Van Dorst & Syamsuddin - 2011 - Making Use of Free Marketing Tools: Integration of Social Media


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This report shows the results of a study on how social media can be incorporated as a marketing tool. For this purpose a roadmap is developed which can guide practitioners who want to start making use of social media as a tool to communicate their business. In order to develop this roadmap a literature study is done, but also in-dept interviews are conducted with users and experts from the field. As these participants are in different phases of incorporation, practical insights are included.

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Van Dorst & Syamsuddin - 2011 - Making Use of Free Marketing Tools: Integration of Social Media

  1. 1. 0 MAKING USE OF ‘FREE’ MARKETING TOOLS: INTEGRATION OF SOCIAL MEDIA J.P.J.C. van Dorst | S. Syamsuddin ROTTERDAM SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, ERASMUS UNIVERSITY Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship
  2. 2. 1 Field Research Course BKMME160-10 MAKING USE OF ‘FREE’ MARKETING TOOLS: INTEGRATION OF SOCIAL MEDIA J.P.J.C. VAN DORST ROTTERDAM SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, ERASMUS UNIVERSITY Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship Burgemeester Oudlaan 50 3062 PA Rotterdam Tel: (0031) 6-30545543 E-mail: S. SYAMSUDDIN ROTTERDAM SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, ERASMUS UNIVERSITY Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship Burgemeester Oudlaan 50 3062 PA Rotterdam Tel: (0031) 6-21683930 E-mail: Submitted on the 26th of May, 2011
  3. 3. 1 This report shows the results of a study on how social media can be incorporated as a marketing tool. For this purpose a roadmap is developed which can guide practitioners who want to start making use of social media as a tool to communicate their business. In order to develop this roadmap a literature study is done, but also in-dept interviews are conducted with users and experts from the field. As these participants are in different phases of incorporation, practical insights are included. oday social media is a widely used medium and with almost 12 million Internet users of the Dutch population of 15 years and older (comScore, Inc., 2011) this can be seen as a fact. Moreover they state that 96.1 percent of the Dutch Internet population makes use of social networking, which can be seen as an indicator of the reach of social networks in the Netherlands. This large reach makes them attractive for business purposes as they form a new and powerfull place for marketing activities (Wigmo & Wikström, 2010). Since social networks are used to share, link, collaborate and include content made by the user, users are able to engage in the generation of online content (Thackeray, Neiger, Hanson, & McKenzie, 2008) and can choose between several kinds of platforms that are available. Those platforms consist of social networks, weblogs (blogs), microblogging, video- sharing, photosharing, social bookmarking, social news ranking, wikis and custom communities (Social Media Modellen, 2011). By this, it is the perfect place for viral marketing since it makes use of the ability of peope to spread a message within their network if they can personaly benefit of it (Kraus, Harms, & Fink, 2010). That viral marketing is a method which is usable as a ‘free’ marketing tool becomes clear by the statement of Lahm (2007) that bootstrappers are willing to make use of viral marketing to spread a message for free. The reason that free is put between inverted commas in the title is that spreading your message via social media is not totally without costs. This is made clear by Thackeray et al. (2008) by viewing the costs of a social media campaign from a business and individual perspective. From the business perspective costs can be found in the scope of the activities (timeframe, reach, used applications) and the needed internal T The Authors Jeffrey P.J.C. van Dorst is a master student Entrepreneurship and New Business Venturing at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Syamsuria Syamsuddin is a master student Entrepreneurship and New Business Venturing at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  4. 4. 2 resources like hardware and software, knowlegde and the development of it and the full time equivalents required for the social media campaign. On the other hand, from the individual perspective, costs can be minimal since only time and effort are needed to participate in the social media campaign by generating content and sharing knowledge. Considering this, costs of using social media as a marketing tool can be seen as minimal because the infrastructure needed to make use of social media is in most cases available and platforms and application are free too. Only costs that are needed is the time to spend and perhaps for gaining knowledge or making use of a training. As a lot of information is nowadays widely available when searching the Internet or inside social networks, a thing which is also mentioned by Wigmo and Wikström (2010) as they state: “the best information is often right there for free”, costs can be reduced drastically. As this makes the use of social media available for a wide and large group of entrepreneurs, including the bootstrappers, the purpose of this article is to provide a road map on how to incorporate social media marketing into the marketing activities of a business. For this purpose the target group for this report is the practitioner from the field who wants to know how to incorporate social media marketing with minimal costs to improve their business. Social media roadmap To incorporate social media marketing in your business activities it is important to complete several steps in certain order (Wigmo & Wikström, 2010; Zak, 2009; ClickZ OMS, 2009). This is important because social media marketing needs a different approach than the classical marketing platforms, like magazines and television campaigns. The nature of social media is fundamental to this as users form the centre of the communication process. They can seek, create and share information via several channels and devices whenever they want and without limitations from their current location (Thackeray & Neiger, 2009). This means that practitioners have to find out on which social media platforms their target groups are active. Since the nature of social media is sharing knowledge and information, viral marketing is an Our research In order to develop the road map qualitative research is conducted to examine how social media is used as a marketing tool by users. Exciting part of the topic is that it is still very fresh, which can be seen by the limited scientific research on it and the different perspectives and visions from the field. By conducting four in dept- interviews with five different users, we were able to discover their ways of using and their visions on it. By creating diversity in our sample as we interviewed both beginners and advanced users, but also experts, we were able to conlude how Dutch entrepreneurs can make use of social media as a marketing tool. Combined with the insights from the desk research and the literature review this resulted in a roadmap to guide practioners during their social media marketing activities.
  5. 5. 3 important method to use. Due to this, practitioners have to discover how they can motivate their target groups to share information within their network (Thackeray & Neiger, 2009) as the success of viral marketing depends on the personal benefits the receivers of the message experience by forwarding the message and by not being pushed to forward the message (Dobele, Toleman, & Beverland, 2005). Because this indicates the importance of the different approach for social media usage, this report is equiped with a roadmap which is displayed in figure 1. The purpose of this roadmap is to make clear which steps practitioners have to fulfil in a certain order to establish a proper way of using social media marketing. Preparing for social media Before becoming active on social media platforms, preparation is a must in order to prevent your business from backfires (Kim, Jeong, & Lee, 2010). To prepare your business for the use of social media as a marketing tool the first three steps from the roadmap have to be fulfilled. Step 1: Listen The first step to be taken is ‘Listen’ (e.g. Eck, 2011; Wigmo & Wikström, 2010; Zak, 2009; ClickZ OMS, 2009). Besides this is the first step, it is even the most important and a neverending step as it will provide you with information and knowledge for free. First of all it will make clear which platforms are used by your customers. Second, knowledge can be Figure 1 Roadmap to incorporate social media
  6. 6. 4 gained about what customers think about you and what they want to have, but also about their problems and frustrations. By monitoring this you are able to fulfill a need for information (Reece, 2010). Step 2: Create a plan The second step to be taken is the creation of a social media marketing plan. After more information is gained about the target group of your social media activities during the first step, the second step will continue on this obtained knowledge. During the second step it is important to make clear the objectives of the social media marketing activities. When the objectives are clear a strategy can be developed. More precise, the strategy must consist of the following aspects: content, interaction and discovery & sharing (ClickZ OMS, 2009). First it must be clear what kind of content your target group expect from you: new or user generated. Second, your strategy must make clear how to maintain an expected level interaction. This is what customers expect from you (ClickZ OMS, 2009) and besides it is important to contribute more than you consume (Reece, 2010). The third and last aspect of the strategy is a vision on how your target group can discover and share your information. Unless there are several things to use, for example hashtags on Twitter, most important is how your target group can reach your contributions on the most easiest way. Therefore it is important to know how your target group is searching for information and knowledge. When the strategy is developed it is time to determine a prefered attitude to make clear which behaviour is expected from the users inside your business. Important is to listen and only contribute to a conversation when you can add value to it. Besides a policy can be developed to make clear what you expect from your employees while using social media. Regarding to Veldwijk (2011) a social media policy will have the following benefits: • You express confidence in your own staff; • You have a framework to implement a strategy; • You reduce the gap between younger and older employees; • You can react in time to prevent damage to your reputation; • You impove internal communication through mutual cooperation. To obtain these benefits a social media policy has to provide an answer to the four following questions (Wigmo & Wikström, 2009): • What can we talk about and what not? • What steps do we have to take when something goes wrong? • Who is responsible for which contributions? • Which platforms do we have to use for reaching the objectives? Unless all questions are important, not all questions have to be answered in the social media policy. Of course some answers are already given within the other parts of the social media marketing plan. That a good policy does not have to exist of all the questions becomes clear by the social media policy of the TNT Group. Their plan consists of the following chapters (TNT Group, 2010): • Introduction: to make clear why the policy exists;
  7. 7. 5 • Basic principles: to let your employees make use of social media in a proper way; • Guideline for using social media: to indicate what you expect from your employees and what not; • Guideline on when to react: to indicate what your employees should do in different circumstances. Now the important tactical and strategical aspects are completed it is time to select facilitators to spread the message (Baer, 2009; Wigmo & Wikström, 2010). Dissapointing fact is that there is no exact answer to the question what the right social media platforms are. This can be seen as which weapon a soldier has to use to conquer his enemies. As this depends on the characteristics of the weapon, the enemies and the place, no single answer can be given to this question. For choosing the most effective social media platforms there are no differences and the words “depend on” will be heard many times. Unless the question about which social media platform is effective in a certain situation is hard to answer, the interviews with the users and experts provided some valuable insights to handle this question. Aspects to consider while selecting the most effective social media platforms for your social media marketing activities are the following: • The objectives of the company The most important thing to consider, before deciding which social media platforms the company have to use, is how to align with the company's objectives. By using social media, it is expected that the company will benefit from it. Which social media platform is effective to use as a free marketing tools also depends on how the company/entrepreneur is willing to use social media to support the business activity. • The product's characteristic Every product has its own characteristics. Thus by deciding which social media platforms to use, the company should consider what the best-suited social media platforms will be to promote their products. • The target group Knowing the target group is an important aspect before start using social media. It is important that the company is using the same social media platforms as the target group. The company should find out where the potential customer primarily can be found and it is important that the company is present on the same platforms (Bark, 2009 in Wigmo & Wikström, 2010). Furthermore, the company should listen to the people about what they want and attract them by using the right social media platforms to reach and involve them. When the right social media platforms are selected a last important aspect can be added to the social media marketing plan, namely the content calendar (Eck, 2011). This tool makes it possible to plan your contributions to the several social media platforms that are intended to use. Besides this also makes it possible to evaluate the frequency of your
  8. 8. 6 contributions. An example is show in figure 2. Figure 2 Social media content calendar Incorporating social media After completing the first two steps of the roadmap, enough knowledge is obtained to make use of social media platforms and a social media marketing plan is developed. Now practitioners are able to register their business an account on the relevant social media platforms, building an online brand and start adding value to the community. To develop yourself to a practitioner who is able to create their own content on social media platforms, the remaining steps of the roadmap have to be fulfilled. Step 3: Join When the framework for the social media activities is completed, social media platforms can be joined. First step for joining the social media is registering an account. By listening and by creating a plan it became clear which platforms are relevant for your business and which have been chosen to use. Second step is to develop the profiles on the different platforms. Important aspects to consider while developing the profile are (Biemans & Kammers, 2011; Schoone, 2011): uniformity of identity in real-life and on the Internet and to be transparent. Besides it is important to consider that this profile must promote your business, but as social media is a social environment the content has to be not too commercial. This can be done by introducing your business and indicating your strengths. Besides, information about for example the company, products and owners can be provided. This is similar to personal profiles where information like employment, education and relationship is submitted. Step 4: Participate When the relevant accounts are registred and developed it is time to start to participate on the social media platforms. During this step an online brand is built by actively contributing to discussions and questions and giving your view on products and services. By adding value to the social media, users start to respect you and will voluntary start promoting you by spreading the message. Remember that this effect will disappear if your contribution becomes too much, a thing which is also know as spamming. Besides, it will even result in a situation where users of social media platforms will not voluntarilly promote you anymore (Wigmo & Wikström, 2010) and the contributions by viral marketing will disappear. As this step consist of a large process, it is clear that users go through a learning curve during this step. This can also be seen when placing this step in the Social Media Ladder of Forrester Research Inc. (Gain, 2010). As all other steps consist
  9. 9. 7 of just one rung, the step participate consists of three rungs. The first rung that is reached when users enter this phase is those that is called the collectors. Since their profiles are created and developed they are ready for participation. They will do this by using RSS feeds to collect information and knowledge, vote for websites and add “tags” to content that is distributed through social media platforms. Examples of those content are photos, status updates and websites. When users are used to this way of acting they are becoming more active on the social media platforms by contributing to wikis and online forums, reacting on blog posts of other users and providing products and services with a rating and/or a review. By doing this, users have developed themselves and are recognized as critics on the scale of the Social Media Ladder (Gain, 2010). As the use of social media became common for users at this stage, users are starting to develop themselves towards the final rung of this step, namely conversationalists. During this stage their frequency of participating becomes higher. Besides, they start using other tools to communicate like Twitter and status updates on their social media profiles. While developing yourself through the above described process, users are able to listen and contribute to others which will create goodwill. When you have created enough goodwill and established yourself in the social media environment the time has come to go to the final step of the roadmap in order to get something back from the network. Important lesson till now is that the incorporation and also the participation is done by small steps in order to optimize the learn curve. Step 5: Create The final and the most important step in using social media for marketing activity is the creation step. The company should create the content based on what kind of information that the company get from the customers. The content can be shared in the social media channel to other users and the company is free to decide what kind of content to share (e.g update information about product, the company's news and even share the content that is not related at all to the company). The create step is not about creating the social media profile, but on creating value and offering the right value on the right time at the right place. Value means relevant content, useful information, tailor made promotion depending on the signal the company gets from the observation of the customer. By contributing and offering value to the community, the company will receive value from the community. The users become interested in you and want to know more about your business. Satisfied customers or so called "fans" or "followers" will be the strongest sales force of the company as they contribute to the viral marketing. As users are now in the ability to create their own content, they reached the final rung of the Social Media Ladder and are known as Creators (Gain, 2010). There is a common rule that is adopted by many social media users for business regarding to the creation and information of offering. It is highly recommended that the company delivers the message not in a commercial way, otherwise the message will be read as an advertisement or spam. Thus, communicate your message by the way the users communicate.
  10. 10. 8 Success factors for using social media The development of social media is good news for marketers, because it is part of almost any Internet user's life and changed the way people communicate. It means that the marketers have an additional channel to spread the marketing message to the customers or potential customers. However, social media content is different with the content in general web. Social media content is more fragmented. Companies that focus on websites maybe improve readability, especially for higher conversion, but this is not similar social media content. In social media, the readability is the most important aspect to manage since the content circulation is incredibly fast and widely distributed. When the content is not clear for the receivers, this will lead to misunderstandings and perhaps even in negative effects. In order to create success of using social media, there are some common key factors and strategy. Based on the interviews, some proven key success factors of using social media as a free marketing tool are retrieved and displayed below. Good product is a good start! The basic and the most important thing on marketing is the product. A good product combined with good promotion will create success. A good product will benefit the customers and it will be easy to promote (Eck, 2011). Before starting to use social media, the most important thing is making sure that the company can offer a good product to the customers. Bad quality products will easily ruin all of the marketing efforts and spontaneously change the image of the products and the brand. Knowledge about using social media The knowledge of using social media and its features is the foundation of the success. Every social media platform was created with some features that aim to help the users in reaching their goals by using the social media. Optimizing the key feature will improve the likelihood of success. Regarding to the social media content, it is very important for the company to have a good management of the content. Social media content and information will reflect the image or brand of the company or product. Good content will contribute to the increase of attention to the company and could be a distinguishing feature. On the other hand, if social media content is not managed well, it will imply to the negative image of the company or products since the effect of mass social media is uncontrollable and difficult to change. As this implies that social media success is something that has to be earned, it is important to know how to listen and respond to both positive and negative developments (Corcoran, 2009). Besides, Corcoran (2009) also indicates that it is important to know when to try and stimulate the viral marketing effect. Good understanding of target Customer For successful use of social media as a marketing tool, the company must focus on the relationships with the customer, not merely on the technology. Maintaining the relationship with the customers’ need a good understanding of customer needs and wants can be obtained. If the company is able to listen to the customer, knowing what they are talking
  11. 11. 9 about and what they want, it will be easy to develop and create a product based on that kind of information. Through the right channel and right social media platform, the customer will be easy to approach thus the company can serve a wide public by following the audiences in different social media platforms. However, it is not easy to get the attention from the social media users to the company's product. Some companies that use social media as a marketing tool start a community to create a hype around their product. Another way around, instead of starting the community, it is also good to plug into an existing community (Eck, 2011). In addition, the employees of the company should have enthusiasm to be active on social media platforms and to communicate the information about the company on several social media platforms. The collaboration of the crowd Some users/experts think that, the most important thing in using social media as the marketing tools is the collaboration. Collaboration with the community is important to create a large network to spread the message. In order to collaborate with the crowd, the company could plug in with the existing community. After that, the company should post or write a content that will be found by the community as beneficial information for them and for the others (Bosch, 2011). Thus, the message will be sent by itself and create a viral effect. For example, in microblogging media like twitter, another way of building a network and a larger number of follower is to retweet other people’s tweets. If the follower find something interesting from the user they are following, the followers will do a favour by sharing that information. In addition, the follower is also acknowledging the person they are retweeting (Jantsch, 2009). New developments can be shared in a message and if this is interesting enough people and other large communities will retweet. Based on this, there are two main reasons why people forward the message: first because information is considered as important in forwarder’s point of view, the second reason is because the information is made by someone who is reputable and respected by message forwarders. In case of using the power of the crowd in a proper way the company will be close to success, because the power of the crowd is very strong. The collaboration of the company and the crowd can be a mutual benefit for both of them. On the one hand, the company can reach a wide audience in a fast and efficient way. On the other hand, the users benefit from it because they obtain knowledge or information they like, can share this with their friends and are able to act on it. The social media platforms can be an efficient channel to spread the messages by making use of viral marketing. A clear example on the importance of collaboration by the crowd when using viral marketing, becomes clear by an example of the social media campaign of the Dutch beer brand Grolsch. In 2009 they created a rumour that something unique was going to happen on a roof top. That no one knew about the specific date and location started people wondering and interacting about it with each other. Just two days before the event the artists who would contribute to the event were announced, but the location still remained secret. This created a load of discussions on several social media platforms and when it actually started, the word was
  12. 12. 10 spread very quickly. This wide distribution and the created hype were not anymore small and national media stations picked up the news. This resulted in the creation of a central platform where followers could keep track on all the created content, but even more important was the positive effect on the branding, image and the turnover (Isobar Human Media, 2010). In sum, the result of this example was on the one hand an experience for the followers and on the other hand benefits for Grolsch. In order to persuade people to be involved in the company's development, the six principles of persuasion Robert Cialdini can be applied (Jong, 2011). Those principles are Liking (people like those who like them), Reciprocity (people repay in kind), Social proof (people follow the lead of similar others), Consistency (people align with their clear commitments), Authority (people defer to experts they trust) and Scarcity (people want more of what they can have less of). If these principles can be applied in using social media, people will pay much attention to what you are sharing to them and will collaborate. Overcome the barriers Even though it is a young and fresh domain, the development of social media is fast and dynamic. Because of this, it requires continually updating your knowledge and making use of it by performing social media activities. Almost no company today can grow without dealing with social media. In many cases, companies are not doing much more than opening an account on the various platforms (Hooijdonk, 2011). But to develop a social media strategy users should first deal with some barriers. From the interviews with the users and experts some common barriers that usually occur before using social media are retrieved. First, The knowledge barriers. The users should have knowledge about the social media platform that they want to use, how they work, what the main features are and how to optimize the features to help the company promote their products. Second, the online culture. In the world of Internet, facing online culture is inevitable. Sometimes the language or how people interact is much more informal. Thus, the company should be ready to deal with that kind of culture. Besides that, there are no facts or certain guidelines on how social media usage for marketing tools will benefit the company. Thus, the company has to learn how to deal with this uncertainty. Another important thing is that people or users form different generation have a different look towards social media and this has to be overcome. Another aspect that could be a barrier for using social media is the transparency. The social media content is meant to be shared, thus the fear of transparency/visibility must be overcome. The most dangerous effect of transparency comes from the competition. Some entrepreneurs do not want to use social media to communicate with customers, because of their fear for transparency. The competitors could make use of certain information to their benefit and could give bad impact to the company (Schoone, 2011). According to what this study retrieved from the field, the transparency of social media is not bad as many people said. Even though it looks riskier to be transparent and easier to share information, it is more importantly to be open and transparent to the public. If there is a
  13. 13. 11 negative effect of transparency, the company should able to learn from that and can keep in front of the competitors (Schoone, 2011). Glossary Bootstrapper Person that makes use of bootstrapping techniques. Bootstrapping The technique to start and run a business with limited resources by using external help. Custom community Online software to create your own communities. Desk research A technique to gather data that already exists from existing resources, such as previous studies, articles on the Internet, magazines and another sources. Hashtags Hashtags is also known as the "#" symbol. Used to mark keywords or topics in Twitter. It is created organically by twitter users as a way to categorize the messages. Literature review Body of text that has a purpose to review critical points of certain topic and knowledge from the current literature, including substantial findings about that topic. Microblogging Kind of weblog that makes use of short messages. Photo-Sharing Platform to share pictures and to react on it. Qualitative research Research technique to reveal certain behaviour and perceptions by making use of in-depth studies of small groups of people to explain certain phenomena. Roadmap A technique of reporting that gives the audience a guidance and example of how to conduct certain activity. RSS feeds RSS feeds is a web feature that is being used by Internet users around the world to keep track of favorite websites. Social bookmarking Platform to share your favourite websites and social media platforms with others. Social media Various platforms that integrate the technology, social interaction and the construction of words, pictures, video and audio to spread knowledge and information. Social networks Platform to share information and knowledge, but also to stay in touch with friends, customers, suppliers and other professional contacts. Social News Ranking Platform to rank news reports. Spamming Unsolicited sending large number of messages to other users.
  14. 14. 12 Tags A label attached to someone or something for identification or other information. Video-Sharing Platform to upload, watch and share videos. Besides, it is also possible to react on the uploaded videos. Viral Marketing Marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along certain marketing messages. Weblogs Kind of online diaries to share information and finding out how others think about certain subjects. Wikis Together created platform with any kind of knowledge to make sharing of it possible, but also knowledge can be obtained. References Baer, J. (2009, August 20). Developing a Social Media Strategy in 7 Steps. Retrieved May 2011, 17, from SlideShare: eveloping-a-social-media-strategy- in-7- steps?src=related_normal&rel=392 440 Biemans, E., & Kammers, J. (2011, May 4). Interview on social media as a free marketing tool. (J. v. Dorst, Interviewer) Bosch, J. v. (2011, May 5). Interview on social media as a free marketing tool. (E-mailresponse, Interviewer) ClickZ OMS. (2009). Social Media Roadmap. Retrieved May 2011, 23, from Slideshare: oprankmarketingcom-social-media- roadmap?src=related_normal&rel= 2814892 comScore, Inc. (2011, April 26). The Netherlands Ranks #1 Worldwide in Penetration for Twitter and Linkedin. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from vents/Press_Releases/2011/4/The_ Netherlands_Ranks_number_one_ Worldwide_in_Penetration_for_Tw itter_and_LinkedIn Corcoran, S. (2009, December 16). Defining Earned, Owned And Paid Media. Retrieved May 25, 2011, from Sean Corcoran's Blog: e_marketing/2009/12/defining- earned-owned-and-paid-media.html Dobele, A., Toleman, D., & Beverland, M. (2005). Controlled infection! Spreading the brand message through viral marketing. Business Horizons, 48(2), 143-149. Eck, J. v. (2011, May 05). Interview on social media as a free marketing tool. (J. v. Dorst, & S. Syamsuddin, Interviewers) Gain, M. (2010, January 23). Forrester adds Conversationalists to the Social Media Ladder. Retrieved May 17, 2011, from rrester-adds-conversationalists-to- the-social-media-ladder/ Hooijdonk, R. v. (2011, April 7). Social media als strategie. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from Internet marketing en Reclame: http://www.internetmarketingenrecl
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