Title: Treat your customers as equals! Fostering customer collaboration through social media

Authors: Hanna-Kaisa Ellonen, Miia Kosonen

Addresses: School of Business, Lappeenranta University of Technology, P.O. Box 20, 53851 Lappeenranta, Finland. ' School of Business, Lappeenranta University of Technology, P.O. Box 20, 53851 Lappeenranta, Finland

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore, firstly, how companies and customers interact using social media, and secondly, how social-media-mediated interactions support customer collaboration. We identify two modes of interaction: the relationship-oriented mode and the instrumental mode. The former reflects relationship marketing in that it emphasises reciprocal and bilateral communication, while the latter reflects transaction marketing with its one-way and company-controlled communication. On the basis of the analysis of four cases, it is suggested that relationship-oriented social-media interactions support customer collaboration. In particular, it seems that ongoing customer-to-customer interactions supported by relationship-oriented company participation provide a fertile ground for diverse forms of virtual customer collaboration. We also found that the social-media applications used did not define the interaction mode. The responsibility for defining the objectives, choosing the applications and setting the mode lies within the hosting company.

Keywords: virtual customer environments; VCE; social media; web 2.0; customer collaboration; relationship marketing; blogs; wikis; discussion forums; e-marketing; electronic marketing.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEMR.2010.034830

International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, 2010 Vol.3 No.3, pp.221 - 240

Published online: 23 Aug 2010 *

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