Social media are revolutionary technologies that are transforming the way we communicate, the way we collaborate and the way we influence. Companies are making major investments in platforms such as Facebook and Twitter because they realize that social media are an influential force on customer perceptions and behavior. However, to date there is little guidance on what constitutes an effective deployment of social media and there is no empirical evidence that social medial investments are yielding positive returns. In fact there is little research to help define the characteristics of an effective corporate social media platform. In other words, there is little guidance on how companies can do social media right and if they do social media right, will it have the desired influence on customer buying. As a consequence, to a large degree, corporate social media investors are gambling in the dark.
The challenge of measuring Service Quality in the social media context stems from the different purpose of Web 2.0 (i.e. participation) vs. the purpose of e-commerce applications (i.e. transaction processing). These different purposes require that we assess the relevance of existing service quality measures developed for the e-commerce environment and create new measures that account for the unique online community building nature of social media. For example, service quality measures the quality of the platform, but not the value inherent in the social media interaction. The unique nature and purpose of social media require that we explore other meaningful features that create value for the customer.
The goal of this research is to answer two critical questions: 1) Whether Social Media platforms (such as Starbuck’s Facebook and Twitter presence) positively impact customer behavior; and 2) What are the social media features and functions that drive positive customer experiences and increased sales? This study provides evidence regarding both of these issues.
This study makes two important and unique contributions to IS research and practice: 1) the development and validation of a meaningful measure of SERVQUAL for the corporate social media environment, 2) the development of an important mediator construct (Social Value) that captures the user experience while participating in a corporate social media community, both of which provide the basis for an effective empirical test of whether the Service Quality and Social Value of a corporate social media platform impact customer loyalty intentions and peer recommendations. This research proposes to fill critical gaps in our understanding of how to build and develop effective social media platforms for customers and how to deploy social media platforms that will increase customer loyalty and sales. To date, no one has measured the influence of perceived social media service quality on customer loyalty and peer recommendations. Neither is there any research on the influence of customer participation and engagement (Social Value) on their perception of value, their loyalty and their peer recommendations.