Researching Facebook business: What organizations need to know about social media relationships

Feb 20, 2014

Establishing and maintaining relationships online is becoming ever more important in the expanding global knowledge economy. But what happens to the relationship between business and consumer when a user "unfriends"? Writing in the International Journal of the Business Environment, Christopher Sibona and Steven Walczak of The Business School, at the University of Colorado Denver, USA, have found that there are many online and offline reasons why a person might "unfriend" another party.

The team has examined these factors and offer insights into how virtual business relationships might be sustained and promoted. They point out how transient online relationships can be, how easy they are to terminate and in most contexts do not carry the social ramifications of the end of an offline relationship. As such, it is, they suggest, important for organizations that use online social networking to learn how to reduce attrition, loss of "friends" or "followers" and also to consider how employees might be frustrated by the volatile nature of online relationships.

Facebook remains a significant player in the online social media network with much research focused on this system. Despite the occasional proclamation of the death of Facebook, there remain more than one billion or so users across the globe and a large proportion of them are highly active on the site and on mobile. Recent media attention claiming that young users were abandoning the site in droves proved flawed when a typographical error in the original research paper was revealed!

The use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms while initially seen by the corporate world as an annoyance, and then an extension of traditional marketing has now evolved for many, into a real-time and highly engaged approach to customer relationship management. Some companies, not-for-profits, and other organizations have recognized its potential and adapted to it more eagerly and more efficiently than others. Many have tried to game the system or exploit it purely for their own ends with no respect for the consumers or the community as a whole only to be forced to make embarrassing apologies when they are shown the error of their ways.

"In addition to providing increased consumer satisfaction, have the potential to also enhance intra- and inter-organizational knowledge sharing (especially with the growing presence of dynamic and geographically separated teams) and serve as an expertise locater within the organization," the team explains. Moreover, it is important for organizations to recognize that the digital natives that are their new and future employees expect and to be a significant part of their employment and expect to have access as part of their job.

The team has factored politics, religion, sex, bigotry, use of expletives, misdeeds, loss of trust, personality, incompatibilities, promotions, breakdown of offline relationships and many others as reasons for unfriending. They have carried out a statistical analysis of more than 1500 English-speaking individuals surveyed.

They found that there are two broad reasons for unfriending: offline and online. The offline reasons follow more traditional bonding social capital influences and are affected by all three friendship issues: interdependence, effort and value. Online reasons are affected by both bonding and bridging social capital relationships, they explain.

They offer several fundamental conclusions as to how business can avoid being unfriended:

Businesses should avoid posting too frequently as this requires more effort on the part of the user and can be perceived as unacceptable behavior. They should ensure they are committed to relationships at the individual user level to make the social ties stronger. They should also generally avoid controversial and taboo subjects as these often polarize followers. In terms of employees, management should ensure their staff have separate business and personal accounts and keep the two fairly separate. Management and staff need to adhere to predetermined policies.

Explore further: Study touts success of married couples who met on social networking sites

More information: "Unfriending on Facebook: factors affecting online relationship termination in social networks and its impact on business" in Int. J. Business Environment, 2014, 6, 199-221

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Which foods may cost you more due to Calif. drought

Apr 17, 2014

With California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, grocery shoppers across the country can expect to see a short supply of certain fruits and vegetables in stores, and to pay higher prices ...

Performance measures for CEOs vary greatly, study finds

Apr 16, 2014

As companies file their annual proxy statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this spring, a new study by Rice University and Cornell University shows just how S&P 500 companies have ...

Investment helps keep transport up to speed

Apr 16, 2014

Greater investment in education and training for employees will be required to meet the future needs of the transport and logistics industry, according to recent reports by Monash University researchers.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.