The main objective at global level for the second decade of the 21st century is economic and social growth through increasing the power of the digital era . This is intended to be achieved by implementing more advanced broadband services than the current ones, using various applications that can be accessed even by the most inexperienced technology users. The models which are expected to be implemented vary from country to country, depending entirely on the level of development and maturity of the market and the openness of consumers and users both as individuals and as companies.
The explosion in popularity of social media has also changed the landscape of contemporary marketing and has created huge opportunities for B2B brands. The attention paid to various forms of social media begins to fundamentally change the way brands are perceived by the public and how it interacts with them, which in turn motivates marketers to adopt new techniques and methodologies to manage existing relationships, while preparing for the future .
This article aims to make a review of current online marketing practices, identify the strengths and weaknesses of specific online marketing tools, as well as their inherent limitations, in order to provide a useful guide of the field for companies in Romania. Moreover, the paper aims to clarify definitions and concepts related to online marketing and social media, analyzing existing academic literature and drawing some strategic directions for organizations in Romania, with an active presence in the virtual environment.
Knowledge and information society is characterized by the explosive growth of digital information available through the products of information and communications technology . In this context, online marketing represents the process of creating and maintaining customer relationships through online activities which facilitate the exchange of ideas, products and services to meet the needs of both parties . In the online environment, the marketer is in permanent contact with the consumer, the manufacturer or retailer, knows, in real time, the dinamics of the external environment and of the competitive relationships, can act proactively to the opportunities and threats which appear on the market, and the quality of marketing depends on the quality and usage information.
The economic dimension of the information society develops new paradigms of digital economy and knowledge-based economy (e-marketing, e-commerce, e-banking, e-learning, e-money, e-trading, online payments and online businesses, etc.) .
From all of the above, the conclusion that emerges is that online marketing, present in all dimensions of the information society, is conducted on every level of our society, the businesses we operate, the way we relate and marketers try to make the most out of this environment which is more and more important in our lives, using a variety of tools .
The Internet is a “global heterogeneous network, which interconnects networks from various parts of the planet into a single logical network” . The Internet is an ocean of advantages for individual users as well as for organizations such as the rapid, online exchange of information, reduced costs compared to traditional ways of communication, free information dissemination to a large number of potential users, or new development opportunities in terms of marketing, which are more profitable, despite spending a rather long time online.
Marketing communication as a multidirectional process conferred power to the Internet over other media (newspapers, radio and television), the Internet being also called the «fourth form of media» . Online marketing communication refers to all interactions between individuals or organizations and individuals and is done through the Internet.
As an online marketing tool, social media relies on various forms of network theory, including the Sarnoff’s Law, Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law, which describe its effect and allow us to understand the impact of what is often called Web 2.0 . Specifically, this involves spreading content and information through different online environments and not simply their transmission.
The different types of social media include: blogs, bookmarking, brand monitoring, crowdsourcing/voting, discussion panels/forums, events and meetings, micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter), online video (e.g. YouTube), photo sharing (e.g. Flickr), podcasting, distribution of presentations (e.g. Slide Share), ratings and reviews, social networks (e.g. Facebook), virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life), wikis (e.g. Wikipedia) .
There is no doubt that social media has important potential benefits for companies, taking into account the open communication and transparency which it ensures, but, at the same time, for the exact same reasons, many companies remain reluctant to get involved or intensify their communication activity in this environment.
Online marketing strategies of companies in Romania
By using the Internet, companies are given the opportunity to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of customers. The online environment is highly competitive and only a specialized marketing could increase profits, which is why online businesses have transitioned from push to pull strategies.
The push marketing strategy is defined as the method to transfer information to the client, without him having to make any effort .
The pull marketing strategy is defined as the method by which the user makes efforts in searching and accessing information, which is why the company which knows how to be competitive must appear in search engines among the top links suggested and the site should load within 5 seconds for the visitor not to get bored and leave the page .
The push strategy actually means «pushing» information to the target group, whereas the pull strategy means to attract the customer who puts in the effort of searching for information, him being the one who goes towards the transmitter and not viceversa. From all of the above it can be concluded that organizations in Romania mostly use push strategies, neglecting an environment with such a great potential as the online one.
In Romania, the Internet takes hold of more and more of young people’s lives, who perform most activities in the virtual environment, neglecting the aspect of face to face social life . Romanian young people read, speak and write online, pay their bills and purchase products online. All life is dominated by the virtual environment, especially in large cities, while outside them Internet usage is quite modest.
Discussion forums, online conferences, online platforms, advertising, communication, represent only a small part of the marketing actions taken in the online environment from which one can theorize and develop online marketing strategies, thus contributing to strengthening the image of an organization, streamlining costs and contributing to the development promotion policies. It is important that organizations in Romania understand that the XXIst century is the century of digital communication and if they have not been aware of this till now, they will soon disappear from the market.
Specific online marketing communication tools
In this chapter the main online marketing communication tools will be addressed, tools which actually contributed to the expansion of the filed.
As a means of communication, the area in which Internet has a high competitive advantage in relation to any other media is linked to the continuous exposure and tapping into global markets. A well designed website gives a company the possibility of conducting business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Any Internet user can access the marketing information he needs at any time. This greatly expands the available time and place of the company which normally relies on members of the distribution channels to operate. Moreover, the building costs of a website are small compared to other types of media investments and the operating costs are minimal.
It is difficult to describe in a few words all the benefits of a company website. The great exposure, awareness and the billions of Internet users are only the most obvious ones.
The company website represents a low-cost and a high impact marketing tool, which can be a competitive advantage for many organizations .
Regarded with reluctance until a few years ago, e-mail-based communication (as the entire direct marketing industry) gains its place inside the online marketing communication landscape in Romania.
More and more companies choose to personalize their communication, either corporate or product related and allocate budgets to this activity, using e-mail for both branding, to attract new customers and generate sales, but also to retain the existing ones, through continuous information .
Webopedia defines the blog as «a webpage that is intended to serve as a personal journal, but is also accessible to the general public; usually updated daily or even every other day, the blog reflects the personality of the author » . This is the essence of blogs and also what makes them different from everything else on the World Wide Web.
Bloggers have personality, attitude, they always have something to say and can be opinion leaders. They have opinions on any subject, or a particular topic, and are not shy to show others how they see things.
For an organization, the blog is a part of the online marketing strategy. Specifically, the blog becomes the diary of the company, replacing the personal perspective with the perspective of the company on any subject which it considers to be of interest.
Depending on the purpose of the blog, the following types can be created :
- Personal Blogs — are included in the category of diaries, some with clearly defined themes: sports, technology, education, news, politics, pets, writing, art or photography;
- Commercial blogs — are used to promote products and/or services and include actual and useful information to readers, such as analyses, reviews, links to relevant articles and similar resources at the expense of traditional advertising;
- Organizational blogs — help with the internal (with colleagues, students, etc.) and/or external communication of the organization (customers, general public, etc.). These blogs can also be found in companies, educational institutions, NGOs, clubs, associations;
- Professional blogs — fewer in number, are written by people specifically employed or paid for this.
Social networks are graph structures consisting of members who may be individuals or organizations interconnected through relationships of interdependence, friendship, fellowship, and business, interests and passions, religion, knowledge or prestige .
Social networks are already recognized for the power to influence public opinion, to shape important decisions, to interconnect companies with consumers, reaching many target audiences, but still lack a strategic approach to marketing through social networks, as well as concerns over evaluation of the effectiveness of these activities .
Knowledge-based information society is the society in which production, processing and consumption of information is the most important type of activity, the information as knowledge is recognized as the main resource, information and communication technologies are core technologies of this society and the information environment, together with the social and ecological one — are the new environments of human existence.
We live in an era of information technology which is growing exponentially and which is developing at a rapid and unstoppable pace. Computers, computer networks and communication become faster and the Internet becomes more widespread and used by a wide range of more and more sophisticated and demanding consumers.
Considering the growing importance of social media, it is clear that it has become an important tool in the marketing practice and that it should be included in the marketing communications mix from the perspective of integrated marketing communications.
For a company, a cause or a person to remain relevant and connected with the public and its consumers, it is clear that traditional media is no longer enough, but must be used together with social media.
Half of the Romanians who use the Internet have an account on a social network. Romania is among the top 10 countries in the world taking into account the growth rate in the number of Facebook users. Companies are becoming increasingly interested in communicating with target audiences through social networks, but this approach can be successful only in the context of a coherent strategic approach to social networks marketing, closely followed by a pertinent analysis and precise measurement of necessary efforts and the results generated in terms of added value for the company.
- CHITTY, W., BARKER, N., VALOS, M. & SHIMP, T., «Integrated marketing communications», 3rd Asia Pacific edition, Canada, Cengage Learning, 2011.
- CURRAN, J., «Media and society», Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010.
- GEDDES, B., ANDERSON, V., CANNON, H., TANNER, C., KHACHATURYAN, T. & GOLOVANYOV, V., «Introduction to Online Marketing: Simple marketing ways to attract and engage the digital generation», eLight Marketing LLC, 2015
- INSTAPUNDIT, «About Blogs», 2008. Accessed on 15th March 2016, at www.instapundit.com
- IRES, «Românii şi Internetul–un studiu privind utilizarea Internetului în România şi comportamentul internautic al românilor», 2011.
- MOORADIAN, T., MATZLER, K. & RING, L., «Strategic Marketing: Pearson New International Edition», Pearson Higher Ed., 2013.
- MULHERN, F., «Integrated marketing communications: From media channels to digital connectivity», Journal of Marketing Communications, 15, 85-101, 2009.
- PERCY, L., «Strategic Integrated Marketing Communications 2e», Abingdon, Routledge, 2014.
- RESEARCHANDMARKETS, «Social Media: Best Practice Guide», 2009. Accessed on 15th March 2016, at http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/fd2137/ social_media_best
- RYAN, D., «Understanding digital marketing: Marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation», Londra, Kogan Page Publishers, 2014.
- SHIMP, T. & ANDREWS, J. C., «Advertising promotion and other aspects of integrated marketing communications», 9th edition, South-Western, Cengage Learning, 2013.
- SOCIAL MEDIA ONLINE, «The Power and Value of Social Networking», 2009. Accessed on 16th March 2016, at http://www.socialmediaonline.com/the-power-and-value-of-social-networking/#more-461
- SURCEL, T., MÂRȘANU, R., REVEIU, A., POCATILU, P., «Informatică economică», Tribuna Economică Publishing House: Bucharest, 2003.
- WEBOPEDIA, «Blog», 2011. Accessed on 16th March 2016, at http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/ b/blog.html.
- WIKIPEDIA, «Societatea informaţională», 2011. Accessed on 16th March 2016, at http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Societate_ informaţională.
- YESHIN, T., «Integrated marketing communications», Abingdon, Routledge, 2012.THE ONLINE MARKETING COMMUNICATION OF COMPANIES IN ROMANIA – STRENGHTS AND WEAKNESSES OF SPECIFIC ONLINE MARKETING TOOLSThis paper has as major objective making an overview of the current practices in online marketing, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of specific online marketing tools and highlighting the inherent limitations they face in order to provide a useful guide of the subject for the Romanian companies. It also aims to clarify the definitions and concepts related to online marketing and Social Media, analyzing the academic literature and to draw some strategic directions for the Romanian companies with an active presence in the virtual environment.Written by: Pachițanu (former Ionescu) AndreeaPublished by: БАСАРАНОВИЧ ЕКАТЕРИНАDate Published: 12/23/2016Edition: euroasian-science.ru_25-26.03.2016_3(24)Available in: Ebook