested in using these applications as marketing tools, their use is still limited and many companies are using them on an experimental basis, with few human and financial resources (Villanueva and Orihuela, 2011: 4). Moreover, although some companies have begun to include social media in their marketing strategies to increase their visibility and reach the current multimedia users, the IESE also reports that 8% has abandoned them because they do not have professionals dedicated to manage their brands in social media or do not know how to do it.

1.4. Objectives

This study is guided by two main objectives:

To verify whether the use that the companies make of the social networks has experienced significant changes with respect to the scenario described by the previous studies.

To identify the communication strategies implemented by companies from the goods and services sectors, especially those that have received more complaints from users who are unwilling to collaborate with the company.

2. Method

The selection of the population under study is based on two of the most popular annual rankings about brands and advertising: Infoadex’s list of the 100 major advertisers in Spain, and the classification of the IESE Business School (2010) of the most influential firms in the digital society. Based on these rankings, we selected the three most relevant brands in each of the 15 industry sectors identified in the aforementioned studies and then examined their presence, type and relevance of the contributions published in the two most important social networks: Facebook and Twitter.

To track the digital fingerprint of the main Spanish advertisers and to rate their profiles on the social networks we used a list of 160 variables grouped into five broad categories: general information; presence and activity; type of input; most discussed content; and most visited content. The measurement of these parameters was performed with an analysis form that included sections that allowed a binary response (Yes/No). This analysis followed the cybermetrics guidelines proposed, among others, by Codina (2003) and Figuerola, Alonso and Zazo (2004). The field study focused on the activity registered from 4 to 17 June, 2012. In these two weeks we collected all the information related to the 160 analysis indicators on alternate days. A total of 4,149 tweets and 3,390 posts were processed.

Although the study was focused on the use that Spanish companies made use of the social networks, it also took into account the international social network accounts of the sample of brands, given that many of them do not have Spain-focused social network accounts. This way, the first phase of the project focused on describing the presence of the selected brands in social networks to then analyse the content of the information through two particularly sensitive sectors: telephony and banking.

The second phase of the study focused on the selection of the goods and services sectors that receive the greater number of complaints from users. To this end we reviewed the reports periodically issued by consumers associations and public institutions such as the Ministry of Health and Consumption. According to the data collected by the Spanish Consumers and Users Organisation (OCU, 2010), the list is topped by the telephony industry, which receives the highest percentage of criticisms and complaints (13% of the total). The other sectors with the highest number of complaints are the housing sector (rent, sale and home-owner communities), the taxes, and banking (11% in the first two cases and 10% in the latter). For this reason, the analysis focuses on two sectors: the telephony and banking sectors, which are dominated by big companies and together accumulate almost one fourth of all the complaints from Spanish consumers. We analysed La Caixa, BBVA and Sabadell Bank from the banking sector, and Movistar, Vodafone and Yoigo from the telephony sector.

3. Results
3.1. Presence

Of the studied companies, 93% are present on Facebook or Twitter. This percentage virtually does not suffer any variations with regards to the Spanish companies, since 90% of them are present in the two major online social networks. This does not invalidate the study of Villanueva and Orihuela at all, since we must bear in mind that the companies included in this study are some of the most important in the market, and only Mercadona did not seem to have a profile in Facebook or Twitter in the period under study.

Facebook is part of the less active sector included in the study, while Twitter, despite of being part of a sector with a relatively high presence, offers a high variability in its profiles (in fact, the Spanish accounts of Carrefour outweigh its international accounts, and even the French ones). This is due in part to the varied communication policies adopted by the different companies.

The big multinational companies tend to operate different social network accounts, normally associated with national markets (not based on language criteria), however, they are not employed in the same way by the different divisions, even though they are part of the same company (and sell the same product). In addition to Carrefour, The Coca-Cola Company is a good example of this. It has different Facebook accounts, organised around the company and its products. However, it does not seem to distinguish among domestic markets (in fact, it does not seem have a Spanish account on Facebook). However, its presence on Twitter seems to be organised around the most important national markets (it has an extraordinarily active account in Spanish), although it does not applies this criterion univocally.

The high variability existing among the studied social network accounts is not exclusive to the large supermarkets or soft drinks sector. Despite the fact that all the companies included in the study sample have an extraordinary force in the market, their interest in social networks (as well as the traffic of their accounts) varies greatly, ranging from Coca-Cola’s over 43 million Facebook followers to the absence of Versace on Facebook, or the particular strategy of Apple in the social networks. There is also high variability in Twitter, where M&H and Pepsi stand out for their traffic, with more than one million followers, while Zara, El Corte Inglés and Nutrexpa stand out for their absence.

The problem of variability is even greater in the case of daily followings. Since this indicator is based largely on the number of users who are visiting the social network accounts in situ, it is very sensitive to the time in which the data is collected. Thus, we detected variations up to 1,200% in one account. Obviously, the Spanish social network accounts are much more sensitive to changes than the international social network accounts, since the relation between their audience and the time zone in which they are located is closer.

The case of Coca-Cola can be used to illustrate the degree of variability of the social network accounts. According to the Swedish company Pingdom, Coca-Cola leads the race in popularity, followed by Disney, MTV and Starbucks, which currently have between 30 and 40 million followers, while the number of followers of the rest of the companies tends to fall remarkably (Pingdom, 2012). Just three months after the study, the account of the soft-drink company from Atlanta (or, rather, the company dedicated to its star product: Coca-Cola classic) became the first to reach over 50 million followers on Facebook (although this record was broken in early September).

A simple rule of three allows us to establish that in the last three months more than 80,000 new followers per day have been accumulated; which is equal to the total number of followers of half of the analysed brands throughout their history (although their story is normally no longer than four years).

Thus, the study of the presence and following can offer clear results only if we use a formula that restricts the high variations of each of the studied brands.

Table 1: Average presence of all social network accounts

Social network

Presence

Facebook

5,595,411

Twitter

250,152

Regarding the traffic observed in the two networks, Facebook the leads social networks sector with a considerable advantage. Comparing the total averages we can verify that the total number of Twitter followers represents only 4.47% of the Facebook followers. In the case of the Spanish accounts, it seems that the distance between both accounts is shortened, but Facebook is still much more active in terms of followers. The following of the Spanish accounts on Twitter represents 16.9% of the Facebook following, and the following of the Spanish accounts is much higher than that of the international accounts (although one must bear in mind that this last piece of information should be interpreted with extreme caution).

Table 2: Average presence of Spanish social network accounts

Social network

Presence (average)

Facebook

212,714

Twitter

36,019

In any case, Coca-Cola leads the ranking of followers, both in its international Facebook account (with 42 and a half million followers at the moment of the data collection) and the Spanish Twitter account (with more than half a million). The computer company Dell is the most-followed Spanish Facebook account (with more than three million followers), while H&M is the most-followed international Twitter account (with about a million and a half).

3.2. Presence across sectors

This section describes the presence of the leading brands in each sector in the two major online social networks, highlighting the most important aspects related to the use and communication policy adopted by each brand.

Table 3: Drinks (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/users

Users

Facebook

225.38

0.8

0.35%

0

0%

224.58

99.6%

Twitter

3.5

2.32

66.2%

0.6

17.1%

0.5

14.3%

As mentioned, Coca-Cola’s international Facebook account is by far the most successful. In fact, it is so successful that it is capable of determining by itself the fate of any media we aim to use. However, if we stick to the absolute daily contributions, we can see that companies have a very low presence on their Facebook accounts. Although this information should be taken with some caution (the number of daily user contributions or messages is 672 in the case of Coca-Cola, 1.25 in the case of Pepsi, and 0.5 in the case of Mahou), the tendency of the messages posted by users and directed to the community of followers to be the most abundant is a constant in all three cases.
On Twitter, however, offers and promotions represent more than half of the daily messages, while user contributions (an indisputable strong point for Facebook) appear in third place.

Table 4: Electronics (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

7

1.3

18.6%

0

0%

5.6

80%

Twitter

14.3

4.6

32.1%

8.6

60.1%

1.1

7.7%

The situation of the major electronics companies in Facebook is very similar. Once again, the users generate the most traffic, while the electronics companies tend to post an average of one or two messages per day. In contrast, Twitter offers a very different profile. The presence of ads and promotions grows once again, but the greatest traffic is produced by the customer services. These types of messages represent more than half of the information generated in this network and, accordingly, companies take care and answer almost all them.

Table 5: Super markets (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

41

3

7.3%

3.66

8.94%

34.33

83.73%

Twitter

29

7.66

26.43%

21.33

73.56%

0

0%

 The nature of the information provided by the social network accounts of the supermarkets varies strongly across social networks. Facebook content appears to focus on users’ contributions, while Twitter is used mainly to offer customer services and, in second place, at a considerable distance, to offer promotional and corporate information.

Table 6: Fashion (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

38.75

2.66

6.86%

0

0%

36.09

93.13%

Twitter

1

1

100%

0

0%

0

0%

In relation to the fashion companies, their presence on the social networks usually occurs through the international social network accounts and mostly through Facebook. This social network shows a strong traffic of information between users and marginal contributions from the companies. On the other hand, these companies have little representation in Twitter, where their traffic is lower (so low that it hard to even take it into consideration) and the average number of tweets per day does not exceed one unit per sector.

Table 7: Technology (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

1.86

1.43

76.88%

0.29

15.59%

0.14

7.52%

Twitter

8.26

7.69

93%

0.53

6.41%

0.43

5.2%

Technology companies use the social networks mainly to disseminate offers and corporate information. In these cases, even though Twitter has a clear tendency to enhance company-user relations through messages related to customer services, the corporate and promotional information is larger than in Facebook. However, the results about the technology sector must be nuanced due to the communication policy of Apple. The Cupertino-based company has its own social networks, and its presence on Facebook and Twitter is very specific. The most important official accounts focus on the App Store, and not on the products or the company. However, we found dozens of non-official much more generic social network accounts (not included in this study because they are not an official part of Apple) that are capable of attracting ove 7.5 million followers, which is way higher than the number of followers of its official Facebook account: 5.3 million followers.

 Table 8: Energy (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

3.71

3.71

100%

0

0%

0

0%

Twitter

22.89

12.29

53.69%

6.6

28.83%

4

17.47%

Spain’s leading energy companies do not seem to have a special interest in the social networks. In fact, only Repsol has a remarkable presence in one of them, and does so through some social network accounts dedicated to the Repsol Guide and MotoGP team. This way, the content disseminated via Facebook tends to be limited to exclusively promote these services, while Twitter offers a greater variety and amount of information, but over half of the tweets offer corporate and promotional content. It must be highlighted, however, that Twitter is also predominantly used to provide customer services, much more than Facebook.

Table 9: Restaurants (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

14

5.21

37.2%

0.14

1%

8.57

61.2%

Twitter

52.28

13.14

25.1%

39.14

74.9%

0

0%

The restaurants sector (in this case the fast food companies) offers a panorama that, at this point, can be considered as characteristic. The largest number of followers is concentrated on Facebook (especially in its international accounts, for obvious reasons), where the users’ community-oriented contributions stand out. However, although this sector has much less followers on Twitter, the volume of information there is considerably higher and most of it (about three quarters) is conversation between users and the company. On the other hand, the messages posted by the company in the form of promotions and offers is remarkable in both networks, both in quantitative terms and in similarity, which reveals a strong tendency to synergy in pro of the maintenance and monitoring of these networks.

Table 10: Banking (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

11.4

9.4

82.45%

2

17.5%

0

0%

Twitter

31.68

10.4

32.8%

21.28

67.2%

0

0%

The presence of the banking sector in the social networks is moderately limited. Also in this case there is a remarkable parallelism in the corporate and promotional information (through competitions, for example) published by companies in both networks. The willingness of companies (at least two of them) to address the issues raised by users is especially remarkable, particularly due to the accuracy and efficiency displayed by the people responsible for the maintenance of the social network accounts. However, the differences in the use made of the networks increases once again in this sector. In this case, Facebook is used as a corporate instrument for dissemination with little involvement from users. The content disseminated in Twitter, on the other hand, is promotional in a large percentage but it continues to be used as a channel aimed mostly at satisfying users’ information needs.

Table 11: Hospitality (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

2.9

2.4

82.75%

0

0%

0.3

10.3%

Twitter

10.1

3.9

38.6%

3.1

30.7%

3.1

30.7%

Hospitality companies use social networks mainly as distribution channels for offers and promotions related to their business activity. In the case of Facebook, more than 80% of the activity generated by this sector is intended for this purpose, while the activity of the community of followers is scarce. On Twitter, however, users gain prominence, and although the promotional activity is still predominant, customer services and users’ messages are so even that there are not quantifiable differences between the two.

Table 12: Automotive (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

2.6

1.9

73%

0

0%

0.6

23%

Twitter

4.7

4

85%

0.1

2.1%

0.6

12.76%

The most important automotive companies in Spain are remarkably represented in the social networks, although their daily traffic is rather discreet. The study showed that the promotional activity seems to constitute most of the information published in the two social networks, followed, at a great distance, by users’ messages. Unlike other sectors, the traffic generated by the customer services (the information established between a particular user and the company) is almost zero.

Table 13: Insurance (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

16.66

10

60%

0

0%

6.66

39.97%

Twitter

54.66

8.33

15.2%

1

1.82%

45.33

82.93%

The major insurance companies use Facebook mostly to disseminate corporate information (e.g. the main account of Seguros Pelayo is exclusively dedicated to the national football team). Twitter accounts, by contrast, focused their activity on the messages between users. However, this result must be nuanced since the account dedicated to the national football team generates three times more traffic than the other two accounts together. So it is the fans of the national football team, and not the insurance company, who generate and maintain such a high volume of tweets.

Table 14: Airlines (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

39.5

14

35.44%

1.5

3.79%

24

60.75%

Twitter

168

5.5

3.27%

156.5

93.1%

2

1.2%

Airlines use Facebook mainly for promotion and corporate information, and Twitter mainly to provide a good customer service. However, as in many other cases, the contributions of users (which clearly exceed the information provided by the companies) are predominant in Facebook and minimal in Twitter.

Table 15: Food (average daily contributions of the sector)

Channel

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

12.6

1.2

9.5%

0

0%

11.3

89.68%

Twitter

22.3

0.66

2.95%

12.3

55.1%

9.3

41.7%

The food industry has a large and active community of users, mainly motivated by the international account of the Swiss giant Nestle and, to a lesser extent, Nutrexpa, which is represented in the social networks through its star product: Cola Cao. About 90% of the traffic of the Facebook accounts is produced by users. In the case of Twitter, most of the activity is related to customer services, followed closely by users’ messages. Together this two types of information account for almost 97% of the information circulating in the social network accounts of this sector.

Table 16: Perfumery (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

4.6

3.6

78.2%

0

0%

1

21.7%

Twitter

32.6

6.6

27.96%

0

0%

26

79.75%

The three main companies dedicated to perfumery in Spain only have international social network accounts, both on Facebook and Twitter. Unlike other sectors, they do not offer customer services on the social networks (it is very likely that this absence is linked to the fact that their accounts are excessively broad and international), but they do exhibit active promotional information and user traffic. In addition, contrary to what normally happens, the promotional activity mostly occurs on Facebook, while user-generated information mostly takes place on Twitter.

Table 17: Telephony (average daily contributions of the sector)

Network

Contributions

Company

Company/user

Users

Facebook

62.5

7.3

11.76%

0

0%

54.2

88.24%

Twitter

137.5

5.81

4.23%

128.9

93.76%

2.55

1.86%

Finally, the Facebook accounts of the telephony companies generate a remarkable activity, particularly user-generated activity. The work of managers focuses on displaying on the wall the companies’ sponsorship events (Movistar and Vodafone) or promotions (Yoigo), while users’ contributions refer to doubts, questions and criticism about the service. On Twitter, activity intensifies even more thanks to the fluid relationship that is established between users and companies, in the form of customer services.
 
3.3. The telephony and banking sectors: difficult communication environments

Given their activity, the banking and telephony are two sectors that must deal with users that are very reluctant to establish friendly communication, to adopt passive or cooperative attitudes, and to be manipulated. These two sectors have a "difficult public"; distrustful and even openly hostile in many cases. On the positive side, this is a very revealing field of study because the users of the social network accounts of these types of companies are extraordinarily sincere (and in some cases brutally honest) and test the communication skills of the social media managers who have to cope with users in an environment that is difficult to control.

The content developed and published by the studied telephony companies on Facebook seems to be mainly aimed at encouraging the playful participation of users. While the information traffic presents clear differences, both in terms of quality and quantity, promotional and fun messages are predominant. Movistar focuses on information related to the Spanish football team while Vodafone centres on information about the McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team. The content published in Yoigo’s account is much lower than that of Movistar and Vodafone in quantitative terms, and is composed mostly of promotions and offers from the company.

The social network accounts of these companies in the social networks publish information about the teams they sponsor and events that are unrelated to the main activity of these companies: advertising activities which, nonetheless, have a remarkable following.

In the case of banking, the vast majority of posts in Facebook aim to show the friendly face of the company, in the form of sponsored or collaborative content. However, there are big differences among the social network accounts: Banco Sabadell pays great attention to its users 7 days a week and answers all their questions, while La Caixa has hardly any traffic on its Facebook account. Lastly, outstanding in terms of quantity and quality is the coverage of the BBVA’s social media managers of the sports and cultural events sponsored by the company (the football league in Spain, and the NBA teams and the Español Urgente Foundation) in its social network account.

Users’ contributions, on the other hand, are very different to the content produced by the companies. In fact, the vast majority of users’ comments are complaints about the poor service offered by these companies, and doubts about published offers and promotions. The strategy used to address complaints varies considerably among companies: Movistar tries to maintain an impersonal tone by redirecting over half of the complaints and questions to the "gurus" of the company; the managers of the social network accounts of Vodafone and Yoigo strive to answer each of the issues raised by users and maintain a much cooler tone, although this strategy is not like by all users and does not manage to dispel the (inevitable) tension of the conversations.

The operation of Twitter is very different than that of Facebook. As we have already been seen in the section dedicated to the sectors, more than 90% of the messages are established between users and companies in the form of questions and answers. Given their leadership in the accumulation of complaints, the daily number of tweets from Movistar, Vodafone and Yoigo make the telephony sector the one with the greatest exchange messages with users. In this social network also dominate the complaints and questions about the services offered by the companies.

However, the predominant tone in the social network accounts of the three companies is much more fresh, agile and direct; and although it does not manage to fully hide the tension of some messages, it greatly mitigates it. Indeed, sometimes users complain even about the treatment received from the company in the social network, but most of the complaints are about the delay in replying to their questions. This delay is somewhat understandable given the heavy traffic of these accounts. Worth mentioning is the behaviour of the social media managers of Movistar, who answer in the same way to the problematic and angry messages: they answer with good manners, show interest in knowing the cause of users’ anger (a feature shared more or less by the three companies) and then request a private conversation or "Direct message" (DM).

Finally, the Twitter accounts of the banking sector show great differences. While traffic of the accounts of BBVA (relatively active on Facebook) and La Caixa is incidental, the account of Banco Sabadell puts on Twitter the same dedication it puts on Facebook with users’ messages, and even improves it. Banco Sabadell’s team show outstanding skills to deal with the difficult situations created by conflictive and angry customers who expose sensitive issues. This is reflected by the messages of gratitude posted by its Twitter followers. Even the most critical users highlight the diligence of the service in comparison to the poor treatment received in a branch office or a phone conversation.

We believe that this is one of the reasons why Banco Sabadell’s Twitter account had accumulated 16,000 tweets, which is a very high number in comparison to the 1,850 tweets of BBVA and the 411 tweets of La Caixa. Moreover, we also consider that the dedication shown by the social media managers explains the high number of followers of Banco Sabadell: more than 8,000 at the time of the data collection; nearly three times more followers than BBVA and about four times more followers than La Caixa. However, the number of followers of Banco Sabadell is very small in comparison to the 76,000 followers of Movistar, the leader of the telephony companies operating in Spain in Twitter, according to SocialBakers.

4. Discussion and conclusions

The presence of companies (including the Spanish ones) in social networks is more than noticeable. More than 93% of the studied companies have official accounts in the two most important online social networks: Facebook and Twitter. In the case of the Spanish companies the percentage decreases to 90%.

The number of followers and the traffic of these social network accounts exhibit extreme variations: from Coca-Cola’s Facebook page, the one with the highest number of followers, to the accounts of the energy companies, the number of followers ranges dramatically. The same can be said of the Spanish companies and the social network accounts dedicated to the domestic markets. The variability is so high that we can hardly set any direct and stable relationship between the size of the studied companies and their presence in the social networks. In fact, although the international accounts almost always have greater presence, sometimes the national accounts can overcome them, as in the case of Carrefour.

This is mainly due to the different communication policies of the studied companies. Some sectors such as fashion tend to concentrate their presence in the international social network accounts, while the technology and electronics companies open a large number of services targeting the domestic markets. In addition, certain companies tend to show only part of their activity in the social networks (as in the case of Apple and its App Store accounts, and Nutrexpa, with Cola Cao), while others move away completely from their main activity (Repsol presents only its Repsol guide, while Seguros Pelayo only provides promotional content through its accounts dedicated to the Spanish football team).

However, we cannot establish a direct relation between the sectors and the social network accounts, since the exceptions often exceed the norms that we can detect.

What we can affirm is that Facebook is the most widespread social network, since the total number of Twitter followers represents only the 4.47% of the total number of Facebook followers. In the case of the Spanish accounts, the number of Twitter followers with respect to Facebook increases from 4.47% to 16.9%, although, obviously, Facebook still leads the social networks sector. However, despite having a much smaller number of followers, in more than 75% of the cases Twitter reaches greater traffic of daily messages (tweets, in this case) than Facebook, almost twice as much.

In addition, there is a clear difference in the types of messages posted in the two social networks. Facebook is the network most chosen by users to post intercommunity messages, i.e., messages written by users and directed not to one subject in particular, but to the account’s community of followers. Thanks to this kind of messages, the activity of the companies in these accounts is generally lower, since it is users who tend to keep the account active (84.71% of the daily messages posted in Facebook correspond to this type of information).

Twitter, on the other hand, is mainly used to establish individual relations between the company and the user through customer service messages. About 75% of the daily tweets fall into this category, in which the user sends a particular message to the company to request a particular service, to expose a problem, a question, or to request more information. This type of information is, by far, much more useful from the user’s point of view, but requires a greater effort from the company, since it is obliged to reply to the messages, and to do so relatively fast. Although these demands fall outside the limits of this article, we can mention that they seem to be more or less guaranteed because they are part of the communication routines assumed by the companies that open a Twitter account).

The social networks of the telephony and banking companies, the two sectors that receive the largest number of complaints about the quality of their service in Spain, are no exception to the variability. On the one hand, La Caixa has an official Facebook page with no content and a Twitter page with incidental activity. BBVA opts for an active Facebook page and a Twitter account with little activity and absent participation. At the other end, Movistar and Vodafone exhibit intense activity in a singular way on Twitter. Finally, the accounts of Banco Sabadell deserve a special mention because it deploys means and resources to make Facebook and Twitter networks of real contact with its customers. In fact, Banco Sabadell succeeds in its endeavour that it is not uncommon to find congratulatory messages for its services in these networks, which does not occur with the rest of the telephony and banking companies.

The study has confirmed the specialisation of the main social networks. Although companies publish large part of their content in both platforms, each network has life of its own and specific codes that are oriented towards two basic objectives: advertising and customer service. 

  • This article is part of a wider research project financed by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU): Democratización de la prescripción: de las revistas de consumo a las redes sociales (“Democratisation of prescription: from consumer magazines to social networks”) (EHU11/11). The research team, led by Jesús Ángel Pérez, is composed by Terese Mendiguren, Iñigo Marauri, Aingeru Genaut, Koldo Meso, Leire Iturregi, María del Mar Rodríguez, and Diana Rivero.

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How to cite this article in bibliographies / References

JÁ Pérez Dasilva, A Genaut Arratibel, K Meso Aierdi, T Mendiguren Galdospín, I Marauri Castillo, L Iturregui Mardaras, MM Rodríguez González, D Rivero Santamarina (2013): “Companies on Facebook and Twitter. Current situation and communication strategies”, at  Revista Latina de Comunicación Social.

Article received on 30 July 2013. Submitted to pre-review on 2 September. Sent to reviewers on 3 September. Accepted on 16 October 2013. Galley proofs made available to the authors on 22 October 2013. Approved by authors on: 26 October 2013. Published on 28 October 2013.

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