TWITTER AND IRISH GRAPHIC DESIGN CONSULTANCIES

AN ANALYSIS ON HOW TWITTER CAN ASSIST IRISH GRAPHIC DESIGN
CONSULTANCIES IN SECURING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

By

Charlotte Marillet

THESIS Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Professional Design Practice School of Art, Design and Printing, Faculty of Applied Arts, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2011.

Declaration
I hereby certify that the material submitted in this thesis towards award of the Masters in Professional Design Practice is entirely my own work and has not been submitted for any academic assessment other than part-fulfilment of the award named above.

Signature of candidate: …………………………………………. Date: ……………………….

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Abstract
This research seeks to establish how Irish graphic design consultancies (IGDCs) could leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage. This is achieved through compiling data obtained from a critical review of the literature and focused primary research. The literature review starts with providing an understanding of what is meant by graphic design. Then, the current status of the Irish design sector is established in order to identify opportunities IGDCs could turn into a competitive advantage. Next, the current concepts of micro-blogging as a means of social media marketing are examined; the focus is on the most popular platform, Twitter. Finally, competitive advantage is defined and case study examples of companies who have followed the best practice principles for an effective implementation of Twitter are analysed to identify what elements of their strategy could apply to IGDCs. The literature review has identified that in general, IGDCs have not yet realised the potential of Twitter as a marketing tool and those who use Twitter use it in an unsophisticated way. The first step of the primary research is to carry out an online observation survey of the IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts to confirm this finding. The survey finds that, in general IGDCs use Twitter in an ineffective way; so this establishes a consensus with the literature. Following on from this, social media specialists are interviewed to get their opinions on how Twitter can be leveraged by companies to secure competitive advantage. Two Irish and one English social media experts are interviewed. Their viewpoints are compared with the findings from the literature, providing an Irish context to this research, and are analysed in relation to IGDCs. Finally, the data collected during the literature review and the fieldwork contributes to establish a framework detailing the best practice principles of an effective implementation and management of Twitter for IGDCs.

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Acknowledgements
It is a great pleasure to thank everyone who helped me write this dissertation. Firstly, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to my thesis supervisor, Ms. Louise Reddy, who has supported me with patience and encouragement throughout this project. I am also truly thankful to Mr. Eamon Byrne who gave up a lot of his time to help me get started with the thesis. My sincere thanks and gratitude also to Ms. Rachel Clarke, Mr. David Scanlon and Mr. Conor Lynch, who allowed me to interview them for the purpose of this dissertation. For their support and the laughs during the difficult parts over the course of this thesis, I wish to thank my classmates from the Masters in Professional Design Practice. A special thank you to Dilyanna Kiryakova Ryan, my “thesis buddy” from Trinity College Dublin, with whom I have shared excellent moments and who has made my days in the library much brighter. I wish to thank my parents, grandparents and sister, for their wise words of support and encouragement. Finally, I would like to give special thanks to my fiancé, David Cahill, for his extraordinary patience and his great input at the various stages of the thesis. .

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Table of Contents
Declaration .....................................................................................................................ii Abstract ........................................................................................................................ iii Acknowledgements ....................................................................................................... iv Chapter 1 | Introduction ............................................................................................ 1 1.1 Background ........................................................................................................ 1 1.2 Research question .............................................................................................. 3 1.3 Aim and objectives ............................................................................................ 3 1.4 Context ............................................................................................................... 3 1.5 Rationale ............................................................................................................ 4 Chapter 2 | The graphic design service in Ireland .................................................. 7 2.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 7 2.2 Graphic design at the service of clients ............................................................. 7 2.2.1 Defining graphic design ............................................................................. 7 2.2.2 The graphic design process ........................................................................ 9 2.2.2.1 Define the brief ................................................................................. 10 2.2.2.2 Research ............................................................................................ 11 2.2.2.3 Develop ideas .................................................................................... 11 2.2.2.4 Create prototypes .............................................................................. 11 2.2.2.5 Select rationale .................................................................................. 11 2.2.2.6 Implement and deliver ...................................................................... 11 2.2.2.7 Evaluate and get feedback ................................................................ 12 2.3 Working in a graphic design consultancy ........................................................ 12 2.3.1 Size of GDCs ............................................................................................ 13 2.3.2 Communicating the value of design to client ........................................... 13 2.3.3 Clients of the design sector ...................................................................... 14 2.3.4 How the design sector wins business ....................................................... 16 2.3.5 Studio culture ........................................................................................... 17 2.3.6 Structure and organisation of a GDC ....................................................... 18 2.3.6.1 Creative staff ..................................................................................... 19 2.3.6.2 Business owner ................................................................................. 22 2.3.6.3 Non-creative staff.............................................................................. 24 2.4 Summary .......................................................................................................... 25 Chapter 3 | Twitter, a social media marketing tool .............................................. 27 3.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................... 27 3.2 Defining social media ...................................................................................... 27 3.3 Twitter, the real-time sharing micro-blogging platform .................................. 29 3.3.1 The background of micro-blogging .......................................................... 29 3.3.2 A definition of Twitter ............................................................................. 30 3.3.3 Twitter‟s place within the social media landscape ................................... 30 3.3.4 The use of Twitter in Ireland .................................................................... 31

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3.3.5 Joining Twitter ......................................................................................... 32 3.3.5.1 Low barriers to entry and simplicity of use ...................................... 33 3.3.5.2 Create a profile .................................................................................. 33 3.3.5.3 Searching Twitter information .......................................................... 34 3.3.5.4 Listening ........................................................................................... 35 3.3.5.5 Following people .............................................................................. 35 3.3.5.6 Engage on Twitter: Tweet ................................................................. 36 3.4 Twitter strategies for IGDCs ............................................................................ 39 3.5 Limitations of Twitter ...................................................................................... 40 3.6 Case study examples of Twitter strategies ....................................................... 42 3.6.1 Manage customer relationship and deliver customer service ................... 42 3.6.2 Build brand awareness and manage reputation ........................................ 43 3.6.3 Build thought leadership .......................................................................... 45 3.6.4 Promote to attract sales............................................................................. 46 3.6.5 Conclusion on case study examples ......................................................... 47 3.7 Competencies of a Community manager ......................................................... 48 3.8 Summary .......................................................................................................... 51 Chapter 4 | Achieving competitive advantage ....................................................... 53 4.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................... 53 4.2 Competitive advantage..................................................................................... 53 4.3 Generic competitive strategies ......................................................................... 54 4.4 Competitive advantage on Twitter applied to the context of IGDCs............... 54 4.5 Analysis of the case study examples ................................................................ 55 4.5.1 Manage customer relationship and deliver customer service ................... 55 4.5.2 Build brand awareness and manage reputation ........................................ 56 4.5.3 Build thought leadership .......................................................................... 57 4.5.4 Promote to attract sales............................................................................. 57 4.5.5 Potential opportunities to leverage competitive advantage through Twitter ......................................................................................... 58 4.6 Summary .......................................................................................................... 59 Chapter 5 | Research design .................................................................................... 60 5.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................... 60 5.2 Epistemology ................................................................................................... 61 5.3 Theoretical perspective .................................................................................... 62 5.4 Methodology .................................................................................................... 63 5.5 Methods............................................................................................................ 64 5.5.1 Questionnaire versus online observation survey ...................................... 65 5.5.2 Case study versus interview ..................................................................... 66 5.6 Online observation survey ............................................................................... 68 5.6.1 Population and sampling .......................................................................... 69 5.6.1.1 Identify the population of IGDCs ..................................................... 69 5.6.1.2 Identify the population of IGDCs with a Twitter account ................ 70 5.6.2 Information being reviewed as part of the survey .................................... 73
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5.7 Interviews ......................................................................................................... 76 5.7.1 Themes of the interview ........................................................................... 76 5.7.2 Interview design ....................................................................................... 77 5.7.2.1 Selecting a sample of interviewees ................................................... 77 5.7.3 Relevance and suitability of the interviewees .......................................... 78 5.7.4 Interview technique .................................................................................. 79 5.7.5 Interview situation .................................................................................... 80 5.8 Validity of results ............................................................................................. 80 5.8.1 Validity of online observation survey ...................................................... 80 5.8.2 Validity of interviews ............................................................................... 81 5.9 Ethics................................................................................................................ 82 5.10 Scope ................................................................................................................ 82 5.11 Summary .......................................................................................................... 83 Chapter 6 | Presentation and analysis of primary data ........................................ 85 6.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................... 85 6.2 Findings from online survey of IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts .............................. 86 6.2.1 Creation of a detailed bio and link to main website ................................. 86 6.2.1.1 Background ....................................................................................... 86 6.2.1.2 Findings............................................................................................. 87 6.2.1.3 Analysis............................................................................................. 87 6.2.2 Account creation date ............................................................................... 88 6.2.2.1 Background ....................................................................................... 88 6.2.2.2 Findings............................................................................................. 88 6.2.2.3 Analysis............................................................................................. 89 6.2.3 Number of followers ................................................................................ 89 6.2.3.1 Background ....................................................................................... 89 6.2.3.2 Findings............................................................................................. 90 6.2.3.3 Analysis............................................................................................. 90 6.2.4 Number of tweets per day ........................................................................ 91 6.2.4.1 Background ....................................................................................... 91 6.2.4.2 Findings............................................................................................. 91 6.2.4.3 Analysis............................................................................................. 92 6.2.5 Process ...................................................................................................... 93 6.2.5.1 Background ....................................................................................... 93 6.2.5.2 Findings............................................................................................. 94 6.2.5.3 Analysis............................................................................................. 96 6.2.6 Summary of findings from online survey................................................. 96 6.3 Findings from the interviews with social media experts ................................. 97 6.3.1 Background and field of expertise of interviewees .................................. 98 6.3.1.1 Probe questions ................................................................................. 98 6.3.1.2 Background ....................................................................................... 98 6.3.1.3 Findings............................................................................................. 98 6.3.1.4 Analysis............................................................................................. 99
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6.3.2 Twitter as a social media tool ................................................................... 99 6.3.2.1 Probe questions ................................................................................. 99 6.3.2.2 Background ..................................................................................... 100 6.3.2.3 Findings........................................................................................... 100 6.3.2.4 Analysis........................................................................................... 101 6.3.3 Using Twitter as a marketing tool successfully, to leverage competitive advantage ......................................................... 102 6.3.3.1 Probe questions ............................................................................... 102 6.3.3.2 Background ..................................................................................... 102 6.3.3.3 Findings........................................................................................... 102 6.3.3.4 Analysis........................................................................................... 104 6.3.4 Effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses ... 106 6.3.4.1 Probe questions ............................................................................... 106 6.3.4.2 Background ..................................................................................... 106 6.3.4.3 Findings........................................................................................... 107 6.3.4.4 Analysis........................................................................................... 108 6.3.5 Closing the interview.............................................................................. 110 6.3.6 Summary of findings from interviews.................................................... 110 6.4 Summary ........................................................................................................ 113 Chapter 7 | Conclusions and recommendations .................................................. 115 7.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 115 7.2 Conclusions and recommendations................................................................ 115 7.2.1 Conclusions ............................................................................................ 115 7.2.1.1 Objective 01 .................................................................................... 115 7.2.1.2 Objective 02 .................................................................................... 116 7.2.1.3 Objective 03 .................................................................................... 117 7.2.1.4 Objective 04 .................................................................................... 118 7.2.2 Recommendations .................................................................................. 119 7.3 Further study .................................................................................................. 122 7.4 Summary ........................................................................................................ 123 Bibliography .............................................................................................................. 125 Appendices ................................................................................................................. 131 Appendix A: Twitter terminology ......................................................................... 131 Appendix B: List of IGDCs (from IDI, DBI and ICAD sources) .......................... 132 Appendix C: List of IGDCs with a Twitter account .............................................. 134 Appendix D: IGDCs‟ Twitter account information ............................................... 135 Appendix E: Thematic questions for interviews .................................................... 137 Appendix F: Ethics – Information of non-confidentiality ..................................... 139 Appendix G: Interview with David Scanlon .......................................................... 140 Appendix H: Interview with Rachel Clarke .......................................................... 147 Appendix I: Interview with Conor Lynch .............................................................. 153

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Table of figures
Figure 2-1: Design process comparison and proposed process – Source: Marillet 2011 ........ 10 Figure 2-2: Design service providers in Ireland by size – Source: IntertradeIreland (2009) .. 13 Figure 2-3: Clients of the design sector in Ireland – Source: InterTradeIreland (2009) ......... 15 Figure 2-4: Geographical distribution of clients – Source: InterTradeIreland (2009)............. 16 Figure 2-5: Tools leveraged by Irish design sector to win business Source: InterTradeIreland (2009) ........................................................................ 17 Figure 2-6: Graphic designer's skills – Source: Marillet (2011) ............................................. 21 Figure 2-7: Graphic designer's skills with potential relevance to Twitter Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 22 Figure 2-8: Barriers to success in terms of lack of skills – Source: InterTradeIreland (2009) ........................................................................ 24 Figure 3-1: Types of social media - Source: Roe (2009), Comm (2010), Evans (2010) ......... 29 Figure 3-2: Twitter usage in Ireland (number of users) Source: smallbusinesscan.ie (2010) ..................................................................... 31 Figure 3-3: Twitter usage in Ireland, UK and US – Source: Sysomos (2010), Index Mundi (2011) .................................................... 32 Figure 3-4: Twitter signup page – Source: Twitter (2011) ..................................................... 33 Figure 3-5: Twitter profile example - Source: Twitter (2011) ................................................ 34 Figure 3-6: @mention and @reply examples – Source: Twitter (2011) ................................. 36 Figure 3-7: Retweet example - Source: Twitter (2011) .......................................................... 37 Figure 3-8: Hashtag example - Source: Twitter (2011) .......................................................... 37 Figure 3-9: Main Twitter functionalities and their potential for IGDCs – Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 38 Figure 3-10: Twitter strategies to address IGDCs' opportunities - source: Marillet (2011) .... 39

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Figure 3-11: Mapping of IGDCs opportunities and Twitter strategies – Source: Marillet (2011) ..................................................................................... 40 Figure 3-12: Comcastcares example- Source: Twitter (2011) ................................................ 43 Figure 3-13: UBTowsonMBA example - Source: Twitter (2011) .......................................... 44 Figure 3-14: INGDirect example – Source: Twitter (2011) ................................................... 46 Figure 3-15: twelpforce example - Source: Twitter (2011) .................................................... 47 Figure 3-16: Twitter parameters to assess the effective use of Twitter Source: Marillet (2011) ..................................................................................... 48 Figure 3-17: Required skill set of a community manager – Source: Marillet (2011).............. 51 Figure 4-1: Twitter competitive advantage types mapped to Porter's strategies Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 55 Figure 4-2: IGDCs‟ opportunities in relation to Twitter strategies and Porter's strategies Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 59 Figure 5-1: Elements of social research – Source: Crotty (1998) ........................................... 60 Figure 5-2: Types of epistemology views - Source: Marillet (2011) ...................................... 61 Figure 5-3: Types of theoretical perspective stances - Source: Marillet (2011) ..................... 62 Figure 5-4: Research steps - Source: Marillet (2011) ............................................................. 63 Figure 5-5: Types of methodology - Source: Marillet (2011) ................................................ 64 Figure 5-6: Types of methods - source: Marillet (2011)......................................................... 65 Figure 5-7: Process to identify the list of IGDCs with a Twitter account Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 70 Figure 5-8: Details of the "Have Twitter account?" process - Source: Marillet (2011) .......... 71 Figure 5-9: IGDCs with a Twitter account, breakdown per source Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 72 Figure 5-10: Process to identify the list of „sophisticated‟ Twitter account Source: Marillet (2011) ..................................................................................... 73

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Figure 5-11: Details of the "Is account sophisticated?" process - Source: Marillet (2011)..... 75 Figure 5-12: Themes for interviews with social media experts - Source: Marillet (2011) ...... 77 Figure 5-13: Selection of potential candidates for interviews – Source: Marillet (2011) ....... 78 Figure 5-14: Selected interviewees – Source: LinkedIn (2011a, b, c) .................................... 79 Figure 5-15: Summary of research methodology - Source: Marillet (2011) ........................... 84 Figure 6-1: Creation of a bio and link to main website - Source: Marillet (2011) .................. 87 Figure 6-2: Account creation date - Source: Marillet (2011).................................................. 88 Figure 6-3: Number of followers of IGDCs - Source: Marillet (2011) ................................... 90 Figure 6-4: Tweets per day by IGDCs - Source: Marillet (2011) ........................................... 91 Figure 6-5: Tweets per week for IGDCs who tweet less than once a day Source: Marillet (2011) ....................................................................................... 92 Figure 6-6: Process to identify best use of Twitter by IGDCs population Source: Marillet (2011)........................................................................................ 94 Figure 7-1: Summary of recommendations for an effective use of Twitter Source: Marillet (2011) ..................................................................................... 122

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Chapter 1 | Introduction
1.1 Background
“The people who prosper in business are dedicated marketing people” (Rogers 1990, p.15). According to this statement, it is not because someone is a good engineer, a creative designer or a skilled computer scientist that they can successfully create and run their business; their success relies on their marketing skills. There is strong evidence to suggest that many Irish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) do not use the full potential of marketing to market their business. The Co-operation North (1991) argues that “despite the recognition by policy makers of the importance of marketing to the long term success of the firm … Irish SMEs are still deficient in the practice of Marketing” (Co-operation North, p.7). This issue, identified three decades ago, still seems to be problematic with regard to Irish graphic design consultancies (IGDCs), which are predominantly SMEs. Indeed, a lack of marketing skills and a limited knowledge of marketing promotion tools were identified as being a major barrier to success (Enterprise Ireland report 1999; InterTradeIreland 2009). This is surprising since IGDCs require a deep level of marketing analysis to conduct design projects for their clients. Indeed, the process to provide design solutions to clients, suggests the importance of marketing analysis tools such as market research, marketing audit, competitive audit, etc (Wheeler 2009; Olins 2008). Therefore if marketing is critical to the success of projects, it is important for IGDCs to address any deficiency in marketing skills. This could not only help them engage with the promotion of their business but could also improve their standards of work. Kennedy (2009) proposes to address the lack of marketing skills within the graphic design sector through Continuous Professional Development (CPD) schemes. Yet, it appears that the time and cost of engaging in CPD would constitute other barriers (data from survey participants - InterTradeIreland 2009). Such barriers arise from the small size of IGDCs (82% have less than ten employees); the time spent on CPD – if within normal working hours – is not spent on productive time for the company, therefore leading to a loss of earnings (InterTradeIreland 2009; Kennedy 2008).

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However, Grice (cited in Kennedy 2008) suggests that the time spent on training could be regarded as an investment for the company‟s future. The current economy in Ireland also impacts the likelihood of IGDCs to train their staff (Kennedy 2009); InterTradeIreland mention that services provided by IGDCs “may be perceived as dispensable during an economic downturn” (p.26); this implies that the economic circumstances most likely affect IGDCs ‟ profits and therefore training budgets. Hence, to win business and remain competitive in the current climate, IGDCs must continue to market their services to current and prospective clients. Therefore, more than ever, it is crucial for IGDCs to become more proficient in the use of marketing tools to successfully compete in the marketplace. Marketing methods have changed quite a lot over the past decade; Neumeier (2007) explains that consumers have been overwhelmed with one-way conversations and do not trust advertising; therefore traditional communication vehicles (e.g. TV adverts, direct marketing), using “push” strategies, are not as effective as before. Instead, people prefer genuine conversations and less intrusive marketing/advertising methods. This has become possible with the emergence of social media. Social media has changed marketing in different ways, from “trying to sell” to “making connections”, from “controlling our image” to “being ourselves” and from “hard to reach” to “available everywhere” (Gasser 2009, p.4). Social media offers communication platforms that render conversations between people easier (Evans 2009). Social media marketing can be implemented in many ways by a varied range of businesses, allowing them to be creative and less rigid (Lacy 2010; Thomases 2010). Therefore, IGDCs who are struggling with traditional marketing methods may find social media marketing more suitable to their needs. Twitter – the main micro-blogging platform in the social media landscape – has been adopted by a great number of companies worldwide. Some companies have implemented Twitter as a means of gaining competitive advantage (Thomases 2010; Giesen and Crossfield 2009; Lacy 2010). In Ireland, Kennedy (cited in Kenny 2009), points out that the potential of Twitter to be used as a marketing tool by Irish SMEs in general, seems unrealised. De (cited in Kenny 2009) adds that Twitter, as a tool to network and create relationships, should prove very useful for Irish businesses. This

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seems to indicate that there is potential for IGDCs to adopt Twitter and use it as marketing tool to engage with their stakeholders with a view to secure competitive advantage. Setting the premise for the research question.

1.2 Research question
This thesis seeks to address the question, how can Irish graphic design consultancies use Twitter to secure competitive advantage?

1.3 Aim and objectives
The aim of this research is to answer the research question and to accomplish this, the following objectives need to be achieved: 01. Establish what is meant by the term graphic design within the scope of this study and contextualise this within the professional practice of an Irish graphic design consultancy operating in the current sector, with a view to identify opportunities that such IGDCs could develop to secure competitive advantage. 02. Investigate the current concepts of micro-blogging as a means of social media marketing and determine what specific skills and competencies are required for graphic design consultancies to implement and manage Twitter as a marketing tool. 03. Define competitive advantage in the context of marketing and identify what types of competitive advantage can be achieved through Twitter to establish ways IGDCs could best leverage Twitter. 04. Examine current case study examples of businesses that follow the best practice principles for an effective use of Twitter, to identify any relevant elements for IGDCs.

1.4 Context
Social media takes an important place in today‟s society. A lot has been written about the subject in general and on micro-blogging specifically. Some recent theses have
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examined the use of social media in general by Irish SMEs or the use of blogging by graphic design consultancies (GDCs) in Ireland. As social media is still an emerging technology that changes rapidly, literature can date quickly. Therefore research carried out in 2011 on social media can identify new findings. This particular research focuses on the platform, Twitter and the specific benefits of implementing this platform in an IGDC. The study concentrates on the use of Twitter by IGDCs with a view to identify how it can be exploited to secure competitive advantage. Therefore, this study has potential value to owners and managers of IGDCs, who wish to become more competitive. Similarly this study can also provide some relevant information to other design firms in Ireland (non graphic design) who might want to find out how to use Twitter to leverage competitive advantage. Education providers who support learning and development of those in/entering the design field might find pertinent information on the skills required to implement and manage Twitter effectively. As a result, they might be able to design training courses for design companies, specifically focused on learning how to leverage Twitter as a competitive tool. Design bodies that act for the interest of design development and also government bodies that assist SMEs through funding opportunities for business development, might identify information of interest in this thesis if they wished to create a framework support in the implementation of Twitter for IGDCs. Finally, having witnessed the emergence of social media and its rise of popularity among businesses, the topic of social media and Twitter has become a personal interest. Since more and more businesses adopt social media, becoming knowledgeable in this area could be a valuable asset when searching for employment, and would add to the designer skill set.

1.5 Rationale
This study seeks to identify how IGDCs can effectively exploit Twitter to gain competitive advantage.
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The first section of this thesis provides a background to the events that have provided the impetus for this study, specifically the perceived importance of marketing within any business, the continued ineffectual approach to marketing by IGDCs and the potential Twitter might provide them in a tough economic climate. The research question has then been dissected into a set of four objectives and a brief summary of the relevant stakeholders and research plan adopted. The next three chapters form the literature review. Since the term graphic design can have several interpretations, the review begins with proposing a working definition of graphic design, which is then contextualised within the professional practice of an IGDC operating in Ireland, under the current economic climate. The intention is to gain a full understanding of what IGDCs are and what they should offer in order to identify any opportunities they could exploit to gain competitive advantage using Twitter. Following on from this, an overview of Twitter is provided as well as a summary of its main functionalities and its major limitations. Gaining an understanding of Twitter is important to identify how it can be effectively exploited as a marketing tool by GDCs to achieve competitive advantage. Case study examples of companies who have effectively implemented Twitter are examined to identify characteristics in their strategies that made them successful. Finally, the competencies of a community manager are outlined and compared with those of graphic designers to identify whether IGDCs could transfer some of their existing skills to this new field. Finally, the last chapter of literature review defines competitive advantage and reviews the different types of strategies that can be leveraged to secure competitive advantage. The research then examines the different types of competitive strategies on Twitter, identified through the analysis of the case study examples, and evaluates what characteristics of these strategies are relevant to IGDCs. This is to establish how IGDCs could leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage. Chapter five outlines in detail the research design adopted for the study to ensure transparency and credibility in approach and validity of results. Therefore, this chapter reviews various epistemology stances, their related theoretical perspectives

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and associated methodologies and methods, and assesses which type of research design would address the research question best. The research is designed based on the findings/gaps identified at the literature review stage. The primary research seeks for data on the current use of Twitter by IGDCs and on the prevalence of Twitter in Ireland. Following on from this, chapter six presents and analyses the data gathered from the survey on the use of Twitter by IGDCs and the interviews conducted with social media specialists. The analysis of the survey results aims to confirm the findings from the literature review in relation to the unsophisticated use of Twitter by IGDCs. The findings from the interviews are reconciled with the data gathered during the literature review and are analysed in relation to IGDCs. The aim is to use this information to create a framework for an effective implementation of Twitter for IGDCs, to answer the research question. The final chapter concludes the research and presents recommendations on the best practice implementation and management of Twitter for IGDCs. Areas not covered in this study but that could be investigated to enrich the findings identified as part of this research, are also documented.

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Chapter 2 | The graphic design service in Ireland
2.1 Introduction
The aim of this research is to establish how the use of Twitter can assist IGDCs to secure competitive advantage. The first step to achieve this is to define the term IGDCs that is drawn from the literature and current practice. The main focus of this section is to gain an understanding of IGDCs in order to be able to identify opportunities they could turn into competitive advantage, using Twitter. This section begins with defining the term graphic design and then examines the service offered by GDCs as well as the process to deliver this service. These findings can help identify the nature of this service as well as the skills required in a consultancy to carry out day-to-day activities. These skills can be later compared with the skills required to be proficient at micro-blogging and assist in determining transferability. The chapter also explores other relevant attributes of IGDCs such as the size of the studio, their culture, their structure, their clients and how they win business. This builds an effective profile used to identify opportunities they might leverage to achieve competitive advantage. This data can be used to evaluate if and how Twitter could be used by them as a competitive tool.

2.2 Graphic design at the service of clients
2.2.1 Defining graphic design

A review of existing literature on graphic design highlights that there is no commonly agreed definition of the term graphic design. When defining graphic design, some authors put an emphasis on the service aspect while others focus on the product. For instance, design performs a number of functions to create a suitable solution to a design problem (Newark 2002; Design Council 2008b). Examples of such functions could be differentiation (e.g. it helps distinguish one organisation/nation from another) and information (e.g. orientation within a building, road signage, medicine dosage, etc). In this definition, graphic design is considered as a service and therefore,

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the graphic design industry as a service industry (Newark 2002; Shaughnessy 2005; InterTradeIreland 2009). On the other hand, when graphic design is regarded as a visual communication material using text and images (e.g. printed/online material) to represent a thought or communicate a message, the emphasis is on the product (Cullen 2005). The two viewpoints do not exclude each other and it seems reasonable to say that graphic design is actually both the service of offering an appropriate solution to a design problem and the product as a result of this service; also, the development of a strong service offering is likely to produce an appropriate product for clients. In addition, the literature reviewed as part of this research suggests that a process is used to support the graphic design service and generate the product. This process interrogates a subject and results in graphic representation of the findings (Newark 2002; Shaughnessy 2009; Design Council 2010a; Ambrose and Harris 2009; Wheeler 2006). For the purpose of this study, graphic design is defined as a service that uses a process to produce a suitable solution to a design problem. Therefore, the thesis focuses on the service aspect rather than on the product. This is because reviewing the service offered by graphic design firms and the process supporting that service seems more likely to identify ways for GDCs to gain competitive advantage than concentrating solely on the output of the process, i.e. the final product. Another reoccurring discussion that appears within the literature on the subject of graphic design is the debate about the designer‟s personal expression (Shaughnessy 2005; Heller 2006). Shaughnessy (2005) relates that some hold the view that graphic design is purely a problem-solving, business tool that designers should use without incorporating their “personal expression to ensure maximizing the effectiveness of the content” (p.13). Conversely, others believe that “although design undoubtedly has a problem-solving function, it also has a cultural and aesthetic dimension, and its effectiveness is enhanced, and not diminished, by personal expression” (Shaughnessy 2005, p.13). Many authors (cited in Heller 2006) seem to opt for the second view point, claiming that personal expression improves the proposed solution. For the purpose of this research, both aspects of graphic design are considered as part of the service offered to clients, the latter may become a differentiator that graphic design companies could use as competitive advantage.

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Having established a working definition of graphic design, to fully appreciate the nature of this service, it is essential to comprehend the process used to support that service. Examining this process assists in understanding the role of staff within design consultancies, their skills, their relationship with clients and how they work. These aspects are fundamental elements for the professional practice of a graphic design consultancy; but more importantly their identification may assist in providing insight into how Twitter could be adopted by graphic design companies to help them become more competitive. 2.2.2 The graphic design process

Current literature about the design process is extensive and each author researched as part of this study seems to have developed their own process. However, further analysis has shown that their design processes follow similar steps (steps might be named differently and might also be grouped together in some cases) and can be reconciled. The processes used by graphic design practitioners such as the Brand Union – a successful international design firm – and by the Huguenot – another successful design agency in Dublin – are quite similar to the ones found in the literature, as it can be seen in figure 2-1. From this analysis the study reveals that the design process involves several steps from defining a brief to providing an adequate solution to the design problem defined in the brief. (Ambrose and Harris 2010; Carter cited in Brook and Shaughnessy 2009; Design Council 2010b; Airey 2010; Hembree 2006; Wheeler 2006; Brand Union 2010; Huguenot 2010). The complexity of the project, the range of media to be created and the number of people involved in the project dictate how this process is detailed and undertaken. Working with smalls clients might not require the same level of details for each step of the process as it would when working with large organisations (Ambrose and Harris 2009). So the design process must be generic and flexible so that it can be applied to various types of projects and client sizes, that could typically represent an IGDC.

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Figure 2-1: Design process comparison and proposed process – Source: Marillet 2011

The processes researched as part of this thesis have been compared and reconciled, which has resulted in the following proposed benchmark design process (figure 2-1). This process consists of the following seven steps. 2.2.2.1 Define the brief In all cases the design process begins with a consultation process between the client and the IGDC establishing the nature of the project and the parameters that provide the scope of the job. Ultimately, this leads to the definition of the design problem in
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the form of the design brief. The target audience is also identified and the necessary requirements for the project to be successful are determined. 2.2.2.2 Research Information on the client business, market/industry, audience, competitors, etc is gathered and analysed to inform the direction and approach of the project to ensure appropriate business objectives are met. Findings may lead to further refinement of the project brief. 2.2.2.3 Develop ideas Once the appropriate research has been completed and the design problem is clearly defined in the brief, designers start ideating solutions that will address the brief and meet the audience‟s needs. Also, when developing ideas, the designers‟ personal expression is likely to manifest itself, enhancing the effectiveness of the solutions. 2.2.2.4 Create prototypes Prototypes of solutions are created and presented for user-group and stakeholder review prior to being shown to the client for approval. The personal expression of designers is also going to apply when creating prototypes, rendering the proposed solutions creative as well as effective. 2.2.2.5 Select rationale The candidate solutions are reviewed against the brief and the most appropriate one is chosen (a rationale is defined to confirm suitability of the solution). 2.2.2.6 Implement and deliver The selected design solution is implemented; a production plan is developed and stakeholders of the production process are involved; the solution is then delivered to the client.

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2.2.2.7 Evaluate and get feedback This stage helps designers improve their performance by seeking feedback from client and target audience to determine if the solution met the objectives listed in the brief. This enhances the relationship between design consultancies and their clients, improving trust and professionalism. (Wheeler 2006; Ambrose and Harris 2010; Newark 2002; Shaughnessy 2009; Design Council 2010b; Brand Union 2010; Huguenot 2010) This systematic approach to the design process is consistent with best practice within the literature and is evidenced within the industry at both a national and an international level (Wheeler 2006; Ambrose and Harris 2010; Newark 2002; Shaughnessy 2009; Design Council 2010b; Brand Union 2010; Huguenot 2010). The design process relies on a great level of communication between the designer and the client to assist in an effective development of the project. This also helps build concrete relationships with clients. The fact that the Huguenot, an Irish firm, have developed a design process demonstrates that such process can be applied in an Irish context. Therefore, this study assumes that the term graphic design contextualised within the professional practice of an IGDC involves the use of such a design process. Now that the design process has been defined, the study focuses on the role of the staff working in GDCs, the environment they work in, the way they perform their day-to-day activities from providing the design service to running the business and the skills they require. Since this research has defined graphic design as a service, it is essential to comprehend who the people offering this service are. Moreover, understanding what is meant by working in a graphic design consultancy is going to be valuable when examining the requirements to develop competitive strategies using Twitter and to assess whether GDCs‟ current competencies are sufficient to implement such strategies.

2.3 Working in a graphic design consultancy
A graphic design consultancy often referred to as studio, can vary a lot in terms of size, culture, group structure and working methods (Ambrose and Harris 2009; Brook

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and Shaughnessy 2009). Examining these attributes assists in comprehending how IGDCs operate in the current market, which is a critical objective of the research. This ensures that any analysis or application of Twitter to harness competitive advantage can be accurately considered against the data gathered on the way IGDCs operate. 2.3.1 Size of GDCs

The size of GDCs impacts on the type of work undertaken: large consultancies may be too expensive for a small company to hire and small consultancies may not be able to satisfy the demands of a large company (Ambrose and Harris 2009; Shaughnessy 2005; Murray cited in Brook and Shaughnessy 2009). In Ireland, design providers are usually quite small, i.e. 81% have less than ten employees and 57% have less than five employees (InterTradeIreland 2009). If the size of GDCs dictates the type of work they get, the fact that most IGDCs are quite small may indicate that many of them may target the same jobs which would suggest that the market is highly competitive.
40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 36% 24%

Size of design firms by number of employees

21%

10% 4% 1 2-5 6-10 11-20 21-50 4% 50+

Figure 2-2: Design service providers in Ireland by size – Source: IntertradeIreland (2009)

2.3.2

Communicating the value of design to client

Worldwide, design has been established a significant source of competitive advantage (Design Council 2008; Wheeler 2006; Olins cited in Veale 2008). Indeed, by providing uniqueness and differentiation to a company, design helps the company improve its competitiveness (Wheeler 2006). In the case of GDCs, designing an effective corporate identity for a client allows the client to stand out against their

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competitors (Wheeler 2006; Rivers cited in Veale 2008). Therefore, as design has a lot to offer to companies, GDCs have great opportunities of work. So, it seems reasonable to note that GDCs able to explain to their clients how they can help their business to be more competitive would attract more work, become more profitable and stand out from their competitors themselves. However, designers find it challenging to explain the value of design to their clients (Design Council 2007). This is also true in the Irish context where 56% of design consultancies state that the lack of understanding of the value of design among their clients is a barrier to success; 42% recognise that they might not communicate well enough the value of design to their clients (InterTradeIreland 2009). By being unable to promote the value of design, IGDCs may lose opportunities of work. Therefore, there is room for improvement in the way they communicate to their clients and promote themselves. Addressing such an issue would help them become more profitable and more competitive. As Twitter enables conversations, it may provide new ways for IGDCs to communicate with their clients and promote their businesses, possibly contributing to a solution or providing clarity in the value of their service to clients. 2.3.3 Clients of the design sector

A study conducted in 2009 showed that clients of the Irish design sector are mostly SMEs (73%), then 14% are large companies and 13% are public sector companies (InterTradeIreland 2009).

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13%
SMEs

14%

Large companies Public sector

73%

Figure 2-3: Clients of the design sector in Ireland – Source: InterTradeIreland (2009)

The main buyers of design services are in the manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors; the service sector, which generates over 60% of added value within the Irish economy, does not make much use design services (InterTradeIreland 2009); but this information is for the overall design sector – not just for GDCs – and might not be wholly accurate. Also worth noting, the manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors have suffered heavily due to the economical situation in Ireland (Ronan Lyons 2010). Therefore, as design is often seen as dispensable by some companies, during economic downturn (InterTradeIreland 2009), it is likely that these sectors are not the main design buyers anymore. So for IGDCs, this means that they must be more competitive, trying to enter new markets, such as the service sector, for instance, to win more business. If prospects from the service sector are using Twitter, then the tool could present an opportunity for IGDCs to engage with these companies. In terms of the geographic distribution of clients, most clients of Irish design firms are local (92%).

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2% 3% 3%
Ireland
Great Britain Rest of EU Rest of world

92%

Figure 2-4: Geographical distribution of clients – Source: InterTradeIreland (2009)

So, since IGDCs trade mostly at a national level, they compete for the same work; this factor reinforces the fact that the market they operate in is greatly competitive. IGDCs could consider trading more widely, and Twitter, being a tool available worldwide, could assist them in engaging with clients overseas and/or collaborating with other GDCs abroad. This last point could help them to compete against bigger consultancies that have offices worldwide. 2.3.4 How the design sector wins business

The Irish design sector‟s strategy to win business is based on existing clients. Indeed, new clients and projects come mostly from recommendation by other clients (63%), networking (35%) and referral services (33%). Such results explain why design consultancies trade mostly locally, as pointed out in the previous section. Irish design companies seem satisfied with this situation, since only 38% of the InterTradeIreland survey respondents engage with marketing activities to win business, 13% do cold calling and 8% enter design competitions.

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Design competitions Cold calling Marketing Referral services Networking Recommendation from other clients 0%

8% 13%

38%
33% 35% 63%
10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70%

How the Irish design sector wins business

Figure 2-5: Tools leveraged by Irish design sector to win business - Source: InterTradeIreland (2009)

Low engagement with marketing comes from a lack of marketing skills identified by 47% of Irish design companies to be a barrier to success (InterTradeIreland 2009). Maybe embracing new forms of marketing such as Twitter would benefit IGDCs; indeed, as Twitter enables users to converse and create relationships, the tool may prove useful for IGDCs who seem predisposed to build relationship and network. Therefore, Twitter may offer an opportunity for IGDCs who wish to continue engaging with existing clients and build new relationships. 2.3.5 Studio culture

Each design studio has its own particular culture, style and influences (Ambrose and Harris 2009; Brook and Shaughnessy 2009). The concept of studio-based work has been central to practice as well as education within traditional design disciplines such as architecture and industrial design for over a century. In these fields, setting up and upholding a good „studio culture‟ has been seen as essential for carrying out work and for enhancing learning. (International Association of Societies of Design Research 2007, p.4) In the case of graphic design, Brook and Shaughnessy (2009) suggest for a studio culture to be successful, it is crucial to preserve individual creativity while promoting collaborative work and communal purpose (Brook and Shaughnessy 2009). Once a

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graphic design studio has applied this principle and is working towards achieving the same goals, it appears to have their own personal expression. This personal expression can be seen as the personality of the studio and might become a reason for a client to choose a particular studio. The literature reviewed as part of this thesis suggests that design consultancies mostly win business by referral, networking and word-of-mouth (Design Council 2010f; InterTradeIreland 2009; Brook and Shaughnessy); therefore by creating a good studio culture, a design consultancy might gain an excellent reputation and indirectly win more business. So a studio culture might become a great asset for a consultancy and increase profitability. As it can be used as a networking tool, Twitter may be useful for IGDCs to spread their studio culture and reputation. 2.3.6 Structure and organisation of a GDC

Ambrose and Harris (2009) suggest that depending on the size of the studio and its owner‟s perspective, GDCs can have different structures, employing a more or less formal hierarchy. However, the typical employees that can be found in a graphic design consultancy are (Ambrose and Harris 2009; Foote 2009):    Business owner(s) Creative staff: designers Non-creative staff: project managers, account handlers, administrators, accountant, receptionist, etc Depending on the GDC, the number and diversity of staff varies. Non-creative staff will only be hired once the studio has grown to a size where the workload is too high for creative staff and where it has become economically practical to hire people who are not the main fee-generators (Ambrose and Harris 2009; Shaughnessy 2005; Foote 2009). In Ireland, since 57% of GDCs hire less than five employees, they will probably not employ non-creative staff; as for the 24% who count between six and ten employees, they may have one or two non-creative staff. This indicates that creative staff within small IGDCs are likely to take on both non-creative and creative functions, involving a great deal of multitasking.

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The next sections review the various skills required by the different employees working within IGDCs. The aim of this is to establish, later in the research, if these skills are useful to successfully implement a competitive strategy on Twitter. 2.3.6.1 Creative staff According to Newark (2002), a creative staff, or designer, operates under two fundamental activities: the „making sense‟ activity, that aims at simplifying and clarifying things, and the „creating difference‟ activity, that intends to make the client‟s product/service/company unique and easily recognisable. When these activities are applied to the design process, the graphic designer, then, has essentially two main roles which are to:   Satisfy the brief: work out what needs to be done to satisfy the brief, conducting research into the subject matter to create initial ideas. Execute the job: work with and choose from different sources to conceive the final design. (Ambrose and Harris 2009; Newark 2002) These roles suggest that a designer is the person who can effectively use the design process. So, for the purpose of this study, a graphic designer can be defined as the individual who can apply the design process to any design problem, providing simple and clear solutions that help the client‟s business to be unique and recognisable. Skills and competencies of a creative staff The skills of a designer are the skills required to run the design process. These skills are numerous and require knowledge in various areas such as design, business, information technology (IT) and project management (Kennedy 2009). Minale (1996) suggests that designers‟ core competency is creativity. Creativity has long been seen as the main attribute of a designer (Shaughnessy 2005; NCAD 2009; European Commission 2009; Design Council 2010d). The Design Council (2010d) elaborates on this point and suggests that the key skills needed by graphic designers are “the ability to communicate with clients, understand their needs and business objectives and then interpret these objectives creatively”. This implies that there is more than just creativity in the core skill set of the designer; indeed, communication, problem

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solving and analytical skills seem essential to the designer‟s role (Design Council 2010d; Yeomans cited in Design Council 2010d; Ambrose and Harris 2010). Core skills creative skills, problem solving and analytical skills, communication Then, the Design Council (2010d) suggest that designers should have an ability to use design software (i.e. IT skills and an understanding of quality standards). This is essential since nowadays, most design solutions are computer-generated. Technical skills IT and quality standards management

The Design Council (2010d) and Best (2006) also believe that as a designer, it is essential to have team working ability as well as project management skills in relation to budgets and schedules. Project skills team working and project management skills

Finally, business skills such as marketing, human resources, administration and finance are used as part of the design process (Foote 2009; Best 2006; Kennedy 2009). So, not only are they required as part of the design process but they are also required to run a business (this is discussed in the next section). Business skills marketing, human resources, administration and finance skills

As a summary, for designers to run the design process, they require a set of core skills, technical skills, project skills and business skills.

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Figure 2-6: Graphic designer's skills – Source: Marillet (2011)

Most Irish design consultancies employ less than ten employees and their clients are mainly micro-businesses and SMEs (InterTradeIreland 2009), therefore, it is likely that the projects they undertake would be quite small; so, it is very probable that designers within these firms would run the process on their own, from start to end, or with the help of the business owner who would take on the tasks that require the business skills, since the business owner is primarily concerned with the business function being successful. If IGDCs are actually equipped with these skills, they may not need to acquire additional skills to learn to use Twitter effectively to secure competitive advantage. With the current knowledge acquired in this literature review, the skills identified for graphic designers that may have potential value for Twitter are:     IT skills to use Twitter Communication skills to engage and converse with other users Marketing and analytical skills to plan who to engage with and for what reasons Creative skills to stand out from competitors and engage with potential clients or other stakeholders.

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Figure 2-7: Graphic designer's skills with potential relevance to Twitter - Source: Marillet (2011)

2.3.6.2 Business owner The business owner is the individual who owns and runs the business; their skill set is quite different from the skills of a graphic designer (Kennedy 2009). Skills required in business The ideal set of skills for the business owner of a GDC includes business skills mostly:           Management and leadership skills Project management Marketing (e.g. understanding customer‟s needs, market and competition, promoting business, sales) Communication skills Client relationship Promotion of the value of design Delegation skills Finance skills (e.g. bookkeeping, financial planning) Strategic planning Human resources
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   

IT (e.g. resource management) Multi-disciplinary and multitasking Ambition Honesty and integrity

(Foote 2009; Best 2006; Kennedy 2009; Smith cited in Brook and Shaughnessy 2009; Shaughnessy 2005; Design Council 2010d) The previous section identified the possibility that the business owner would take on the tasks within the process that involve the use of business skills, to free up the designer from non-creative tasks. However, this option relies on the business owner having the ideal set of skills. In reality, it is important to note that, in the design industry, most consultancies are formed by designers who tend to enter the industry based on their personal creative skills rather than entrepreneurial and business competencies (InterTradeIreland 2009; Design Council cited in Kennedy 2009). This would suggest that design business owners may lack some business skills since their core skill set consists of creativity, communication, problem solving and analytical skills. In Ireland, this issue would appear to have weight, with 52% of design consultancies identifying a lack of sales skills as a barrier to success and 47% recognising a lack of marketing skills as another barrier to success; then, 56% found the “lack of understanding of the value of design among customers” was also an obstacle; this last issue relates to the communication gap that exists between the design community and their clients (InterTradeIreland 2009, pp.28-29) This also suggests designers have poor communication skills.

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58%
56% 54% 52% 50%

48%
46% 44% 42% Marketing Sales Value of design Communication

Barriers to success in terms of lack of skills

Figure 2-8: Barriers to success in terms of lack of skills – Source: InterTradeIreland (2009)

The previous finding seems to suggest that most IGDCs are made of creative staff exclusively (designers and owner); therefore they only operate with the specific skill set of a designer, which explains why they may struggle running their business. This also may indicate that the prerequisite skills for both the business owner and the graphic designers cannot be accepted as a given within IGDCs, which might have an impact if the similar skills are required to effectively use Twitter. 2.3.6.3 Non-creative staff Examples of non-creative employees are: project managers, admin staff and bookkeepers (Shaughnessy 2005; Ambrose and Harris 2009; Foote 2009). Noncreative employees typically support the creative staff and the owner by taking on the non-creative tasks required as part of the design process and some of the tasks necessary for running the studio. This suggests the main tasks conducted by noncreative staff require the business skills and project skills essential for the design process. This study has identified that due to their size, most IGDCs may not hire non-creative staff. Also, IGDCs are mostly led by experience designers who have a designer skill set as opposed to a business skill set. Therefore, the absence of noncreative staff within IGDCs leads to a lack of non-creative skills such as marketing, sales and communication. So, by not being able to fulfil non-creative tasks, IGDCs may become less competitive but those IGDCs who manage to leverage strong business skills could develop competitive advantage.

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2.4 Summary
The main focus of this section was to gain an understanding of the current state of the Irish graphic design sector. Exploring the main attributes of IGDCs assisted in identifying opportunities that could be developed into competitive advantage. This research has established graphic design as a service-based industry; the service is supported by a design process with several key stages which are dependent on a consultation process with the client; this helps form relationships between IGDCs and their clients. Also, IGDCs win business essentially through networking and word-ofmouth. Therefore, Twitter, as a social media platform that enables users to engage and converse with each other, could be a useful tool for those IGDCs who want to enhance their relationships with clients and win more business. Many IGDCs are chasing the same work within the same sectors in Ireland, therefore the market is highly competitive. So, to secure competitive advantage, IGDCs may consider broadening their target market, examining the potentials of overseas work/collaboration with other design firms and opportunities to work with different sectors. Studio culture is an important part of the individuality of an IGDC therefore it may be useful as an attribute for an IGDC to differentiate from its competitors and help achieve competitive advantage. Employees working in IGDCs require a large set of skills, some of them might be useful for implementing and managing Twitter. Given the size and organisation of IGDCs, it is unlikely that they would employ a dedicated person for the Twitter role. Therefore, current employees would be assigned the role on the top of their current functions. So, while the employees‟ workload is increased, it is important that they would see the benefits in adopting Twitter. The prerequisite skills are not a given as some IGDCs have admitted they have deficiencies in the areas of sales, marketing and communication; these skills are essential for the design process and could also be crucial for Twitter. Therefore, this lack of skills may constitute a barrier in the Twitter implementation.

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Communication is paramount and its necessity is evident as part of the consultation process to work with the clients and to explain the value of design to them. It also appears to be essential for Twitter since Twitter relies on conversations. Still, IGDCs seem to struggle with the communication aspect of their job. However, communicating face-to-face and on an online platform may be different, therefore IGDCs who have deficiency in this area may find Twitter easier for communicating. Finally, IGDCs‟ marketing skills are currently weak and based on traditional methods. Twitter offers a more modern method of marketing and may be an opportunity for IGDCs to develop their marketing skills so that they can become more competitive. By reviewing the current state of the Irish graphic design sector, this chapter has identified some opportunities that IGDCs could develop to become more competitive. The next chapter gives an overview of Twitter to identify what value such a tool could add to IGDCs who would want to improve their competitiveness.

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Chapter 3 | Twitter, a social media marketing tool
3.1 Introduction
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the micro-blogging platform Twitter that can be used by businesses as a social media marketing tool to market their business. The previous chapter identified challenges that IGDCs face and opportunities they could develop to enhance their business. This chapter attempts to establish if the implementation of Twitter could address these opportunities outlined in the previous chapter. This section starts with defining Twitter and then reviews its utilisation in Ireland. This is to comprehend the level of adoption of the tool by Irish businesses to assess whether IGDCs have opportunities to leverage Twitter as a marketing tool to develop competitive advantage. Then, the research provides an overview of the Twitter features and identifies the potential value of the tool for IGDCs who would want to leverage Twitter in order to become more competitive. Limitations of Twitter are also reviewed to ensure that before adopting the tool, possible barriers for an effective use of Twitter are recognised. Next, the research reviews case study examples of companies who have been using various Twitter strategies effectively, in line with best practice. This is to assist in establishing if IGDCs could leverage Twitter in a similar way to address their own opportunities. Finally, the chapter examines the competencies of the community manager, responsible for implementing the firm‟s social media strategy, to assess whether IGDCs currently have the appropriate skills internally or if they require a new specific set of skills.

3.2 Defining social media
“Social media can be all sorts of different things, and can be produced in all sorts of different ways” (Comm 2010, p.2). This statement shows that social media is quite an
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ambiguous term; indeed, it has been defined within the literature as the locations on the web where people converse, as the tools used by people to converse and share information or as the contents itself, that is published and shared by social media users (Israel, Cook and Comm cited in Roe 2009). From these various viewpoints, Roe‟s (2009) research provides the following definition and explanation of what social media is: The online spaces where users choose to participate within communities, leveraging online tools to generate content for mutual gain. These communities offer businesses the opportunity to join the conversation provided they offer something of value; in return relationships can be built. (p.12) This definition indicates that any business, including GDCs, can build a relationship with communities. This research has already established that good relationships have been a dominant form of building client portfolios for IGDCs. Therefore, if their clients use social media, then these tools could assist IGDCs in strengthening their relationships with clients. An overview of the current online social media applications shows the landscape is diverse and broad. Social media applications can be categorised as follows:      Social networks, e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Media sharing, e.g. Youtube for videos, Flickr for photos, Digg for news, Delicious for bookmarks, Meetup for events Forum, e.g. boards.ie Blog and micro-blog, e.g. Wordpress, Tumblr, Twitter Community building services, e.g. Wikipedia, TripAdvisor

(Roe 2009; Evans 2010; Comm 2010; Zimmerman and Sahlin 2010)

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Figure 3-1: Types of social media - Source: Roe (2009), Comm (2010), Evans (2010)

Having established a broad definition of social media the main focus of this section seeks to provide an in-depth analysis specifically concerned with the social platform Twitter.

3.3 Twitter, the real-time sharing micro-blogging platform
3.3.1 The background of micro-blogging

Micro-blogging is a form of blogging that differs from a traditional blog in that its content is smaller in size. Twitter, is one of the original micro-blogging platforms, created in 2006 in the U.S. and now available worldwide. This study focuses on Twitter as it has become the leading micro-blogging tool worldwide (Israel 2009; Lacy 2010). Indeed, recent data has found that globally there are about 200 million accounts on Twitter, posting around 140 million messages per day (Twitter Blog 2011; Schonfeld 2010; usa.gov 2010). However, these figures can be misleading as many accounts are inactive; one-in-five users on Twitter have never actually posted anything and that the most prolific 10 percent Twitter users account for 90 percent of all posts (Giles cited in Roe, 2010). This indicates that even though awareness is high, activity seems lower, which may suggest the meaningful function of Twitter has not been recognised by all companies/users.

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3.3.2

A definition of Twitter

Twitter (2011) define their application as a real-time information network that connects an individual to the latest information on their topic of interest. The literature builds on this, suggesting that it is a platform that enables users to share information through 140 characters long messages – called “tweets” – in real-time, with the web at-large and to communicate directly, privately or publicly with other Twitter users (Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010). The technology behind Twitter facilitates its use on several devices such as computers, smart phones and any other internet devices, making Twitter accessible from everywhere the internet is available. This feature allows companies to be more available to the public and to access/stay connected with new/existing clients respectively and is not limited to geographical borders. 3.3.3 Twitter’s place within the social media landscape

In comparison with blogging, micro-blogging has increased the speed of information but it is a less elaborate approach to data sharing and marketing than blogging. Microblogging like Twitter should be seen as a “short-term approach that‟s ideal for quick and thoughtful communication” and is not meant to replace blogging (Lacy 2010, p.11). Instead micro-blogging should be able to work together with blogging to create a social media platform that can be used to spread the business ideas to their target audience (Lacy 2010). Morris (2010) adds that Twitter serves as a bridge between networking and media: once the network is built, Twitter enables a company to talk about what they do to an audience who have decided to listen to them. This suggests that Twitter may not be a standalone platform and that businesses joining Twitter may need to implement other social media (e.g. blog/website, media sharing, etc) to harness social media marketing effectively. However, the implementation and maintenance of other social media tools is likely to increase the workload. On this matter, De and Scanlon (cited in Roe 2010) argue that SMEs cannot engage on all social media platforms as resources are restricted. Therefore, they suggest that when SMEs start on social media, they should select one or two channels based on where their target audience is, their budget allocation to social media and their business objectives. Then if the implementation is successful and they feel they could leverage more social channels, this can be done afterwards. This indicates the company should

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have a clear strategy about how they should be marketed so that the message does not become diluted through an evolutionary process. As IGDCs operating in the current economy already have a limited number of staff and restricted budget and time, they will likely be in the situation where they cannot fully implement and maintain several social media. Therefore, they could start with Twitter – if it is the appropriate channel for them – and another channel that would complement Twitter, and later deploy more channels if required. In any case, since even the implementation of one or two social media channels is going to increase their workload, it is essential that IGDCs see the return on investment of their engagement. 3.3.4 The use of Twitter in Ireland

With 92% of Irish businesses overall, 84% of SMEs accessing the Internet (SME & Corporate ICT Research H1 2010) and 96% of Irish people owning a mobile phone (Commission for Communication Regulations 2010), most Irish businesses can potentially use Twitter. Twitter usage in Ireland went from 150,000 users in 2010 to 180,000 in March 2011, accounting for 0.52% of the total users (smallbusinesscan.ie 2010; Sysomos 2010).

200000

180000
180000 160000 140000 120000

Twitter usage (number of users)

150000

2010

March 2011

Figure 3-2: Twitter usage in Ireland (number of users) - Source: smallbusinesscan.ie (2010)

The usage in Ireland has grown and the ratio of Twitter users per capita is quite similar to the UK one, but is still trailing a bit behind the U.S. (Sysomos 2010; Index Mundi 2011).

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Figure 3-3: Twitter usage in Ireland, UK and US – Source: Sysomos (2010), Index Mundi (2011)

Kennedy and De (cited in Kenny, 2009) believe that Irish SMEs are slow in adopting services like Twitter. But De adds that there is a great opportunity for Irish SMEs to build their presence and their visibility on social media in general. She advocates the importance of using online presence as a tool to facilitate connections and conversations in the current economy. This study has already established that most IGDCs win business through their network therefore Twitter may prove useful to them. IGDCs should avail of the opportunity to use Twitter to engage with other audiences, overseas or just larger firms/public sector companies in Ireland, to escape from the crowded market they currently compete in. Kenny‟s (2009) research found that only 30% of the IGDCs he examined, were using Twitter and used it in an unsophisticated way, without a strategy. Therefore, there are opportunities for them to exploit Twitter seriously, with a view to gain competitive advantage, this again supports the view that a clear strategy is important. Before examining how such strategies could be implemented on Twitter, the next section is going to present the main Twitter features to gain a better understanding of what can be achieved on Twitter. 3.3.5 Joining Twitter

Twitter uses its own terminology; the main vocabulary can be found in appendix A, p.142.

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3.3.5.1 Low barriers to entry and simplicity of use Twitter is a free online service that is easy to join and simple to use; to signup, a user needs to provide their name, a username, password and email address (Twitter 2011).

Figure 3-4: Twitter signup page – Source: Twitter (2011)

3.3.5.2 Create a profile Creating a profile on Twitter is a way to introduce oneself to the Twitter community. Typically, a new user adds information such as their name, website, location, photo/avatar, a biography, a homepage background, etc. All this information is public (unless specified differently) and can be seen on the user‟s profile page (Morris 2010; Lacy 2010; McFedries 2009). The field to provide a website url when setting up a profile assumes that Twitter is used in conjunction with other platforms, supporting the view that for business purposes, it is not a standalone tool. Setting up an exhaustive profile is not mandatory; however, Twitter experts recommend users to detail their profile; having a detailed profile inspires trust and authenticity and, when other users come across a user‟s homepage, they may decide to follow the user if they find their profile information interesting (Lacy 2010; Thomases 2010; McFedries 2009). The previous chapter has established creativity as
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a main skill for GDCs, therefore they could use their creativity to set up a profile that is attractive to followers (e.g. a bio that uses an appealing tone of voice, imaginative homepage background, etc). Figure 3-6 shows an example of profile by Starbucks, that uses their identity (i.e. logo, photo style), which makes them recognisable. They are also creative with their bio, using humour while describing who they are. This is all consistent with their image and brand.

Figure 3-5: Twitter profile example - Source: Twitter (2011)

Upon completion of creating their profile, a new user can start searching for people they would like to engage with on Twitter. 3.3.5.3 Searching Twitter information “Twitter can be a virtual goldmine of information for brands” (Thomases 2010, p.205). Twitter provides its own built-in search tool – “Twitter search” – but many other search tools are also proposed by third-parties. This thesis is not going to list them all and will only present some that are relevant to the research. Twitter search allows users to search on specific keywords and to receive alerts when someone mentions them. This can be of use for any company that wishes to find out what people think of their product/service, to identify the current trends in their field, to understand what their competitors‟ offers are, etc (Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010). Other searching tools, such as TwitterLocal, LocalTweeps or Twellow, for instance, search on location. This particular type of search has been really useful for small local businesses, allowing them to find clients/prospects in their area while monitoring what competitors from the area are doing (Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010).

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From an IGDC‟s perspective, search tools could be used to search for existing clients they want to keep in touch with; to search for prospects or people who mention graphic design services to engage with; to search for experts in areas they feel deficient (e.g. how to effectively communicate the value of design to clients, gain marketing skills) to learn from them. Also, since IGDCs operate mostly locally, local search tools could be valuable to find prospects from the area and to keep informed on what competitors do. As the research has outlined the graphic design market nationally is highly competitive, local search tools could be used to find other markets, outside Ireland. 3.3.5.4 Listening Once a new user has created their account and found people they are interested in, using a research tool, it is essential they start listening to what these people say before actually engaging with them (Evans 2010; Thomases 2010). Listening can help a company to understand the style of language used within communities, what the communities talk about, which competitors are on Twitter and if/how they engage with their audience, etc. A company should spend weeks/months listening before starting conversations (Scanlon and De cited in Roe 2010). Then, when joining the conversation, the dialog can be more interesting and other users are more likely to follow back (Comm 2010). Once IGDCs have found interesting contacts (e.g. prospects, existing clients, printers, suppliers, etc), they can start listening to what these people say before engaging with them and apply their Twitter strategy. 3.3.5.5 Following people After a new user has listened to what these people talk about on Twitter, they can start following them. These people will receive a notification by email saying that the new user is now following them (Lacy 2010; Morris 2010). Having set up a detailed profile is important because users who receive a following notification are likely to check the new follower‟s profile and if they find it appealing they might follow them back.

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3.3.5.6 Engage on Twitter: Tweet After the listening phase, new users can start conversing with users they are following. There are several ways to talk to people on Twitter: @mentions and @replies: when a user wants to mention another user or ask a question to user or reply to a tweet, they use „@username‟ in their tweet. In this case, the tweet is public, and the user‟s followers who can see the message in their feeds (Twitter help center 2011b).

Figure 3-6: @mention and @reply examples – Source: Twitter (2011)

In this example, the user, smart_ideas, contacts designcouncil using an @mention of their name, to ask them some advice about setting up a design network. Then, designcouncil replies to smart_ideas using an @reply, to respond to their question. Direct Messages (DMs): they are private tweets sent to a user that do not appear in the tweeter feeds; therefore, there might be more conversation going on between users that is not publically available (De cited in Kenny 2009; Twitter help center 2011c; Lacy 2010). Retweet: it means forwarding a message; by doing so, a user gives credit to the original sender and shows they respect this person‟s opinion/thoughts. A user whose tweet is being retweeted is notified and might follow back the user who retweeted them. A user whose tweets are often “retweeted” is regarded as influential (Lacy 2010; Thomases 2010).

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Figure 3-7: Retweet example - Source: Twitter (2011)

In this example, smashingmag has shared a link on an article about the design process. cjanuska then retweets it to her own network of followers, sharing new information while showing respect to the people she follows. This enables a user to create a good reputation online. Hashtags (‘#’): hashtags are used to compile tweets on a same topic (Twitter help center 2011d; Thomases 2010). A user who wishes to contribute to a certain topic can use the specific hashtag in their tweet so that their tweet can be added to the topic tweet feed.

Figure 3-8: Hashtag example - Source: Twitter (2011)

This example shows tweets about the world design capital 2014 (#wdc2014) contest. People have shared information on the contest. For instance @redgrey shares a link to an interview of Greenhorn in relation to the #wdc2014, while @andrewboraine congratulates @CapeTownTourism for their approach in the contest. So, relevant information/discussions on this topic can be found by searching for “#wdc2014”.

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The following table summarises the Twitter functionalities previously explained in terms of their general value and potential for IGDCs.

Figure 3-9: Main Twitter functionalities and their potential for IGDCs – Source: Marillet (2011)

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3.4 Twitter strategies for IGDCs
Once companies understand Twitter‟s main functionalities, they can start developing a strategy. The literature identifies four main types of strategies that could be pursued on Twitter:     Manage customer relationship and deliver customer service Build brand awareness and manage reputation Build thought leadership Promote to attract sales

(Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010; Morris 2010) The previous chapter has found opportunities that IGDCs could develop to become more competitive. The following section examines these opportunities to identify the types of strategy that could be implemented on Twitter by IGDCs to address these opportunities.

   

    
Figure 3-10: Twitter strategies to address IGDCs' opportunities - source: Marillet (2011)

IGDCs could pursue any of the following four strategies on Twitter:  Manage customer relationship and deliver customer service

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  

Build brand awareness and manage reputation Build thought leadership Promote to attract sales

The following figure summarises how these four Twitter strategies could be implemented to address each of the IGDCs‟ opportunities:

Figure 3-11: Mapping of IGDCs opportunities and Twitter strategies – Source: Marillet (2011)

Twitter appears to have the potential to address the main IGDCs‟ opportunities. However, IGDCs who wish to implement a Twitter strategy should be aware of the main limitations of the tool.

3.5 Limitations of Twitter
The dominant limitations identified in the literature are:     Audience must be on Twitter Allocation of resources and budget to implement a Twitter strategy Buy-in from leadership and internal empowerment Set up measure to calculate return on investment

(Thomases 2010; Evans 2009; Lacy 2010) A company considering joining Twitter should ensure it is the right fit for them and an important factor to consider before joining Twitter is that their audience has presence on it. The previous chapter has identified that Irish SMEs are the main clients of IGDCs, and that they have not all started realising the potential of Twitter; therefore using Twitter to try and engage solely with Irish SMEs might be of little value for IGDCs. Evidence has already been presented to suggest that IGDCs should take the opportunity to engage with new audiences as well as continuing networking
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with their existing clients. Therefore, IGDCs may want to identify new target audiences that are on Twitter, nationally and internationally. Twitter may be easy to set up but it is harder to design and implement a successful strategy on it. This suggests the importance of resources (e.g. people, time, budget). A company should consider these aspects before joining Twitter. The research has already established that it is unlikely that IGDCs would employ a dedicated staff to the Twitter role; therefore before starting on Twitter, IGDCs should ensure that they have the resources to effectively implement and manage Twitter. A company wishing to join Twitter also requires buy-in from leadership and internal empowerment. This suggests that when a company decides to adopt Twitter, then everyone within the company should support the initiative, from management to staff. Also, everyone who is going to be working with Twitter needs to understand the tool and the strategy the firm is choosing to implement. The previous chapter suggests that IGDCs are small, so it is likely that most staff would have to take part in the Twitter strategy and management should encourage their staff to support the initiative. Finally, Evans (2010) highlights the difficulties of determining the return on investment (ROI) of social media marketing. However, it is a requirement if the company wants to assess their level of success and avoid frustrations. A company must define objectives they want to achieve on Twitter to be able to measure ROI (Thomases 2010; Evans 2010). Evans (2010) suggests a “combination of web analytics, manual interpretation and counting, a calculator, and a spreadsheet are most valuable when measuring social media” (p.118). This suggests there is no standard way to measure ROI that works for any company. Instead, each company must set their own objectives and find creative ways to measure their results on Twitter against those objectives. A mix of analytical, marketing and creative skills seems required to succeed at setting up a framework to measure ROI based on chosen objectives. IGDCs suggested a lack of marketing skills but they usually have good analytical and creative skills, therefore, they may be able to find ways to measure their ROI based on their defined objectives.

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Having discussed the main four strategies that could benefit IGDCs, as well as the key limitations of Twitter as a marketing tool, the next section examines case study examples of companies who have successfully implemented these strategies on Twitter. This is to evaluate if IGDCs could use Twitter in a similar way with a view to gain competitive advantage.

3.6 Case study examples of Twitter strategies
Each of the four strategies is analysed through a case study example of a company who has successfully leveraged Twitter to implement the particular strategy. These examples demonstrate best practice of Twitter implementation. 3.6.1 Manage customer relationship and deliver customer service

To win in today‟s market, companies must build and manage customer relationship (Kotler and Armstrong 2010; Rogan 2007). Build customer loyalty and retention can be achieved through good customer service (Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010; Morris 2010). With Twitter, if the consumer can distil their concern down to 140 characters and get a quick, satisfying, and equally brief solution back […], this is a win-win. (Thomases 2010, p.91) Managing customer relationships and delivering customer service through Twitter is seen as the main strategy on Twitter and many companies who were using call centre to handle customer service have started using Twitter as an alternative solution (Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010). A famous example of customer service strategy on Twitter is Comcast (@ComcastCares), a cable company. They provide customer service to Comcast customers by monitoring all complaints about the brand on Twitter, searching for tweets mentioning their name and other words in relation to their service. So their strategy is to be proactive, searching for customers who have problems using their service before being contacted by them. From their excellent customer service, Comcast have created great relationships with their existing customers and have won new customers (Lacy 2010; Thomases 2010).
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Twitter data: Comcast have created an attractive bio, using a photo of Bill Gerth (the customer service lead) as their avatar to give a human feel to the Twitter account, a background photo with their logo, opening hours, contact details and other web links; their tone of voice is friendly and supportive. They also provide a link to their main website for users who are interested in what they do. Their account was created in 2008, so they have passed the listening phase and are now well engaged with their communities, with 52,870 followers and an average of 41.1 tweets per day. 94% of their tweets are conversations (i.e. @mentions or @replies) (Twanalyst 2011). This data is relevant to the nature of their strategy focused on customer service, providing support to a lot of users, conversing directly to them.

Figure 3-12: Comcastcares example- Source: Twitter (2011)

3.6.2

Build brand awareness and manage reputation

Neumeier (2007) states that a company‟s brand is closely linked to its reputation; they both lie outside the company‟s control, so the best the company can do is to influence what their customers think of them. Twitter is a good tool to assist a company in

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building brand awareness and managing a reputation (Thomases 2010; Comm 2010; Lacy 2010); indeed, Twitter can help infuse and enhance a brand with personality, humanising the brand (Hsieh cited in Thomases 2010). The co-university MBA program by the University of Baltimore and Towson University joined Twitter (@UBTowsonMBA) to “communicate with their current students, prospective students, alumni and other community stakeholders, as well as to build brand awareness” (Thomases 2010, p.122). The program explains on their Twitter profile the reasons they have joined Twitter, specifying the topics they tweet about and have a strategy for following the right people as opposed to making just any connections. They want their real target to be aware of who they are (Thomases 2010). Twitter data: UBTowsonMBA have also an attractive, detailed bio and a link to their main website.

Figure 3-13: UBTowsonMBA example - Source: Twitter (2011)

They joined Twitter early 2009 and are now well engaged with their 1,368 users, tweeting an average of 1.6 tweets per day. Their tweets mostly share links and sometimes conversations (Twanalyst 2011). This data is relevant to the nature of their strategy, focused on brand awareness, for a specific target audience (1,368 followers), providing useful information to them (links, conversations).

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3.6.3

Build thought leadership

“Being a thought leader means you‟re recognized by others as having innovative ideas” (Lacy 2010, p.231). Brands that want to be perceived as leaders in their fields should find Twitter an excellent vehicle to help reinforce this perception. Thought leaders conduct and release research findings, pose evocative questions, and take stances on issues. (Thomases 2010, p.97) According to Thomases (2010) and Ping (2009) ING Direct (@INGDIRECT) shows this kind of leadership on Twitter. Owens (cited in Thomases 2010) admits that their Twitter approach has been “intentionally not what you‟d expect from a bank” (p.313). He adds that their aim was to differentiate from the other banks and because ING Direct see themselves as a “challenger brand” they wanted this to come across on Twitter. To achieve this, for instance, they question controversial news articles, they attract information seekers, they ask pertinent and challenging questions to their followers (e.g. “If you had to ask your significant other to give up one thing in order to save money, what would it be?”) and they share information on their field (Thomases 2010; Ping 2009). Twitter data: ING Direct also have a profile that‟s consistent with their branding, including a detailed bio and a link to their main website. They joined Twitter early 2009 and are now very engaged with their audience, with 18,071 followers and an average of 3.1 tweets per day. The nature of their tweets is mainly conversations and shared links (24%) (Twanalyst 2011). This data is relevant to their strategy focused on thought leadership, providing useful information to each of their followers, asking them questions to engage the conversation and replying individually. Their approach to engaging is very creative; for instance, they ask appealing questions, comment on controversial articles, etc, and hence, generate reactions from their audience.

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Figure 3-14: INGDirect example – Source: Twitter (2011)

3.6.4

Promote to attract sales

Attracting sales leads on Twitter is difficult, as it requires persuading people in a place where they like conversing but hate being interrupted (Lacy 2010). This suggests that companies who wish to use Twitter for such a strategy as promoting to attract sales must be careful and take a clever and creative approach to succeed. An example of company whose strategy mainly relies on using Twitter to promote their business and attract sales is Best Buy (@twelpforce), who “leverages the potency of Twitter‟s real-time public search to identify consumers looking for items that Best Buy sells so that members of the Twelpforce can make contact and tickle them that Best Buy does sell these items” (Thomases 2010, p.93). Twelpforce is also

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available to answer questions, therefore enhancing relationship with their customers and providing customer service. Twitter data: Twelpforce have very recognisable profile, with a detailed bio. They also provide a link to their online store so that users can easily access their products.

Figure 3-15: twelpforce example - Source: Twitter (2011)

Best Buy joined Twitter in 2009 and have since been very active engaging with 36,892 followers and posting an average of 58.9 tweets per day. Their tweets are essentially conversations (Twanalyst 2011). This is relevant to their strategy based on promoting to attract sales and customer service, constantly engaging with users to either promote their products or to support them. 3.6.5 Conclusion on case study examples

The review of the various strategies implemented by four different companies has highlighted four main parameters that can be used to assess the effective use of

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Twitter by companies. The figure 3-12 shows these parameters and their role in assessing the effective use of a Twitter account.
TWITTER PARAMETER PARAMETER ROLE

The creation of an attractive profile with detailed bio and link to main website

To assess the company‟s level of commitment with Twitter

The account creation date

To determine whether the company is in a listening phase or if they are well engaged with their followers

The number of followers

To assess the company's level of engagement with communities and their level of influence

The number of tweets per day

To establish the company's level of engagement with their followers

Figure 3-16: Twitter parameters to assess the effective use of Twitter - Source: Marillet (2011)

After presenting case study examples of companies who have implemented various Twitter strategies, and reviewing the parameters used to assess the effectiveness of their strategies, the next section describes the role of the community manager who is in charge of developing these strategies.

3.7 Competencies of a Community manager
The community manager is the person who oversees the social media initiatives of a company (Thomases 2010; Weinberg cited in Roe 2010). There exist two models for allocating resources to such a role: dedicated or integrated resources. Choosing one model over the other can be dictated by the size of the company (TheAtlantic 2011). For SMEs, who are faced with employee restrictions, it may not prove feasible to appoint a dedicated role, therefore the role is likely to be integrated as part of the current employees‟ functions. Then, for large businesses, managing social media can often be a dedicated role (Roe 2009; Thomases 2010). Yet, some big companies opt for the integrated model. A study was carried out in the airline industry, comparing
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the two models for Twitter. Airlines using the integrated model, encouraging staff from different departments to get involved with the functions of community manager, proved to be more successful at engaging with customers/prospects, than airlines using the dedicated model (TheAtlantic 2011). This may be because current staff come across more „real‟ and genuine as they know the business well, participating in other functions of the business, as opposed to someone who would be hired solely for the social media role. These results are specific to the airlines industry, the finding may apply to IGDCS who are also likely to use an integrated solution for the role of community manager. In relation to the community manager‟s role, Thomases (2010) explains that “not only are community managers responsible for managing how the brand is portrayed and perceived with the online public but they are also responsible for developing and overseeing the execution of strategies that are in constant flux due to the environment in which they‟re being executed” (p.82). This suggests that a community manager must be multitasker and have a varied set of functions and skills. This study has previously suggested the community manager would require skills such as marketing, communication, creativity, IT and analytical skills. This section analyses in greater details the ideal skill set of the community manager. According to Owyang (cited in Thomases 2010) the role of community manager consists in four main functions: Advocate: The main role of the Community manager listen to their communities, monitoring and interpreting what they are saying, as well as engaging with them, responding to their queries and requests (Thomases 2010). Communicator: Internally, the Community manager works with different stakeholders to design, produce and publish the content to keep the information about the brand fresh and current. Finally, they are responsible for managing disputes within the community (Thomases 2010). Evangelist: The Community manager promotes events or products to customers using different tactics such as conversational discussions, for instance (Thomases 2010).

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Futurist: The Community manager helps internal stakeholders to find out what the community would like to see and experience from the brand in the future (Thomases 2010). From the functions outlined above, the main skills required by the Community manager are:          Multitasking Communication skills Marketing skills: understand customer needs, the market, competitors Problem solving and analytical skills Project management skills Strategic development and planning skills Teaming Creative skills PR skills: identify and engage with industry influencers, manage crises

Roe (2010) and Bensen (cited in Thomases 2010) have identified similar skills as well as IT and sales skills. Community manager’s skills versus the skills within an Irish graphic design studio (IGDS) Most of the skills required by a community manager are similar skills to the ones previously identified as necessary by a graphic design studio operating in Ireland, except for the PR skills. Therefore, most of the skills required in an Irish design studio are transferable. The following diagram illustrates what skills required for a community manager role IGDCs have as part of their own skill set and identifies where the gaps are:

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Figure 3-17: Required skill set of a community manager – Source: Marillet (2011)

(*) Communication, marketing and sales skills are also very important skills for a community manager. The previous chapter gave a strong indication that IGDCs lack these skills and require training. This suggests that the lack of communication, marketing and sales skills would not only affect their core business but would also become a limitation if they wanted to implement Twitter successfully. (**) Most likely, IGDCs wishing to join Twitter would require training to acquire the required PR skills. However, the literature has identified that for IGDCs, lack of time and cost are the main barriers for on-going training. This problem was identified when it was suggested that they should train in acquiring skills that are core to their business, therefore for PR skills, a similar issue is likely to arise.

3.8 Summary
This chapter has provided an overview of Twitter. The Twitter functionalities are simple but to use Twitter in a sophisticated way, a company must develop a strategy. This suggests that specific skills to design and implement a strategy are required. These skills were reviewed and are similar to the ones required to run the graphic design process. Therefore the skills previously identified as deficient may become a barrier to developing a Twitter strategy that secures competitive advantage.
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Kenny‟s (2009) research has described the current use of Twitter by IGDCs as “unsophisticated”, suggesting that there is no underlying strategy to their Twitter use. This may also be related to their lack of marketing skills which could be a barrier to an effective implementation of Twitter. However, because social media marketing is not traditional marketing, IGDCs may be able to embrace this type of marketing and implement strategies that can lead to competitive advantage, building on their networking abilities. This review has found strategies that IGDCs could adopt with the use of Twitter to develop the opportunities identified in the previous chapter. Case study examples of companies who have successfully implemented Twitter to develop similar strategies were analysed. Comprehending their approach may be useful to identify what elements could be applicable to IGDCs wishing to implement a strategy via Twitter to gain competitive advantage. The key limitations of Twitter have also been outlined. First, IGDCs wishing to successfully implement Twitter must ensure their target audience is on Twitter; then, they must have the appropriate resources (e.g. people, budget, time) as well as the buy-in from leadership and internal empowerment. As IGDCs will likely integrate the Twitter role to their existing employees‟ jobs, it is important for these employees to understand the strategy they are going to use as well as see the value/return on investment. Finally, the literature has identified that developing an online strategy usually requires more than one social media tool. Therefore, Twitter is more likely to be used in conjunction with another social channel than on its own. This also means that the workload of existing staff is going to increase, hence the importance for them to understand the benefits of such tools and the return on investment. The next chapter explores the concept of competitive advantage and reviews the case study examples from this chapter to identify what is applicable to IGDCs who wish to use Twitter to secure competitive advantage.

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Chapter 4 | Achieving competitive advantage
4.1 Introduction
This chapter examines the concept of competitive advantage and applies it to both the Irish graphic design and Twitter environments. The literature has established that the graphic design market is highly competitive therefore it is essential for IGDCs to implement strategies to secure competitive advantage. Also, the previous chapter has found that Twitter can be used strategically by companies to market their business. Case study examples of companies who have successfully leveraged Twitter in a strategic way were examined in order to identify best practice examples in the implementation of Twitter. IGDCs in general do not use Twitter in a sophisticated way. For this reason, the same case study examples are reviewed in this chapter to assess what elements of the competitive strategies could apply to IGDCs.

4.2 Competitive advantage
Competitive advantage is “an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value than competitors do” (Kotler and Armstrong 2010, p.552). Porter (1980) adds that competitive advantage arises from discovering and implementing ways of competing that can be sustained over time. This implies that rivals should find it hard to replicate competitive advantage; that is when a company can secure competitive advantage. By achieving this, the company creates competitive advantage and the external evidence of such competitive advantage is a lead position in an industry or a market (Rooney 2009; Bamberger 1994). To win in today‟s marketplace, companies must become adept not just in managing products, but in managing customer relationships in the face of determined competition. (Kotler and Armstrong 2010, p.552). They add that understanding customers is essential, but it is not sufficient and “Building profitable customer relationships and gaining competitive advantage requires delivering more value and satisfaction to target consumers than competitors

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do” (Kotler and Armstrong 2010, p.552). This finding is confirmed by Connor (cited in Design Council 2010e) who adds that, in relation to design and branding, competition from various disciplines has arisen, and it is those who understand the clients best and take the conversation to them, who are the most successful. This suggests that gaining competitive advantage is highly related to the ability to create strong relationships with clients. The previous chapters have suggested that IGDCs‟ strategy for winning business focuses on existing client network and that Twitter is a great tool to engage with people and build relationships; therefore, this suggests that IGDCs have great opportunities to achieve competitive advantage through the use of Twitter. Also, the research has found that the graphic design market is highly competitive, therefore it is imperative for IGDCs to secure competitive advantage if they want to survive in a crowded market. In order to create competitive advantage, IGDCs must first decide what competitive strategy they should adopt.

4.3 Generic competitive strategies
Competitive strategies relate to how a company will compete in the marketplace and achieve competitive advantage over its rivals (Thompson et al. cited in Rooney, 2009). Companies can pursue competitive advantage in many ways, on: product quality, product price, product choice, reliability of delivery, reputation of the firm, brand image, competences of workers, customer service, creativity, payment conditions, techniques of production, distribution channels (STRATOS 1990; Rogan 2007). But put succinctly it is by providing their customers with what they need, more efficiently than competitors and this is usually achieved in one of two ways: offering standard product to customers at a lower price or using differentiating method to provide a „better‟ product that buyers are willing to pay a higher price for (Johnson et al. and Thomson Jr. and Strickland III cited in Rooney, 2009). So, competitive strategies are based either on low cost or on differentiation (Porter 1980).

4.4 Competitive advantage on Twitter applied to the context of IGDCs
The previous chapter has identified four main competitive strategies that could be implemented through Twitter to benefit IGDCs:
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   

Managing customer relationship and delivering customer service Building brand awareness and manage reputation Building thought leadership Promoting to attract sales

The literature suggests that these four strategies could be developed through Twitter and lead to competitive advantage (Giesen and Crossfield 2009; Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010; Morris 2010; Comm 2010; Evans 2009). Figure 4-1 maps out the four Twitter strategies with the Porter‟s generic competitive strategies to understand the nature of the competitive strategy to be implemented via Twitter.

Figure 4-1: Twitter competitive advantage types mapped to Porter's strategies - Source: Marillet (2011)

It appears that most strategies identified for IGDCs involve differentiation, except for the strategy based on promoting to attract sales that could involve either differentiation or cost leadership.

4.5 Analysis of the case study examples
This section reviews the case study examples used to illustrate the main four Twitter strategies and examines what elements of these strategies could apply to IGDCs. 4.5.1 Manage customer relationship and deliver customer service

IGDCs seem inclined to network and create relationships. Therefore they could gain competitive advantage on Twitter based on a strategy that involves an effective customer service, providing support and information relevant to their clients. In comparison to the Comcast example, previously discussed, IGDCs do not offer a technical service, therefore their customer service would not focus on fixing technical
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issues. Also Comcast provides customer service to its consumers directly (B2C); IGDCs would not deliver customer service to the design consumers but to the design buyers (B2B). Comcast have dedicated staff for the Twitter role when IGDCs could not afford employ staff for the role. IGDCs could gain competitive advantage based on creating a customer service to stay in contact with their clients to offer after sales service support and to provide relevant information to them on the design solutions they have sold (e.g. assessing if solution proposed works as expected, strategic information on managing brands, etc). The staff who were in contact with the clients when developing the design solution should be the ones engaging them on Twitter, which would work with a Twitter integrated model. Given the nature of such a customer service, IGDCs would not post as many tweets and would not have as many followers as Comcast, but would probably engage them in a similar way (i.e. conversations using @mentions and @replies). 4.5.2 Build brand awareness and manage reputation

IGDCs who use best practice design process to deliver consistently effective solutions to their clients and who have a very distinctive studio culture and individuality, could use their network to build brand awareness and to manage their reputation. Twitter could be used to influence what their clients think of them, by infusing and enhancing the IGDCs brand, letting aspects of their studio culture/personality come across on Twitter, through their tone of voice, the information they share, the connections they make and the conversations they partake. In comparison to the University of Baltimore and Towson University (UBTU), IGDCs do not offer the same type of service and do not target the consumers (B2C) like them. However, the approach taken by the UBTU could apply to the case of IGDCs wishing to gain competitive advantage based on building brand awareness and managing their reputation. Indeed, they could focus on certain topics they want to tweet about and follow and get followed by the right people to make meaningful connections as opposed to mass connections. Targeting the right people would build awareness of their brand among the people they really want to connect with and do business with.
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Similar Twitter analytics could apply to IGDCs including a lower number of followers than Comcast, a couple of tweets per day including links and conversations. 4.5.3 Build thought leadership

IGDCs could gain competitive advantage by developing a strategy through Twitter based on thought leadership. The recognition by clients of those IGDCs‟ effective use of the design process to provide appropriate solutions to design problems could be seen as thought leadership. In addition, IGDCs who could use Twitter to assist in communicating the value of design would be considered as thought leaders. When comparing IGDCs to ING Direct, the main difference is the size (large enterprise versus SME). Also, the type of service is different and ING Direct engage with consumers (B2C). However, ING Direct differentiate from their competitors with a particularly creative way of engaging with clients, therefore IGDCs whose core skills include creativity, could adopt a similar strategy to ING Direct. IGDCs could leverage Twitter to become thought leaders by following a comparable strategy of “challenger brand”. They could share information from their field that helps their clients in making decisions about their brands for instance, question controversial articles about design, brand, etc, attract information seekers and ask challenging questions, as part of their strategy. Given the nature of such a strategy, IGDCs should have similar Twitter analytics than ING Direct: they should be well committed to Twitter and tweet several times a day everyday. But they should be careful, only posting information that is of interest for their followers; their tweets should be conversational and share links or contents to provide useful information to all their followers, asking them questions and engage with them. 4.5.4 Promote to attract sales

IGDCs who can effectively promote the value of design to clients may be able to promote their business through their expertise and hence attract sales. Twitter could be leverage to assist them in achieving this, but attracting sales leads through Twitter is difficult and requires a clever and creative approach. IGDCs whose core skill is creativity may be successful.

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Best Buy (@Twelpforce), used as a case study example, is a large company with employees dedicated to the Twitter role and targets consumers. Therefore their model does not apply to IGDCs. However, the approach used by the Twelpforce who search for users looking for items Best Buy sells and engaging with them could apply to IGDCs trying to sell services to prospects, for instance. Being proactive and showing expertise could be valuable for those IGDCs who wish to leverage Twitter in a view to gain competitive advantage based on the way they promote their business and generate sales leads. In relation to the Twitter analytics, IGDCs wishing to implement a similar strategy should be very committed to Twitter sending several tweets a day, every day to their followers and prospects in a view to promote their services. Their tweets should be conversational essentially and directed to users individually. When engaging with people, they should be careful not to be pushy but instead attempt to create meaningful relationships and show interest in these people they wish to connect with, explaining how they could help. This can also assist IGDCs adopting such a strategy in remaining present in clients/prospects‟ minds, when these require their services. 4.5.5 Potential opportunities to leverage competitive advantage through Twitter From this analysis, it appears that IGDCs have great opportunities to use Twitter to secure competitive advantage. The literature has identified that most strategies of interest for IGDCs are based on differentiation. Indeed, since IGDCs face competition from low-cost operators (InterTradeIreland 2009), such as desktop publishing companies or printers, it is hard to imagine that IGDCs could compete on cost. Therefore, IGDCs could leverage Twitter to implement a competitive strategy based on differentiation and then could choose what advantage to compete over. The diagram below summarises the IGDCs‟ opportunities to secure competitive advantage on Twitter based on Porter's Generic strategies.

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Figure 4-2: IGDCs‟ opportunities in relation to Twitter strategies and Porter's strategies - Source: Marillet (2011)

4.6 Summary
Those who manage customer relationships well are more likely to gain competitive advantage. The previous chapters have established that IGDCs are good at networking and that Twitter is an ideal tool to create and maintain relationships. Therefore, IGDCs have opportunities to create competitive advantage using Twitter. The different types of competitive strategies IGDCs could implement on Twitter to secure competitive advantage were discussed. Case study examples of companies who have leveraged these strategies have been analysed to identify the relevant elements that could apply to the case of IGDCs. This analysis has found that IGDCs could use Twitter in a similar way to secure competitive advantage. A review of the use of Twitter by IGDCs carried out in 2009 had identified that very few IGDCs use Twitter and those who do, used it in an unsophisticated way, suggesting they were not using it to secure competitive advantage. The literature has found no more recent data on the use of Twitter by IGDCs. The current economic situation in Ireland suggests that, in order for IGDCs to survive in a highly competitive market which services can be seen as dispensable in recession times, new ways to win business must be leveraged. Therefore, there is a possibility that more IGDCs have joined Twitter since 2009 and are using it more strategically. The next chapter presents the primary research design, based on the gaps identified from the literature review.

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Chapter 5 | Research design
5.1 Introduction
This chapter concentrates on the design and construction of the research process to successfully answer the research question: How can IGDCs use Twitter to secure competitive advantage. This study evaluates the most appropriate methodology and methods to conduct the primary research, based on the findings identified at the literature review stage. The literature review has provided valuable insight into the key objectives regarding: defining graphic design in the context of the professional practice of a design consultancy in Ireland; exploring the functionalities of Twitter and defining competitive advantage to assess how the Twitter may be leveraged by IGDCs to secure competitive advantage; reviewing case study examples of Twitter strategy best practices; identifying the skill set required to become proficient at Twitter and compare it with the current skill set of IGDCs. The aim of the primary research is to support suggested findings and contextualise data for IGDCs. The data gathered during the literature review and the primary research fieldwork will attempt to identify a framework for the adoption of an effective micro-blogging practice using Twitter to achieve competitive advantage. This chapter discusses the four elements that inform the social research process: epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology and methods (Crotty 1998) and consider them in relation to the research question and related objectives. Therefore this chapter outlines the epistemology and the theoretical perspective that support the research as well as the adopted methodology and methods that inform the approach.
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

EPISTEMOLOGY

METHODOLOGY

METHODS

Figure 5-1: Elements of social research – Source: Crotty (1998)

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Then, the potential methods for this research are discussed in terms of benefits and disadvantages, and justification for the chosen methods is provided with reference to type of primary data being required. The scope of the study is included as well as the ethical issues that impact on the research.

5.2 Epistemology
Epistemology is “the theory of knowledge and how we know things” (Matthews and Ross 2010, p.18). There are three main epistemological views: constructionism, objectivism and subjectivism (Crotty 1988).

EPISTEMOLOGY

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

METHODOLOGY

METHODS

Objectivism

Constructionism
Subjectivism

Figure 5-2: Types of epistemology views - Source: Marillet (2011)

Objectivism is “the epistemological view that things exist as meaningful entities independently of consciousness and experience, that they have truth and meaning residing in them as objects” (Crotty 1998, p.5). This suggests that there is „only one reality‟. In contrast, constructionism holds the view that “there is no objective truth waiting for us to discover it” (Crotty 1998, p.8). The meaning is not discovered; it is constructed out of the subject‟s experiences and interactions with their environment and “it is clear that different people may construct meaning in different ways, even in relation to the same phenomenon” (Crotty 1998, p.9). This suggests that in constructionism, there are „multiple realities‟. Finally, in subjectivism, “meaning does not come out of an interplay between subject and object but is imposed on the object by the subject” and the object makes no contribution to the generation of meaning (Crotty 1998, p.9). Instead the generation of meaning comes from other sources: “from our dreams, or from primordial archetypes we locate within our collective unconscious, … or from religious beliefs” (Crotty 1998, p.9). Therefore, subjectivism

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suggests that human behaviour is based on human perception, and this implies again that there are „many realities‟ stemming from the various perspectives. This study adopts a constructionism epistemological view, as social media experts‟ individual interpretations of the effectiveness in the use of Twitter by IGDCs are examined. These interpretations are constructed from their personal experiences and interactions with these IGDCs/similar businesses using Twitter. The concept of “using Twitter effectively to secure competitive advantage” is continually altered by the evolving world and therefore must be reinterpreted frequently.

5.3 Theoretical perspective
The theoretical perspective is “the philosophical stance informing the methodology and thus providing context for the process and grounding its logic criteria” (Crotty 1998, p.3). There are two main stances: positivism and interpretivism.

EPISTEMOLOGY

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

METHODOLOGY

METHODS

Objectivism

Constructionism
Subjectivism

Positivism

Interpretivism

Figure 5-3: Types of theoretical perspective stances - Source: Marillet (2011)

Positivism explains human behaviour in terms of cause and effect (Crotty 1998). Crotty (1998) states that “positivism is objectivist by definition” (p.12): a positivist stance is related to an objectivism epistemological view as it seeks to make objective claims about the world. Therefore, this type of stance does not suit this research. Interpretivism is when individuals develop subjective meanings of their experiences (Crotty 1998). In an interpretivism stance, the researcher heavily relies on the participants‟ view, which is the case of this research as it seeks information from various social media experts. Therefore, the most valid theoretical perspective for this research is interpretivism.

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5.4 Methodology
The choice of methodology is fundamentally linked and determined by the research question and the objectives (Saunders et al. 2006; Crotty 1998). Wisker (2001) broadly classify research methodologies as: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research is “based on testing a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analyzed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether predictive generalizations of the theory hold true” (Creswell 1994, p.2). On the other hand, qualitative research is based on numbers but is based on understanding meanings/interpretations, and describing and comprehending experience, ideas, beliefs and values (Wisker 2001, p.75). The aim of this research is to determine how IGDCs may use Twitter effectively to harness competitive advantage. The most suitable way to achieve this aim is by: a) Obtaining data on the use of Twitter by IGDCs: verify if their use of Twitter is still unsophisticated or if some IGDCs are using Twitter effectively b) If the research finds IGDCs who have successfully implemented Twitter in a way that they could secure competitive advantage, then, the second step should be to investigate how these companies have achieved this. If not, the second step should look to gain information on the current use of Twitter by small companies in Ireland, highlighting the challenges they may face
Step 2 Option 1 Investigate how these IGDCs have succeeeded Yes Is there a population of IGDCs who use Twitter effectively to gain competitive advantage No Step 2 Option 2 Gain information on the current use of Twitter by small companies (e.g. challenges they face, example of success, in other countries)

Step 1 Obtain data on IGDCs who use Twitter

Start

End

Figure 5-4: Research steps - Source: Marillet (2011)

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This first step involves research based on both quantitative (e.g. number of IGDCs on Twitter) and qualitative (e.g. evaluation of their use) approaches. The second step purely relies on a qualitative approach. Therefore, a methodology based on both quantitative and qualitative approaches seems to be the most appropriate for the study. Then, a methodology can be conducted in various manners: phenomenology, ethnography, etc (Crotty 1998; Denscombe 2001). However, a methodology must be supported by the chosen theoretical perspective stance and the epistemology view – in this case a stance based on interpretivism and a constructionist view – (Crotty 1998).

EPISTEMOLOGY

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

METHODOLOGY

METHODS

Objectivism

Constructionism
Subjectivism

Positivism

Phenomenology
Ethnography Etc

Interpretivism

Figure 5-5: Types of methodology - Source: Marillet (2011)

When a study “describes the meaning for several individuals of their lived experiences of a concept or a phenomenon”, this type of study is called phenomenological study (Creswell 2007, p.60). Phenomenological research is suited to a case “in which it is important to understand several individuals‟ common or shared experiences of a phenomenon” (Creswell 2007, p.60). This research studies the shared experience of the phenomenon – effective use of Twitter – by social media experts. In summary this study leverages a mixed methodology research based on quantitative and qualitative approaches and is conducted in a phenomenological vein.

5.5 Methods
Various methods are available to the researcher. For this particular thesis, the previous section has outlined that the most appropriate way to achieve the aim of this research – assess how Twitter can assist IGDCs to secure competitive advantage – is by:

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a) Obtaining data on the use of Twitter by IGDCs: verify if their use of Twitter is still unsophisticated or if some IGDCs are using Twitter effectively b) Based on the findings from step 1, either investigate the IGDCs who have been successful with the implementation of Twitter or gain information from Twitter experts on how small companies should use Twitter to develop competitive advantage. Methods are sequential. So, to fulfil the first step, the observation survey and the questionnaire methods were considered. As for the second step, the interview and case study methods were examined.
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

EPISTEMOLOGY

METHODOLOGY

METHODS

Objectivism

Constructionism
Subjectivism

Positivism

Phenomenology
Survey research Ethnography Etc

Obs. survey
Questionnaire Case study

Interpretivism

Interview

Figure 5-6: Types of methods - source: Marillet (2011)

It is important to note that each method “has its particular strengths and weaknesses” (Denscombe 2001, p.134). So, the choice of one method over the other is made based on the advantages versus disadvantages of each method in relation to its effectiveness of providing the required data. 5.5.1 Questionnaire versus online observation survey

Questionnaires are one of the most common means of collecting data from research participants (Matthews and Ross 2010, Blaxter, Hughes and Tight 2006). A questionnaire is “a list of questions each with a range of answers” in “ a format that enables standardised, relatively structured, data to be gathered about each of a (usually) large number of cases” (Matthews and Ross 2010). Matthews and Ross (2010) add that all participants answer the same questions, in the same order and from the same set of answers. This suggests the questionnaire method may provide a quick and efficient way to obtain data from many participants. Therefore, using a questionnaire to gather data on IGDCs who are currently using Twitter could be an
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appropriate approach, as it is expected that the population of IGDCs on Twitter is large and the research would want to compare them on the same criteria. However, the use of questionnaires is best suited when “the social climate is open enough to allow full and honest answers” (Denscombe 2001, p.154). For this research, there is a possibility that questionnaire respondents would adjust their responses to appear to do better than what they actually do (e.g. engage a lot more on Twitter in the short period around the questionnaire time), hence impacting the quality of the data. Also, a high probability of unfinished and abandoned questionnaires as well as delays in receiving the questionnaires is expected (Denscombe 2001, p.154). The use of an online observation survey avoids those problems. Indeed, an observation survey does not rely: on what people say they do, or what they say they think. Instead it draws on the direct evidence of the eye to witness events first hand. (Denscombe 2001, p.154) So, bypassing the IGDCs and observing some characteristics of their Twitter accounts, has a higher chance of collecting more accurate data. Also, another advantage of using the observation survey method for this research is that the data can be found by the researcher with a reasonable amount of effort and can then be retrieved easily. Indeed, the data can be extracted without difficulty from the Twitter accounts unless those have been set to private. For the reasons outlined above, the online observation survey method seems to be the most appropriate method to obtain the relevant information on IGDCs engaged on Twitter. 5.5.2 Case study versus interview

To gain information on the current use of Twitter by small companies (IGDCs or other companies, depending on the results obtained from the observation survey), both the case study and the interview methods could provide interesting and relevant data. A case study typically focuses on a single case and the “case is explored in detail and great depth” (Matthews and Ross 2010, p.128).

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The logic behind concentrating efforts on one case rather than many is that there may be insights to be gained from looking at the individual case that can have wider implications, and importantly, that would not have come to light through the use of a research strategy that tried to cover a large number of instances. (Denscombe 2001, p.36) Therefore, an obvious advantage of the case study is the great amount of details the method provides, allowing the researcher to engage in a way that allows a better comprehension of subtleties within the subject. Given the low adoption of Twitter by IGDCs to-date, it has yet to be confirmed that IGDCs use Twitter effectively to secure competitive advantage. If such IGDCs can be identified, then a case study could provide extensive insight into a case where Twitter has been used effectively to secure competitive advantage. Also, another advantage of case studies is that they focus on relationships and processes rather than outcomes and end-products (Denscombe 2001). This indicates that, for this research, the case study could be useful for identifying positive and negative practices at all stages of the implementation of the Twitter strategy. The main disadvantage of the case study method is “in relation to the credibility of generalizations made from its findings” (Denscombe 2001, 45). Yin (2009) explains that generalisation is not automatic and that the findings from the case study must be tested by replicating them in a second or even a third subject, where it was assumed that the same results should occur. Then, the findings can be generalised (Yin 2009). Therefore, such a method might prove too time-consuming for the current research. Also, this assumes that more than one IGDC is using Twitter in a way to secure competitive advantage and this has yet to be proved. Therefore, the case study method is not deemed suitable for this particular research. For the interview method, Matthews and Ross (2010, p.219) define an interview as “a particular type of conversation between two or more people … which usually enables the interviewer to elicit information, feelings and opinions from the interviewee using questions and iterative dialogue”. According to Kvale (1996) “interviews are particularly suited for studying people‟s understanding of the meaning in their lived world, describing their experiences and self-understanding, and clarifying and elaborating their own perspective on their lived world” (p.124). This indicates that the
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interview method would be successful in obtaining the perspectives of IGCDs on their experience with the Twitter implementation or of the social media experts on their experience with helping small companies such as IGDCs to leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage (the choice of the types of interviewees depends on the findings from the survey). Also, interviews are less time-consuming than case studies with the additional benefit of obtaining the information quickly (Denscombe 2001). A disadvantage of interviews though, is that they are not suitable for situations where the study seeks for information from large sample sizes due to the considerable amount of time it would take to conduct such work (Kvale 1996). Kvale (1996) also mentions that the transcription phase and analysis of interviews are time consuming. This should be considered by the researcher when they plan their interview process (e.g. number of interviewees, length of interviews, etc). Another disadvantage of interviews is that the researcher may bias the responses of the interviewee (Creswell 1994). “Ideally, the actions of a particular interviewer will not affect how a respondent answers, and responses will not vary from what they would be if asked by any other interviewer” (Neuman 2006). Consideration is required to ensure that bias is absent from interviews; this can be achieved by building a rapport in advance of the interview and by providing the interview questions/themes that the interviewer would like to discuss. Both methods have disadvantages but, for this study, the interview method is the most suitable as it offers the opportunity to gather in-depth insight form multiple participants within the allotted timeframe.

5.6 Online observation survey
Denscombe (2007, p.8) states that surveys “involve an attempt to provide a snapshot of how things are at the specific time at which the data is collected”. In this case, the online observation survey method enables the researcher to obtain snapshot of the use of Twitter by IGDCs at the time of the research. This study seeks to analyse the attitudes and behaviours of IGDCs in relation to the use of Twitter as a tool to secure competitive advantage.

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In order to use the survey method in an appropriate way, a number of considerations were made with regard to population and sampling, and survey construction. 5.6.1 Population and sampling

Denscombe (2007) explains that one of the main issues in social science is that the researchers cannot collect the data from every instance of the population they are studying. As a result, they select a sample of the population and rely on getting evidence for this sample that can apply to the entire population. 5.6.1.1 Identify the population of IGDCs The first step of this online observation survey is to identify the population of IGDCs, to then verify whether they have a Twitter account or not. A listing of all GDCs operating in Ireland would constitute an appropriate population. However, such listing does not exist. Therefore a full population of all IGDCs is not available and a sample of IGDCs is going to be selected instead. The following approach was taken to identify IGDCs: IGDCs have the possibility to subscribe to Irish design organisations. The main three organisations are the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI), the Design Business Ireland (DBI) and the Institute of Creative Design (ICAD). Therefore a methodological search of all member companies was performed to create a sample of IGDCs (List of IGDCs). The compiled list of IGDCs is available in appendix B. Methodology The ICAD and the IDI accept memberships from various areas of design. As this research focuses solely on graphic design consultancies, only the members in the relevant categories were audited. The 17 IDI members listed under the “Design Management” and “New media” categories were examined to identify if they are using Twitter. Similarly, this study reviewed the 33 ICAD members, listed under “Design & New Media”. Finally, the 38 members of the DBI were also examined. Some IGDCs are members of more than one organisation; therefore, they are included only once in the list of IGDCs. This list contains a total of 75 unique IGDCs.

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5.6.1.2 Identify the population of IGDCs with a Twitter account Twitter cannot provide a list of IGDCs with an account: each user uses their own terms to describe their business in their bio, therefore, unless the researcher knows all the keywords used by IGDCs on Twitter, it is not feasible to extract a list of all IGDCs‟ Twitter account. And since, the list of IGDCs identified in the previous section is not the full population of IGDCs, then the list of IGDCs on Twitter identified from that list will not be the complete population either. Therefore, a sample of IGDCs on Twitter is going to be selected instead and it will be obtained from the list of IGDCs as well as from other sources. The following diagram details the process for identifying the list of IGDCs on Twitter from the list of IGDCs created from the review of the main three design organisations.
START

Process

IDI DBI ICAD databases of IGDC members

List of IGDCs
Action: Select all the IGDCs from IDI, DBI and ICAD

For each entry in the list of IGDCs, run the process “Have Twitter account?”

Action: Select all the IGDCs for which Twitter account? Is “Y”

List of IGDCs with a Twitter account

END

Figure 5-7: Process to identify the list of IGDCs with a Twitter account - Source: Marillet (2011)

For each IGDC listed in the list of IGDCs, the process “Have Twitter account?” searches if they have a Twitter account: it verifies if the organisation (i.e. IDI, DBI or ICAD) provides the IGDC‟s website url and then if the website links to a Twitter account; if not, the IDGC is directly searched on Twitter through Google (query in Google: „IGDC name site:twitter.com‟). Then the list of IGDCs is updated for that IGDC, to reflect whether the consultancy has a Twitter account or not. When all IGDCs, members of the organisations, have been reviewed, a list of IGDCs with a Twitter account is created.

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Process: “Have Twitter account?”

Action: update  Twitter account? to “Y”  Twitter handle to value

From list of IGDCs: Attributes of one IGDC  IGDC name,  website,  Twitter account?  Twitter handle  database source,  comments

Is website available from IDI, DBI, ICAD?

Yes

Is there a link from website to Twitter ?

Yes

No

No

Google search on site:twitter.com

Research parameters:  IGDC name

Action: update  Twitter account? to “N”  Twitter handle to "NA”

No

Does Twitter account exist?

Action: update  Twitter account? to “Y”  Twitter handle to value

Yes

Figure 5-8: Details of the "Have Twitter account?" process - Source: Marillet (2011)

As not every GDC in Ireland is member of these organisations, further research is required. Additional research was carried out to identify more IGDCs with a Twitter account:  Kenny (2009) had identified some IGDCs who were using Twitter at the time of his research; these companies were reviewed to establish whether they were still using Twitter.  A search of IGDCs using Twitter was carried out on the Twitter website through the Google search engine; the following keywords were used: graphic, design, Ireland: „graphic design Ireland site:twitter.com‟. Such a query returns results only from the specified website (i.e. Twitter).
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TwitIreland, a directory of Irish users was also interrogated for IGDCs, using keywords such as „graphic design‟. Only the users who register on this directory can be found; this is not the directory of all Twitter accounts from Ireland.

The ICAD awards accept non-member entries, therefore, the awards nominations were reviewed to identify any IGDCs that would not have been previously found.

Personal network: The researcher‟s Twitter network was also examined to identify any IGDCs on Twitter that would have not been found through the previous methods.

The following table shows how many IGDCs with a Twitter account each source found:

Figure 5-9: IGDCs with a Twitter account, breakdown per source - Source: Marillet (2011)

So a list of 55 Twitter accounts is reviewed as part of the online observation survey in order to identify if any IGDC uses their Twitter account in a sophisticated way to gain competitive advantage. The list of IGDCs with a Twitter account is available in appendix C.

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5.6.2

Information being reviewed as part of the survey

Each of the 55 Twitter account are queried to extract the following information:          Company name Twitter handle Twitter bio (if provided) Website url (if provided) Account creation date Number of tweets Number of followers Number of users followed by the IGDC (i.e. following) Number of tweets per day

Information is retrieved from Twitter through the website, Twanalyst (2011), using a script that automatically populates the required data into an excel spreadsheet (Refer to appendix D). Then, as this research is interested in identifying IGDCs who use Twitter effectively to secure competitive advantage, a set of tests, using the extracted data, are created to evaluate the various levels of „sophistication‟ with which IGDCs engage on Twitter (i.e. if they seem to be using a strategy on Twitter).
START
Process

List of IGDCs with a Twitter account

For each entry in the list of IGDCs with a Twitter account, run the process “Is account sophisticated?”

Action: Select all the Twitter accounts deemed „sophisticated‟ and create list

List of „sophisticated‟ accounts on Twitter

END

Figure 5-10: Process to identify the list of „sophisticated‟ Twitter account - Source: Marillet (2011)

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To identify the list of „sophisticated‟ accounts, four tests have been created. First, the literature has identified that companies who create honest, creative profiles, including a detailed bio and a link to their other social media platforms are more likely to attract followers; having followers enable users to engage with them, which is an important factor of succeeding on Twitter. Also, the literature has established that Twitter is best used to network but it works in a more effective way when used with other social platform (e.g. blog, website). Therefore, test 1 examines whether IGDCs have set up a bio and have provided a link to another of their social media platform. Those who do not fulfil this condition are discarded. Then, the literature has advised new users on Twitter to spend some time listening before engaging with other users. While they are listening, they are not in the phase where they could create competitive advantage. As the listening process can last several months, it was decided to consider only IGDCs whose account was older than six months (test 2). The number of followers can indicate the level of brand awareness and the interest other users have in a particular account. For the four types of competitive strategies IGDCs can implement on Twitter, they require engaging with other users, creating a network; therefore they need a certain amount of followers. Because IGDCs are quite small and would never have the same amount of customers as Comcast or Best Buy, they would hardly have the same number of followers (over 10,000). Therefore, for the purpose of this study, it seems reasonable to set a threshold at 100 followers. Only those accounts with more than 100 followers are considered (test 3). Finally, the number of tweets per day can help assessing whether IGDCs engage with their network by conversing with them or sharing information. As engaging has been outlined by the literature to be an essential criterion to achieve competitive advantage, only IGDCs who have tweet at least once per working day are considered (test 4). The figure 5-12 details the “Is account sophisticated?” process by recapitulating the set of tests used to identify „sophisticated‟ accounts.

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Process: “Is account sophisticated?”

Test 1 Does the Twitter account have a detailed bio and a link to web? No

Discard account

Yes

Test 2 Is account creation date older than 6 months? No

Discard account

Yes

Test 3 Does the account have more than 100 followers? No

Discard account

Yes

Test 4 Does the account tweet at least once per working day (more than 0.7 tweet per day) ? No

Discard account

Yes

„Sophisticated‟ account to review

Figure 5-11: Details of the "Is account sophisticated?" process - Source: Marillet (2011)

Based on the results obtained from running the process, an interview strategy was designed.

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5.7 Interviews
At this stage of the research, the online observation survey has been analysed and based on the findings, the researcher determined that interviewing Twitter experts would provide more valuable data to understand how Twitter can assist IGDCs in securing competitive advantage. 9 accounts of IGDCs were deemed sophisticated as per the process “Is account sophisticated?”. However, the lack of context when analysing the tweets (e.g. unknown strategy, if any; the difficult identification of the followers; is the use of the Twitter account solely for business purposes? Etc) makes the analysis difficult. For this reason, interviewing these IGDCs represents a risk of providing data that could be unusable. Therefore, Twitter experts should be interviewed instead. The purpose of interviewing social media experts is to gain further information on what constitutes best practice in relation to the use of Twitter to harness competitive advantage, and is expected to allow the researcher to compare the current use of Twitter by IGDCs versus best practice. 5.7.1 Themes of the interview

Thematising an interview involves defining the themes of the study that the researcher would like to discuss with the interview participants (Kvale 1996). The literature
review has developed a theoretical understanding of the basics for the phenomenon under review – effective use of Twitter by IGDCs – in order to “establish a base to which new knowledge will be added and integrated” (Kvale 2007, p.39). Four themes were established for the interviews with social media experts, informed by the findings from the literature review and aimed at complementing and enhancing the findings from the observation survey. For each theme, probe questions were prepared to assist in conducting the interviews (see appendix E).

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Figure 5-12: Themes for interviews with social media experts - Source: Marillet (2011)

5.7.2

Interview design

When designing an interview, it is essential to research and prepare prior to embarking on the first interview (Kvale 1996). The interview design is prepared around the four main themes previously outlined. Each theme consists of thematic questions. The thematic questions are outlined in the appendix E. It is envisaged that each interview would last approximately 30 minutes. 5.7.2.1 Selecting a sample of interviewees The sampling method used for selecting interviewees is purposive sampling. In purposive sampling, the researcher: deliberately selects particular ones because they are seen as instances that are likely to produce the most valuable data. In effect, they are selected with a specific purpose in mind, and that purpose reflects the particular qualities of the people or events chosen and their relevance to the topic of the investigation. (Denscombe 2007, p.17) In this instance, participants are chosen based on their knowledge and their experience of social media, Twitter in particular, for business purposes. The interviewees require extensive knowledge of social media and marketing as well as the benefits for small companies. Also, as it appears that most IGDCs use Twitter in an unsophisticated manner, it is valuable to find information from participants engaging in social media outside Ireland.

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Figure 5-13: Selection of potential candidates for interviews – Source: Marillet (2011)

Kvale (1996) mentions that often, the findings from interviews cannot be generalised as too few subjects are being interviewed. Denscombe (2007) explains that to validate the findings obtained from interviews, triangulation can be used: this can mean comparing data from different informants (informant triangulation) or using data collected at different times (time triangulation). For the purpose of this research, to validate and generalise the findings obtained from interviews, three participants are selected, offering the opportunity of informant triangulation. 5.7.3 Relevance and suitability of the interviewees

Figure 5-14 provides the profile of the selected interviewees.

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Figure 5-14: Selected interviewees – Source: LinkedIn (2011a, b, c)

It is expected that interviewees would provide valuable data for this research; the information provided should help build a framework enabling IGDCs to adopt best practices in relation to leveraging Twitter as a tool to secure competitive advantage. 5.7.4 Interview technique

Kvale (2007) suggests that the most favourable way to carry out interviews as part of a qualitative research conducted in a phenomenological vein is by using the semistructured technique. While structured interviews “involve tight control over the format of the questions and answers”, semi-structured interviews still use a clear list of questions to be addressed but the interviewer is prepared to let the participant develop ideas on the points they raised (Denscombe 2007, p.176, Matthews and Ross 2010). So a semi-structured interview: Comes close to an everyday conversation, but as a professional interview it has a purpose and it involves a specific approach and technique; it is semi-structured – it is neither an open everyday conversation nor a closed questionnaire. (Kvale 2007, p.10) Each of the four main themes was composed of a thematic open-ended question and a series of sub-questions, which were only asked if they were not covered by the response to the thematic question.

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5.7.5

Interview situation

All three interviews were conducted using Skype. Face-to-face interviews were not feasible due to schedule and location constraints. Each interview lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. According to Kvale (1996, p.127) “The interviewees should be provided with a context for the interview by a briefing before and a debriefing afterward”. So before the interview, the researcher explained the purpose of the interview and provided an overview of the themes to be discussed during the interview. The interviewees were asked if they had any queries and permission was obtained to record the interview. Each interview was recorder through Skype recorder and transcribed shortly after. During the interviews, the order of the questions was changed to reflect the interviewees‟ responses. Changing the order required the constant focus of the interviewer to ensure that no questions were omitted. Also, as Kvale (1996) suggests, the participant was given the opportunity to cover other areas before closing the interview.

5.8 Validity of results
Validity refers to the accuracy of the data collected by a method (Denscombe, 2007). So, validity “relates to whether a method investigates what it purports to investigate” (Kvale 1996, p122).

The findings from the survey and the responses from the interviews were examined seriously to ensure their validity. 5.8.1 Validity of online observation survey

The full population of IGDCs was unavailable; therefore it is possible that the research has omitted some IGDCs. To mitigate this risk, the research attempted to obtain the full population of IGDCs with a Twitter account. This would not include IGDCs with no Twitter account, but as the research attempts to identify the best practice of Twitter use among IGDCs, IGDCs not using Twitter do not present much interest, other than identifying the percentage of IGDCs who use Twitter. Twitter allows user to describe their business in their own words, as opposed to choosing
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from a list of business categories, therefore, unless the researcher knows all the key words (e.g. graphic design, design agency, branding agency, etc) used by IGDCs to define the nature of their business, it is not possible to obtain the full list of IGDCs on Twitter. Therefore, it is possible that the research has omitted some IGDCs with a Twitter account. Another aspect to consider in the validity of results for the survey is that Twitter allows users to set their accounts to private, hence the information is not available for review. However, the account is not totally invisible to a search and can be found. But as the tweets are not visible, such accounts cannot be assessed for this review. 5.8.2 Validity of interviews

Kvale (2007) explains that oral speech and written texts involve different language styles, suggesting that transcription should be rendered in a more fluent written style. The

recordings of the interviews were clear and noise-free and the transcripts were prepared carefully, ensuring the participant‟s views and sentiments were kept. Denscombe (2007) suggests that the researcher should confirm the interview data with other sources of information on the topic: Triangulation should be used. Documents and observations can provide some back-up for the content of the interview… Interview content can even be checked against other interviews to see if there is some level of consistency. (Denscombe 2007, p.201) Interviewees‟ responses and observations were compared between them and also with the findings from the literature to increase the possibility of obtaining valid data. That way, not only was the data gathered in the interviews triangulated between the three interviews but it was also triangulated with the findings established in the literature review. Triangulating data gathered in the literature review, observation survey and interviews ensures valid assumptions can be made.

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5.9 Ethics
As part of this research, ethical considerations were implemented during the survey and interview phases. Kvale (1996) explains that “informed consent entails informing the research subjects about the overall purpose of the investigation and the main features of the design” (p.112). Participants were initially contacted by email and invited to participate in interviews. The email provided information on the course background, the purpose of the research (research question was outlined), the selection rationale for interviewees and the themes the researcher would like to discuss with them. Their informed consent was indicated by return email.
Another ethical concern is about privacy and confidentiality (Denzin and Lincoln 2000, p. 138). As this thesis seeks to obtain experts‟ opinion on the use of Twitter as a business tool to secure competitive advantage, confidentiality was not possible. As this could lead to an ethical issue if the participants are not willing to have their name mentioned, all the participants were informed prior to the interview that confidentiality was not possible (see appendix F, p.148). Finally, another ethical consideration concerns the accurate transcription of the

interview (Kvale 1996). Each participant was offered to review the transcription.

5.10 Scope
The aim of this research is to establish how Twitter could assist IGDCs in securing competitive advantage. The scope of the study encompasses consultancies providing graphic design services, such as brand identity design, web design, packaging design, etc and who operate in the Republic of Ireland. As it is not possible to obtain a full list of IGDCs with a Twitter account from the application itself (see validity section, p.91), the researcher carried out an organic research, searching for IGDCs using Twitter within different sources (e.g. Google search on Twitter site, TwitIreland). The Google search on the Twitter site, using the keyword „graphic‟, „design‟ and „Ireland‟ would return first the IGDCs on Twitter whose accounts are the most active as the Google search engine algorithm is based on relevance and website activity level. The Google search returned an unmanageable

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number of results, so when the researcher deemed the results to become irrelevant (e.g. accounts did not belong to graphic design companies or were not based in Ireland), they did not continue the review of the subsequent pages returned by the Google search. It was deemed that if an IGDC‟s account was missed because it appeared in the later results on Google, then the account was not active enough to qualify as a best practice example of Twitter use. So, in theory the scope of the study encompasses all IGDCs using Twitter, but in practice some of the least active on Twitter might have been omitted by the Google organic research. The other sources returned a manageable number of results which were all reviewed to identify additional IGDCs‟ accounts.
Due to the time constraint of this project, the primary research consisted of the analysis of 55 Twitter accounts as part of the online observation survey and the conduction and analysis of three interviews with social media experts. Kvale (1996) suggests researchers to interview as many subjects as it is required to find out what they need to know. For this study, an analysis of 55 Twitter accounts through observation survey was deemed sufficient to provide an appropriate snapshot of the use of Twitter by IGDCs. Moreover, three in-depth interviews with Twitter experts from various locations were also deemed appropriate to obtain relevant information to propose recommendations on how IGDCs should use Twitter to secure competitive advantage. With more time, it could have been envisaged to conduct an additional set of interviews with IGDCs who seem to be the most successful at using Twitter among all IGDCs, but who have not fully implemented a Twitter strategy to secure competitive advantage. Their perspectives on their situation could have given valuable information on their greatest challenges and barriers to success.

5.11 Summary
The epistemology of this research is „constructionism‟, as the knowledge gained through the primary research is reconstructed and analysed to allow the researcher to develop theories to explain social issues. The theoretical perspective used for this research is „interpretivism‟: the research question will be addressed through the interpretation by the researcher of the survey results and the interview participants‟ views. The methodology is phenomenological as it considers the shared experiences of the phenomenon „effective use of Twitter‟ by social media experts. Finally, the methods selected for this research are: the observation survey to provide a snapshot of the use of Twitter by IGDCs and the
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interview method to gain a deeper understanding of how Twitter can be successfully leveraged to secure competitive advantage.

Figure 5-15 summarises the research design developed for this thesis.
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

EPISTEMOLOGY

METHODOLOGY

METHODS

Constructionism

Interpretivism

Phenomenology

Observation survey Interview

Figure 5-15: Summary of research methodology - Source: Marillet (2011)

Ethical concerns are considered with regards to primary research fieldwork. The researcher obtained informed consent from interviewees by return email and notified the participants that confidentiality was not possible for this thesis. With regards to
ethical issues relating to transcription, it was offered to participants to review the transcript of the interview. Lastly, the scope of the research outlines the choices made in relation to population size and timeframe available.

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Chapter 6 | Presentation and analysis of primary data
6.1 Introduction
The research design was presented in the previous chapter and provided a rationale as to why the online observation survey and interview methods have been selected for this research. The main objective of this chapter is to present the findings from the fieldwork, obtained by carrying out the survey and the interviews with experts, and to analyse these findings based on the information gathered at the literature review stage. First, the results from the online observation survey provide a snapshot of the use of Twitter by IGDCs (Irish context). This survey has reviewed the Twitter accounts of 55 IGDCs. The literature review, through case study examples, has helped define parameters that may be used to assess the effective use of Twitter by companies. These same parameters (Twitter parameters) were used as part of the observation survey to establish whether IGDCs are using Twitter effectively, implementing a strategy, or if they are using Twitter in a non-sophisticated way. Each section reviews the IGDCs‟ accounts under a specific Twitter parameter and the results are discussed under: background, findings and analysis. The findings from this survey identify IGDCs who are using Twitter the most effectively and those who do not seem to have a strategy for using Twitter. Finally, the data obtained from the survey is analysed in relation to the findings from the literature review. Then, the results of the interviews are presented. The interviewees are David Scanlon, Rachel Clarke and Conor Lynch. The data obtained from the interview is discussed under: background, findings and analysis. The information obtained from the interview allows further exploration, and cross-referencing with the findings of the literature review, in order to create a framework outlining the best practice of an effective use of Twitter by IGDCs. Finally, the chapter summarises the key points obtained during the fieldwork.

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6.2 Findings from online survey of IGDCs’ Twitter accounts
This section presents the results of the survey on the use of Twitter by the IGDCs who own a Twitter account. The findings from the survey are first presented under the four Twitter parameters identified in the literature review:     Creation of an attractive profile with a detailed bio and link to main website Account creation date Number of followers Number of tweets per day

The purpose of the findings is to get an overview of the use of Twitter by IGDCs. Then, the process based on these four Twitter parameters is applied to the list of IGDCs with a Twitter account to provide a list of IGDCs who appear to use Twitter strategically. The list of IGDCs with a Twitter account, that have been reviewed as part of this survey is available in appendix C. The findings obtained from running the script that provides information on the Twitter parameters reviewed for those accounts is available in appendix D. Finally, the IGDCs whose Twitter account met all the four criteria are listed in appendix D. Note: the primary research design has identified 55 IGDCs with a Twitter account out of a population of 98 IGDCs. However, as it was not possible to obtain a full population of IGDCs, ratios on the number of IGDCs who use Twitter versus those who do not may not be accurate, and therefore will not be used for this research. 6.2.1 Creation of a detailed bio and link to main website

6.2.1.1 Background The literature review has found that companies who create an attractive profile, including a detailed bio and providing a link to their main website are more likely to inspire trust and authenticity, and appeal to other Twitter users and hence, be more successful at engaging with them. The survey reviews the 55 IGDCs accounts to find out whether they have created a profile that includes both bio and website link.

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6.2.1.2 Findings The following chart presents the number of IGDCs who have created a detailed bio and provided a link to their main website versus those who have not done so.

Does the Twitter account have a bio and link to main website? 4; 7%

Yes No

51; 93%

Figure 6-1: Creation of a bio and link to main website - Source: Marillet (2011)

Note: all charts display data labels as follows: „number of IGDCs; percentage of total‟ 6.2.1.3 Analysis 51 accounts (93%) have created a bio and have a link to other social platform. This suggests that most IGDCs are aware of the importance of having a bio that explains who they are and a link to their main social platform, so that they can come across committed, genuine and accessible, and hence appeal to other users and be able to engage with them more easily. The literature had identified that IGDCs mainly win business through networking; this survey finding suggests that by creating a detailed profile, IGDCs have been leveraging their networking abilities onto Twitter, and are giving themselves opportunities to engage with and be engaged by other users, maybe with a view to win business. Also, the literature had outlined the importance of the studio culture as a way to differentiate from their competitors. Hence, this current survey finding seems to indicate that IGDCs, by creating their company profile and providing link to their main website, are trying to express who they are and hence to convey their culture.

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6.2.2

Account creation date

6.2.2.1 Background The literature review has identified that before conversing with other users, companies were advised to start by listening to the audience they wish to engage with and this listening phase can last several months. During this phase, companies are not implementing any strategy other than observing. The literature does not allocate a specific length of time for this listening phase, but instead states that it depends on the company; various authors suggest the listening phase could last several weeks or several months (Thomases 2010; Lacy 2010; De cited in Roe 2010); so for the purpose of this research, it was determined that six months should be the maximum the listening phase could last. Therefore, IGDCs who joined Twitter in the last six months prior to this thesis (between February and August 2011) could still be in a listening phase and therefore would have implemented no strategy other than listening. So, the survey reviews the 55 IGDCs‟ accounts for their creation date to identify which IGDCs are likely to have implemented a strategy. 6.2.2.2 Findings This chart presents the IGDCs‟ accounts per creation date.
When was the account created (year)? 2009 and before 2010 2011 17; 31% 34; 62%

4; 7%

Figure 6-2: Account creation date - Source: Marillet (2011)

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Most IGDCs in the survey joined Twitter in 2010 or before. A total of four IGDCs created their accounts in 2011. Three of them were created within the past six months. 6.2.2.3 Analysis For the three accounts created within the last six months, further analysis of their activity shows that they have never tweeted or have tweeted only a few times. So, this may indicate that IGDCs owning these accounts are still in their listening phase, hence following the best practice of starting on Twitter. There is also the possibility that these accounts are dormant accounts that the IGDCs are not going to use. All the other accounts were created in 2010 or before, so these IGDCs should have implemented a strategy by now, if they are using Twitter effectively. 6.2.3 Number of followers

6.2.3.1 Background The literature review has identified that usually, after the listening phase, new Twitter users start following the people they find interesting and engaging with them. In return, these users are likely to follow them back. Whatever Twitter strategy IGDCs wish to implement on Twitter, they require this engagement with other users, creating a network, therefore they need a certain amount of followers. So, to some extent, the number of followers a user can indicate if a user is engaging with other users on Twitter. Also, the number of followers may indicate the level of brand awareness for a company. However, analysing a Twitter account just based on the number of followers might not be an appropriate approach, as in some cases users might start following a lot of users, adding everyone they can, without really engaging with anyone and get followed back by some of them; this would increase their number of followers but the Twitter approach would be unsophisticated (Thomases 2010; Evans 2010). In this research, the number of followers is combined with other parameters to enable an objective approach in assessing the level of effectiveness with which IGDCs use Twitter. Because IGDCs are quite small and would never have the same amount of customers as Comcast or Best Buy (case study examples), they would hardly have the same number of followers (over 10,000). Therefore, for the purpose of this study, it seems

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reasonable to say that an IGDC who has over 100 followers is starting to build a good network on Twitter, and this may indicate that they are trying to use Twitter in a sophisticated way. Under 100 followers, an IGDC may have just left the listening phase and be in the process of building their network, or is not using Twitter as a strategic tool. 6.2.3.2 Findings The following chart shows how many followers follow IGDCs‟ accounts.
How many followers follow IGDCs' accounts?
1; 2% Less than 100 followers 7; 13% Between 100 and 500 followers Between 501 and 1000 followers 26; 47% 21; 38%

More than 1000 followers

Figure 6-3: Number of followers of IGDCs - Source: Marillet (2011)

6.2.3.3 Analysis Nearly half of IGDCs reviewed as part of this survey have less than 100 followers. This suggests that either they are just coming out of the listening phase and are building their network or that they are not intending to use Twitter strategically. On the other hand, 38% of IGDCS have between 100 and 500 followers and 15% have more than 500 followers. This finding seems to indicate that these IGDCs have successfully transferred the networking capabilities that they usually use to win business. For the 15% IGDCs who have more than 500 followers, the finding may also suggest that their communication and marketing skills have improved and they have used them to successfully engaged with other users.

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6.2.4

Number of tweets per day

6.2.4.1 Background The literature has established after the listening phase comes the engaging phase, where Twitter users start following and conversing with other users, hence creating a network. Engaging is required for any type of strategy a company would want to implement on Twitter. After examining at the number of followers, another parameter to be reviewed is the number of tweets a user creates per day. This helps assess the level of engagement on Twitter. There are no guidelines on what is considered good when it comes to the number of tweets per day. For the purpose of this study, based on the review of case study examples and other examples found as part of this research, it was determined that an average of one tweet per day (five tweets per week) or more shows a good level of engagement. Note: further analysis of the types of tweets created by IGDCs will be carried out later in this section. 6.2.4.2 Findings This chart shows the average number of tweets IGDCs create per day.
How many tweets per day do IGDCs create?

4; 7% 5; 9% 14; 26%

No tweet per day Less than 1 tweet per day Between 1 and 2 tweets per day More than 2 tweets per day

32; 58%

Figure 6-4: Tweets per day by IGDCs - Source: Marillet (2011)

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6.2.4.3 Analysis 4 IGDCs (7%) tweet in average more than 2 tweets per day. This suggests that these companies are very active on Twitter, engaging with their network. Then, 5 other IGDCs (9%) tweet between once and twice a day, hence, they are quite active on Twitter too. These findings may indicate that these IGDCs are trying to use Twitter in a strategic way. 14 IGDCs (26%) have an average of zero tweet per day. Further analysis of their account creation date shows that 3 of them were created within the last year (after August 2010), so they may still be in their listening phase. For the other 11, the finding seems to indicate that these IGDCs are not planning on using Twitter in a sophisticated way. An additional 32 IGDCs (58%) tweet less than once a day. Further analysis of those IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts shows the frequency of tweet per week:
How many tweets per week do IGDCs who tweet less than once a day create? 16 14

12
10 8 6 4 2 0
Less than 1 1 tweet per 2 tweets per 3 tweets per 4 tweets per tweet per week week week week week

Number of IGDCs with x tweets per week

Figure 6-5: Tweets per week for IGDCs who tweet less than once a day - Source: Marillet (2011)

Since, they have started tweeting, these 32 IGDCs are not in the listening phase anymore. The above results show that most of them are still quite shy on Twitter: 20 out of 32 (63%) tweet once a week or less than once a week and 12 (37%) tweet more than once a week. Further analysis of these accounts creation date shows that 2
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accounts were created in 2011 and hence might be just out of their listening phase, hence the reason for not engaging greatly with their network yet. Then, 10 of the 32 accounts were created in 2010; the owners of these accounts might have left the listening phase late 2010 or early 2011, hence the reason for their shy engagement on Twitter. Finally, 20 out of 32 accounts were created in 2009 or before, then the low level of engagement of these IGDCs seems to suggest that they are not using Twitter strategically. 6.2.5 Process

6.2.5.1 Background The process “Is account sophisticated?” – Detailed in the research design section – uses four tests based on the four parameters:     Creation of an attractive profile with a detailed bio and link to main website; Account creation date; Number of followers; Number of tweets per day.

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Process: “Is account sophisticated?”

Test 1 Does the Twitter account have a detailed bio and a link to web? No

Discard account

Yes

Test 2 Is account creation date older than 6 months? No

Discard account

Yes

Test 3 Does the account have more than 100 followers? No

Discard account

Yes

Test 4 Does the account tweet at least once per working day (more than 0.7 tweet per day) ? No

Discard account

Yes

„Sophisticated‟ account to review

Figure 6-6: Process to identify best use of Twitter by IGDCs population - Source: Marillet (2011)

6.2.5.2 Findings This process was applied to the population of IGDCs with a Twitter account to identify if any were using Twitter strategically and the following results were found:

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   

Test 1 discarded 4 accounts with no bio or no web link. Test 2 discarded 1 additional account with a creation date within the past six months prior to this thesis being written. Test 3 discarded an additional 22 accounts which had less than 100 followers. Test 4 discarded another 19 accounts that did not tweet at least once a day.

A total of 46 accounts were discarded as part of this procedure, leaving 9 accounts of potential interest for this research. To identify which IGDCs are using Twitter strategically and hence, to assess those who could potentially be interviewed as part of this research, the 9 accounts were reviewed for the types of tweet they use. The literature has established that for a company to use Twitter strategically, they must engage with communities and that to engage with them, a user could use various types of tweets:      Conversation (@mentions) Share links/contents Retweet Include hashtags DM

Note: DM cannot be examined as they are personal messages from one user to another. The tweets on the user pages were examined and it was found that IGDCs seem to engage well with their networks; indeed, a lot of conversations with individuals and companies happen. The conversations are casual and can be questions, congratulations, statements, sharing information, etc. However, when reviewing the information shared on Twitter by those IGDCs, a number of issues were identified:    It is not possible to establish whether the users IGDCs talk to are existing/prospective clients. It is not clear whether the account is used solely for business purposes or if it can also be used by the individual to connect with their own friends. A lot of tweets are duplicated for certain accounts, therefore it is hard to assess if it is an accident or if it is some sort of spam.

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Sometimes, when reading a conversation between an IGDC and a contact of theirs, it is hard to understand the context of the conversation.

6.2.5.3 Analysis Through the review of these 9 accounts, the study identified that these IGDCs engage well with their audience. However, it seems difficult to assess the effective use of Twitter by IGDCs based on their engagements because the researcher does not know who the followers of IGDCs are (e.g. clients, prospects, friends, fans, etc) and if the account is being used for business purposes or if it is a mixed business-personal account. Also, the lack of context for the various conversations between IGDCs and their contacts makes it challenging to understand what is being discussed. When examining the case study examples as part of the literature review, the researcher knew what strategies the companies under review were implementing. Therefore, knowing a company‟s strategy on Twitter allows the researcher to “read” the Twitter actions and understand how they apply to the strategy. However, not knowing the strategy renders the analysis of the Twitter actions difficult. When comparing IGDCs‟ Twitter actions with the actions performed by the companies reviewed in the case study examples, they seem similar, using @mentions, sharing links, retweeting, etc. However, the tweets seem less business focused in general and includes a lot more personal/general information (e.g. “I am sick”, “Welcome back to the real life in Ireland”). So, it seems fair to say that these 9 IGDCs are using Twitter with a certain level of sophistication. However, this level is not the best practice level identified when reviewing the case study examples. Therefore, selecting companies among these 9 IGDCs for interview purposes might not add much value to this research. Based on the analysis of these findings, the researcher chose to interview social media experts to gain valuable information that would help draw a framework of best practice use of Twitter for IGDCs. 6.2.6 Summary of findings from online survey

55 accounts owned by IGDCs were reviewed against four criteria: presence of a bio and link to main website; account creation date; number of followers; number of

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tweets per day. From this review, it appears that IGDCs are using Twitter with varying degrees of success. Indeed, out of 55 IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts reviewed, 46 were deemed to use Twitter in an unsophisticated way. This supports the findings in the literature review that state that the Irish graphic design sector is not engaging strategically with social media and Twitter in particular. The other 9 accounts that met all four criteria were then reviewed individually for the types of tweet they used. Then, the research identified a number of issues (e.g. followers are unknown by the researcher, is the account solely used for business purposes? Etc) which highlighted the difficulties of giving an external assessment for a Twitter account without knowing the strategy used by the account owner. For this reason, since the time allocated to this research does not allow to interview both IGDCs and social media experts, to ensure the quality of the data gathered at interview stage, interviews with social media experts was chosen.

6.3 Findings from the interviews with social media experts
The literature review has assisted in identifying the best practice use of Twitter while the online survey has assessed how IGDCs use Twitter. This current section provides the findings from the interviews with social media specialists, who are aware of the Twitter best practices but also have firsthand knowledge of how businesses carry out their Twitter activities. The interviews were carried out under four main themes: background and field of expertise of the interviewees; Twitter as a social media tool; Using Twitter as a marketing tool successfully to leverage competitive advantage; Effective

implementation and management of Twitter by businesses. Then, at the end of the interview, the participants were asked if they wished to add any points that they felt were important to mention. The data gathered through the interview is presented and analysed by theme and is discussed under the following heading: background, findings and analysis.

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6.3.1

Background and field of expertise of interviewees

6.3.1.1 Probe questions    Could you briefly outline your current job role and functions? What particular areas of social media are you dealing with as part of your job? What types of companies/clients do you work with?

6.3.1.2 Background The first theme has the role to establish the interviewee‟s background and field of expertise. Allowing the interviewees to talk about an area they are familiar with helps put them at ease and also helps build a relationship with the interviewer. In general, this theme assists the interviewer in understanding the nature of the interviewee‟s work and allows the interviewer to customise the following questions based on the interviewee‟s experience. Finally, finding out about the areas of social media the interviews deal with and the clients they work with can help understand if the information they provide could apply to IGDCs. 6.3.1.3 Findings Each interviewee presented their background, outlining their job role and their experience with social media. Scanlon works at Enterprise Ireland, a government funded semi-state agency that helps export focused companies. Scanlon‟s group (Internet Marketing Unit) advises management of companies specialised in manufacturing and service, on the available online strategies, including social media. Clarke is the Head of Engagement Intelligence at Momentum UK, an integrated marketing agency. As part of their role, the Engagement Intelligence team provides social media services to large clients essentially. Clarke has been working within the social media area for over seven years and has spent time with various agencies in the UK and in America, advising all sorts of clients on their social media strategy.

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Finally, Lynch is the owner of Connector, a social media agency that provides mostly training and consulting services to Irish SMEs and start-ups mainly. Lynch has been working in the online marketing sector for over 12 years, working with various digital and online marketing agencies before setting up his own business. 6.3.1.4 Analysis The three interviewees have been working in the area of social media for quite a number of years and their experience should be valuable for this research, providing more personal views on how businesses could effectively exploit Twitter. Scanlon‟s job role within Enterprise Ireland illustrates the Irish government initiatives to support Irish companies leveraging online media to become more competitive. Since Scanlon is working with various Irish companies – some of them in the service sector – his views on the use of Twitter by Irish companies should prove useful to understand the use of Twitter within the context of the Irish service sector and hence the findings from the next questions could be beneficial for IGDCs. Similarly, Lynch‟s experience with Irish SMEs also should assist this research in getting valuable information on the Irish context for the use of Twitter by Irish SMEs. Having spent a lot of time helping various types of clients/companies leveraging social media, Clarke has acquired extensive knowledge of social media. Having practiced in the UK and in America, her views should offer additional value to this research in confirming the best practice principles of implementing Twitter as a marketing tool to leverage competitive advantage. 6.3.2 Twitter as a social media tool

6.3.2.1 Probe questions    What would you attribute to the success of Twitter as a social media tool? Use of Twitter in [Ireland/UK] in relation to other countries? Are you aware of culture having any impact on the prevalence/popularity of Twitter within countries?

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6.3.2.2 Background The purpose of this theme is to gain insights and expert perspectives on the Twitter phenomenon. It is because of Twitter‟s success as a social media tool that companies began to adopt it for business purposes. Gaining views from experts can be compared with literature findings and establish consensus on Twitter‟s potential. 6.3.2.3 Findings According to Scanlon, the ability to listen into conversations can explain the success of Twitter. He adds that businesses can listen into conversations from customers, competitors or other stakeholders from the industry for instance, and this presents a goldmine for them. Then he explains that before Twitter, no one had “such an opportunity to tap into what people are thinking about [their] industry and [their] sector” (Scanlon, appendix G, p.150). So, in his opinion, this listening aspect of Twitter is the reason for the adoption of Twitter by businesses. Clarke feels that the success of Twitter could be attributed to its simplicity of use and the fact that it “fulfils a need for gossip, it fulfils a need for ongoing conversation” (Clarke, appendix H, p.158): people can decide to listen or can decide to participate in the conversations. Then, from a business perspective, Clarke thinks that companies attribute the success of Twitter to the fact that it allows them to share information with their clients, prospects and other stakeholders, and engage with them. Lynch thinks that Twitter became popular because it facilitates open and interactive dialogs and communication between groups of people on various mobile platforms. Lynch, like Clarke, feels that sharing information, contents and ideas easily is the main reason why Twitter became popular with businesses. When comparing the use of Twitter in Ireland and in other countries, Scanlon thinks that the Irish use is similar to the one of other European countries, especially when it comes to SMEs. Scanlon explains that it is because “Twitter matches the way they tend to market themselves and tend to do networking” (Scanlon, appendix G, p.151). In comparison to the US, both Scanlon and Lynch feel that Ireland is trailing a bit; the main reason, according to Scanlon, is that the US have a different approach when it comes to selling and marketing themselves; he adds that they tend to do a lot of selfpromotion and self-branding at individual level, therefore a tool like Twitter is ideal for them. Europeans, on the opposite, are not so oriented towards these practices and
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therefore, they might not understand the value of Twitter straightaway. Lynch holds a similar view; he also adds that Twitter, like many other social media, are American, and were made for them initially, so this might have an impact of their higher usage. So according to Scanlon and Lynch, there is a cultural factor that impacts on the use of Twitter within countries. By reviewing how brands promote their use of Twitter (e.g. on TV programs, marketing materials), Clarke feels that the use of Twitter by businesses in the UK, Ireland and America is quite high. She also thinks that culture has an impact on the popularity of Twitter within countries, explaining that a country, where people are open and comfortable engaging with strangers and building relationships, is naturally going to adopt Twitter. 6.3.2.4 Analysis Various reasons were attributed to the success of Twitter: the simplicity of use, the listening aspect and the conversation aspect. These suggest that people and businesses are attracted by the idea of engaging with each other and a tool that provides this is going to be popular. Furthermore, if the tool in question is easy to use and accessible everywhere, its popularity will increase. The literature had identified the ease of use and accessibility, as well as the engaging aspect as factors of success for Twitter, therefore, the views from the interviewees confirm these previous findings. Then, when comparing the use of Twitter in Ireland with other countries, interviewees‟ experience is similar to what the literature had highlighted: the use of Twitter in Ireland and in the UK is similar but its use in the US is higher. Finally, all three interviewees agreed there is a cultural factor that impacts the prevalence of Twitter within countries and, cultural aspects such as openness and confidence may be valuable assets for using a tool such as Twitter at both personal and professional levels. This finding may explain why the US, whose people are used to self-promoting and self-branding at a personal level, have well adopted Twitter. The reasons outlined for the successful adoption of Twitter by people and businesses are also valid for IGDCs. A review of the use of Twitter performed in 2009 had found a low level of adoption of Twitter by IGDCs (Kenny 2009); this may be explained by a cultural phenomenon by which Irish people are not used to promote themselves at a

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personal level, the same way the Americans do it; therefore, at a business level, it may take more time for them to adopt tools like Twitter. The online observation survey carried out as part of this research has identified more IGDCs using Twitter than there were in 2009. Even though, most of them still use it in an unsophisticated way, the fact that the numbers have increased may evidence that IGDCs have started to realise Twitter‟s potential or feel they should be using but are not sure why. 6.3.3 Using Twitter as a marketing tool successfully, to leverage competitive advantage 6.3.3.1 Probe questions       Given the success of Twitter, do you think companies can leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage? Are there any companies worldwide that you feel are currently using twitter effectively? Are you aware of any Irish/UK companies that are achieving similar success? What criteria would you use to determine whether a company is effectively using Twitter (e.g. Twitter analytics)? In your opinion how do you think a company should measure return on investment (ROI)? Given the adoption of Twitter worldwide, do you think a company can use Twitter to capture or access wider markets? Any examples? 6.3.3.2 Background The purpose of this theme is to gain expert perspectives on the use of Twitter as a marketing tool. Hearing their experience and views on how companies can harness competitive advantage using Twitter can be crosschecked with the findings from the literature and establish consensus on the potential of Twitter as a marketing tool to secure competitive advantage. 6.3.3.3 Findings The three participants agree that companies can leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage. Lynch feels that it is possible if a company builds communities and keep engaged with them by using innovative campaigns. Scanlon

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states that Twitter is an essential tool for businesses but he also acknowledges that it may be difficult for some companies to take the step and join Twitter, as it is a non traditional marketing tool or because they may not have the appropriate resources for it. But he insists on the huge opportunity that Twitter offers to businesses to listen to what their various stakeholders are talking about; for example, they can listen for brand mention and take opportunities to respond, or for new markets opportunities by listening to what people say about their competitors and engaging with these people. Finally, Clarke has a similar viewpoint and adds that from a customer‟s perspective, they will be more likely to spend money on a brand with whom they have engaged online, through social media; she adds that Twitter offers this great opportunity to businesses to engage with their existing and prospective clients. About the companies who are currently using Twitter effectively, Scanlon mentions Realex Payment, an Irish online payment processing company who has leveraged Twitter to do customer service. According to Scanlon, by being very active at taking queries and supporting questions from their customers on Twitter during business hours, they have been very successful. Throughout the interview, Clarke mentions companies who have successfully leveraged Twitter in various ways to market themselves and be more competitive. She gave the examples of Vodafone and British airways in the UK who have been using Twitter successfully as a customer service tool. She then explained how companies like Dell and Sony were using Twitter for sales generation, after having hugely engaged with their customers and prospects. Her last example was a small company in the UK called Diablo Skinz who make covers and designs for gadgets like iphones, ipads, etc and she explains that they have raised brand awareness through Twitter and have got business by having Twitter relationships. Finally, Lynch gives the example of KLM who had a very innovative campaign where they gave very customised presents to their passengers based on a previous investigation on Twitter of what they were talking about; their aim was to get brand awareness and it succeeded as they received a huge coverage in various other traditional media. According to the three participants, there are many ways Twitter can be used to gain competitive advantage, but the underlying reason for success is the consistent high level of engagement with communities.

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In relation to the criteria that could be used to determine how effectively a company is using Twitter, all three participants suggest it is difficult unless you know the company‟s business objectives. Without understanding the context, only an external view can be done. Although the approach is not perfect, Scanlon proposes to use a mix of parameters that can be used in a consistent way to compare accounts: level of engagement, types of tweets, retweet, influence tools (e.g. Klout). Clarke presents similar parameters and also recommends reviewing the number of followers and the number of following. Finally, Lynch also proposes to review the number of tweets, the joining date and to actually read the tweet themselves. When it comes to measure ROI on Twitter, all participants agree that it is a difficult exercise. It is hard to measure the value of building relationship. They explain that measuring ROI should be linked to the business objectives. They believe that companies should focus on measurable goals. Scanlon uses examples to illustrate this point: calculate the web traffic that is going from Twitter to their corporate website. For companies wishing to use Twitter for customer service purposes they could compare how much time they usually spend fixing with Twitter and without Twitter. Lynch also suggests using tools such as Google analytics to track scientifically where users are coming from, what links they click on, etc. In relation to capturing wider markets using Twitter, the three interviewees believe it is achievable. Clarke explains though, that it is really based on getting awareness and that if a designer has built a relationship with prospective clients overseas, they may consider him/her if they need services, but she does not believe Twitter is a “I need this now, I am going to search for it” type of tool (appendix H, p.161). Both Scanlon and Lynch mention that capturing wider markets should be part of the company‟s business plan and the company should ensure that they have the proper resources to deal with customers prior to leveraging Twitter to engage with overseas prospects. 6.3.3.4 Analysis In accordance with the literature, all three interviewees think companies can leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage and have given their own examples of Irish/English companies who they feel have successfully achieved this. Companies adopting Twitter should implement a strategy for their use of Twitter. Customer

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service, brand awareness, thought leadership and sales generation were mentioned as strategies used by companies through the various examples given by the participants. Interviewees confirmed that the success of these companies‟ strategy relies heavily on their level of engagement with their communities. Determining whether a company is using Twitter effectively solely through the data analytics (e.g. number of followers, types of tweets, retweet) can prove difficult without knowing the company‟s business objectives. This finding explains the difficulty encountered when analysing the observation survey results and also strengthens the rationale of interviewing social media experts rather than those IGDCs that would have been deemed successful at using Twitter based on solely those data analytics. All participants agreed that measuring ROI on Twitter is difficult and companies should focus on measurable goals that meet the business objectives. This viewpoint is in line with the findings from the literature review. Finally, all three interviewees think Twitter can be used by companies to capture wider markets, so this supports the findings from the literature review. The participants have suggested such companies should manoeuvre with caution though. First, accessing overseas markets should be part of their business plan and therefore Twitter should only be one tool of their strategy. Also, as part of their plan, companies should ensure they have enough resources to support this new market in order to succeed and keep their reputation. Finally, it was reminded that being successful on Twitter stems from building relationships and therefore, whether the market is local or overseas, companies must engage with their audience and create strong relationships before they can become successful. If some Irish companies have successfully leveraged Twitter to secure competitive advantage, then there are opportunities for IGDCs to do so. The previous analysis applies to IGDCs. The literature had identified that the Irish graphic design sector is very competitive and an opportunity identified for IGDCs was to try and access overseas markets. It appears that Twitter can be leveraged in this respect but IGDCs should ensure that they plan an overall business strategy around capturing wider

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markets if they want to be successful. Also, if they wish to exploit Twitter strategically, they should be able to measure their ROI on Twitter by setting up measurable goals that meet their business objectives. These findings suggest that IGDCs will need some business skills such as strategic planning, marketing, communication, etc and the literature had identified that IGDCs lack these skills. At this stage it seems difficult to imagine implementing a strategy that involves Twitter without the required business skills. For this reason, IGDCS may find it challenging to leverage Twitter as a marketing tool. 6.3.4 Effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses

6.3.4.1 Probe questions      In your opinion, what are the best practices for an effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses? Do you feel implementing Twitter is more suited to a particular type of company? Do you think the effective implementation and management of Twitter is limited by the company size/structure? Do you feel Twitter can be managed by existing staff in terms of workload? From your experience, do you think a company who wish to secure competitive advantage can implement Twitter on its own? Or should they implement other social media channels?    Which social media channel would complement Twitter best? What are the key skills that a company should have to manage Twitter? What importance would you place on marketing skills?

6.3.4.2 Background The purpose of this theme is to gain insights and expert perspectives on the best practice principles for an effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses. An effective use of Twitter can assist a company in securing competitive advantage. Gaining opinions from experts can be compared with the literature findings and can establish a consensus on the best practices for a successful implementation and management of Twitter.

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6.3.4.3 Findings All three participants agreed that best practice principles for a successful implementation and management of Twitter involves, first, treating Twitter as a proper business development tool, allocating the proper amount of time in training to ensure staff understand Twitter, understand the rules and engage with

customers/audience appropriately. Then, Scanlon and Clarke suggest that it is essential there is buy-in from management and that an internal culture is developed, for companies to be successful at Twitter. Scanlon adds that everyone within the organisation should know what social channels are being used by the company and who is responsible for them. Clarke and Lynch also warn companies to really think whether Twitter is the solution for them, by ensuring their audience is on it. When asked if they felt Twitter was more suited to a certain type of companies (e.g. product/service, B2B/B2C), all participants responded that Twitter can be used successfully by any type of companies. Clarke adds that it is about understanding what Twitter can do for the company and implementing the right strategy. Then, participants felt that the size or the structure of a company should not limit the effective implementation and management of Twitter. Clarke adds it “is limited by the company will. And then, do they want to do it? If they want to do it, they will get it done.” (appendix H, p.162). According to both Scanlon and Lynch, the sector that has the most presence on Twitter in Ireland seems to be the service sector, particularly companies selling technology, digital media and marketing services. In relation to existing staff managing Twitter within the company, all participants believe that for small companies, an integrated model is positive and can be achieved as long as time is allocated to it. Scanlon discusses the point further and explains that experts within the business should be encouraged to participate on Twitter: “You want their voice, their experience, their understanding to serve Twitter” (appendix G, p.154). According to him, that is the way the company‟s personality can come across on Twitter and this can be achieved easily as part of an integrated social media model, where existing staff take on the Twitter role. Lynch suggests that the Twitter account

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could be shared by different people within the company to divide the additional workload. On the matter of using Twitter on its own to secure competitive advantage, all three participants believe it would be difficult. From Clarke‟s perspective Twitter should be used as part of the marketing mix; she explains that a company must have a strategy to let people know that they are on Twitter, and it might be through other social channels or through more traditional media (e.g. touch points). Scanlon builds on to that and states that in relation to another social channel that would complement Twitter well, LinkedIn would be a good candidate for a company using a B2B model; he explains that these two channels would have different types of communities on it and while the company is engaging on Twitter with clients/prospects for instance, they can use LinkedIn to showcase the capabilities of their staff and then further conversation can happen on LinkedIn. Finally, Lynch believes that the ideal complement to Twitter is a blog; he explains that “blogs are the engine of social media because that is where you are putting your message” (appendix I, p.168). Finally, in relation to the key skills required to implement and manage Twitter, the three participants believe that having people skills is key to be able to communicate and engage with other users and come across natural and genuine. Then, Scanlon and Clarke mention the importance of understanding the business and being aware of the risks linked to publishing contents on Twitter in relation to the company‟s image and reputation. Then, Clarke and Lynch believe understanding the technologies and the internet is essential to use Twitter effectively. Lynch also emphasizes the importance of being creative, by creating catchy tweets and innovative campaigns to attract attention. He also suggested that sales and support skills are essential. Finally, in relation to marketing skills, the interviewees think they are essential to create the strategy and, Clarke adds they are also important to understand marketing opportunities involved when talking to other users. 6.3.4.4 Analysis According to participants, the best practice principles for a successful implementation and management of Twitter are to treat Twitter as a real business development tool by allocating appropriate resources, to get internal buy-in and culture, and finally to

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ensure that Twitter is the tool the company needs (e.g. audience might not be on Twitter, another social channel might be more suitable). The literature had identified the limitations to a successful implementation and management of Twitter as being: appropriate allocation of resources and budget, buy-in from leadership and internal empowerment, and audience must be on Twitter. Therefore, the findings from the interviews match the findings from the literature. As suggested by the examples found in the literature, the interviewees confirmed that in their experience, they type of company, its size or its structure does not seem to limit its success on Twitter. An integrated model where existing staff add on the Twitter role to their current roles enables them to talk about things they are experts at and hence, allows for the company to come across more human and more authentic. The literature had raised the importance for a company to be authentic on Twitter, by being honest about who they are, by engaging in genuine conversations with people. So it appears that using an integrated model could also improve the level of authenticity for a company on Twitter. The interviewees confirmed the findings from the literature that using Twitter on its own to achieve competitive advantage was difficult. Also, some interesting perspectives were gained on the social media that complement Twitter best. The literature had identified various skills required as part of the community manager role. Among those, marketing, communication and sales skills were identified as challenging for IGDCs. All three interviewees presented communication and marketing as essential skills to implement and manage Twitter effectively. During the interviews, skills such as IT, creativity, business skills were also highlighted as important by the participants. These had been outlined by the literature review. No new skills were identified during the interview. This suggests that most of the main skills required to successfully implement and manage Twitter have been identified during this research. This analysis is relevant to IGDCs. Indeed, IGDCs who wish to exploit Twitter strategically should follow the best practice principles of implementation and
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management of Twitter. If they wish to target the service sector, as the opportunity was suggested in the literature, Twitter is a suitable tool for them, as it appears that in Ireland, the most present sector on Twitter is the service sector; so their audience is using the tool. Then, they should ensure that there is internal buy-in by management; most likely, given the small size of most IGDCs management will be involved in the Twitter initiative. According to the interviewees, the company size and structure are not factors that limit their Twitter success. So even though most IGDCs are small they should be able to use Twitter effectively if they have the will. But, they should allocate adequate resources for Twitter; it is likely that IGDCs would choose an integrated model, so they should ensure their existing staff are given enough time and understanding for their Twitter role if they want to succeed. Then, interviewees suggested that to leverage competitive advantage, it was difficult to use Twitter solely and suggested that other media would be used. A blog was cited as one channel that complements Twitter well. Most IGDCs reviewed as part of the survey have a blog/website, therefore this increase the opportunities of leveraging social media to secure competitive advantage. Finally, marketing and communication skills were highlighted as being crucial in the implementation of a Twitter strategy and the management of Twitter; therefore, as IGDCs have identified they lack these skills, it seems essential that they address them if they wish their Twitter initiative to be successful. 6.3.5 Closing the interview

Participants were asked if there was any other comment they would like to make on the subject, but they appeared satisfied with their input and had nothing to add at this stage. 6.3.6 Summary of findings from interviews

The data obtained from the interviews with social media specialists supports the information gathered at the literature review stage and during the online survey. The three participants have various experiences within the social media area and have strong knowledge of best practices when it comes to the implementation and management of Twitter, which achieves the aim of conducting these interviews.

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Twitter as a social media tool This study has identified various reasons that could be attributed to the success of the social media tool Twitter. First, its simplicity of use and the fact it is accessible from various mobile platforms have eased the adoption of Twitter. Then, as more people joined Twitter, businesses identified opportunities in joining Twitter themselves. Indeed, the listening aspect of Twitter has enabled businesses to observe their consumers, clients, prospects and other stakeholders before they could engage with them in a sophisticated way. The various experiences of the interviewees have also confirmed that the use of the social media tool Twitter in Ireland reflects the European use but is lower than in the US. All interviewees believe there is a cultural factor that could influence the prevalence of Twitter within countries and that this could explain its higher use in the US where people have a culture of promoting and marketing themselves. Using Twitter as a marketing tool successfully to leverage competitive advantage There is strong evidence presented in this study to indicate that Twitter can be used as a marketing tool to leverage competitive advantage. Both the literature and the interviewees presented diverse examples of companies who had successfully achieved this, using various strategies. Customer service, brand awareness, thought leadership and sales generation were mentioned as the main strategies used by companies to secure competitive advantage. Interviewees confirmed that the success of these companies‟ strategy relied heavily on their level of engagement with their communities. All three participants pointed out that calculating ROI on Twitter was difficult but essential; they hold a similar view to what was identified in the literature in that companies should focus on measurable goals that meet their business objectives (e.g. attract people more to their main website, hence they should measure the traffic coming from Twitter). The interviewees also believe Twitter can be used as a marketing tool by companies to capture wider markets, which is in line with the findings from the literature. However, it was suggested that such companies should ensure that their overall business strategy aims at extending their target market and that all marketing tools including Twitter should be used as part of that strategy. Also, interviewees reminded that to be successful on Twitter it was essential to build and

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nurture relationships and therefore, whether the market is local or overseas, companies must engage with their audience and create strong relationships before they can become successful. Finally, the interviewees suggested that determining whether a company is using Twitter effectively solely based on the data analytics can prove difficult without knowing their objectives. This explains the difficulties encountered when carrying out the online survey of IGDCs Twitter accounts, hence this finding strengthens the rationale of interviewing social media experts rather than those IGDCs that would have been deemed successful at using Twitter based on solely those data analytics. Effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses Conformingly to the findings from the literature review, the best practice principles for a successful implementation and management of Twitter highlighted by the interviewees are: to treat Twitter as a real business development tool by allocating appropriate resources; to get internal buy-in and culture; to set up measurable goals to be able to calculate ROI; and to ensure that Twitter is the solution for the particular company (e.g. audience might not be on Twitter, another social channel might be more suitable). Then the interviewees highlighted that the size or the structure of a company does not dictate success on Twitter. For small companies, an integrated model where existing staff takes on the Twitter role seems appropriate and has proven successful for many companies. Additionally, interviewees indicate that by using such model using their existing employees, the company comes across more human and genuine on Twitter, which help them to engage more successfully. So this suggests that IGDCs have potential to become successful using Twitter. Also, interview participants agreed that in Ireland, the sector that is most present on Twitter is the service sector, which is a sector that was identified by the literature as an opportunity for IGDCs to engage with. Then, the interviewees confirmed that using Twitter on its own to achieve competitive advantage was difficult and channels such as blogs and LinkedIn were identified as complementing Twitter best. Finally, the communication and marketing skills were highlighted by the interviewees as being key to successfully implement and manage Twitter, confirming the findings from the literature review.

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6.4 Summary
The findings from this chapter help build on the information gathered during the literature review stage. Indeed the primary research seeks to further support the theories highlighted by the literature and this is achieved by analysing the results from the survey carried out on the use of Twitter by IGDCs and the findings from the interviews with social media consultants. The literature outlined Twitter practices that apply in an American context mostly whereas the findings from the primary research provide an Irish context. The research examines the use of Twitter by IGDCs and assesses their use based on the four criteria identified during the literature review: the presence of a bio and link to main website; the account creation date; the number of followers; the number of tweets per day. Then the research establishes how the Twitter best practices suggested by social media experts in Ireland and the UK compare with those highlighted by the literature review, with a view to propose a framework for IGDCs to successfully implement and manage Twitter. The survey of 55 IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts suggests that IGDCs are using Twitter with varying degrees of success, with 46 out of the 55 being deemed as using Twitter in an unsophisticated way. The other 9 seem to be using Twitter in a relatively sophisticated way (but not to best practice level). When reviewing these 9 accounts for the types of tweet they used, the research identified various issues that rendered a definite assessment impractical. Indeed, assessing the effectiveness of Twitter use without knowing what strategy/objectives a company is following makes the review difficult. This finding was later confirmed by the interview participants. The social media specialists interviewed as part of this research provided data on the Twitter practice within Ireland and in the UK. First, they identified various reasons for the success of Twitter as a social media tool; its simplicity of use and the fact it is accessible from various mobile platforms have eased the adoption of Twitter; then, the listening and conversational aspects of Twitter have been identified as great opportunities for businesses who want to engage with their various stakeholders. Then, the interviewees provided examples of businesses in Ireland/Europe who are

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successful on Twitter. Based on these examples and on the examples examined as part of the literature review, there is strong evidence to indicate that Twitter can be leveraged by Irish companies to secure competitive advantage. To successfully implement and manage Twitter, the interviewees highlighted the following best practice principles: to treat Twitter as a real business development tool by allocating appropriate resources; to get internal buy-in and culture; and to ensure that Twitter is the solution for the particular company. They also outlined that to be successful on Twitter, the listening aspect as part of any Twitter strategy is crucial before engaging with other users. The next and final chapter of this study presents the conclusions of this research and propose recommendations for IGDCs who wish to leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage.

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Chapter 7 | Conclusions and recommendations
7.1 Introduction
The aim of this study is to establish how Twitter can assist IGDCs in securing competitive advantage. To achieve this, the research intends to provide IGDCs with best practice guidelines in relation to successfully leveraging Twitter in a strategic way. The data gathered in the literature review and in the primary research has been presented and analysed previously. The first chapter had defined four main objectives to address in order to answer the research question. So, this final chapter presents the conclusions of the research in relation to those objectives and provides recommendations for IGDCs who wish to leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage. The conclusions summarise the key findings from both the literature review and the fieldwork. Then, based on these conclusions, the recommendations are presented as actions that IGDCs should follow in order to implement Twitter to secure competitive advantage. Finally, the chapter concludes with the identification of areas of further study that could complement the current research, and ends with a final summary.

7.2 Conclusions and recommendations
7.2.1 Conclusions

7.2.1.1 Objective 01 Establish what is meant by the term graphic design within the scope of this study and contextualise this within the professional practice of an IGDC operating in the current sector, with a view to identify opportunities that such IGDCs could develop to secure competitive advantage. This literature has established graphic design as a service, supported by a design process that heavily relies on consultation with the client. This helps the creation of relationships between IGDCs and their clients, and using such a process also presents

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those IGDCs as experts. In the current economy, it is important for IGDCs to be competitive, and being a good networker and being seen as a specialist in their field can help. Also, this research has strongly evidenced that the main way IGDCs win business is through their network. Therefore, since Twitter enables users to engage and converse with each other, it is seen as a valuable tool for those IGDCs who want to build stronger relationships with their network, with a view to become more competitive. Many IGDCs are chasing the same work within the same sectors in Ireland. Therefore the market is highly competitive. So, to secure competitive advantage, IGDCs may consider opportunities to broaden their target market to other sectors in Ireland and overseas. The studio culture of an IGDC is an essential part of the personality and individuality of the consultancy. So it may be used as an element of differentiation when the consultancy is marketing their business to try and gain competitive advantage. The literature has strongly established that a large set of skills are required by IGDCs to carry out their day-to-day activities, but that these prerequisite skills are not a given. Indeed, some IGDCs have admitted they have deficiencies in the areas of sales, marketing and communication, which are essential skills for the design process and for running the business. This finding indicates that IGDCs may struggle with their core business as well as with promoting the value of their service, and winning competitive advantage may be challenging. 7.2.1.2 Objective 02 Investigate the current concepts of micro-blogging as a means of social media marketing and determine what specific skills and competencies are required for graphic design consultancies to implement and manage Twitter as a marketing tool. Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that is simple to use and easy to access from multiple platform. However, the literature has found that to use Twitter in a sophisticated way, a company must develop a strategy. This finding is heavily substantiated in the data acquired from interviews with social media specialists.
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The popularity of Twitter varies from one country to another; the use of Twitter in Ireland is comparable to other European countries but is lower than in the U.S. Cultural factors may explain these variations in popularity within countries. The adoption of Twitter by IGDCs has increased since 2009, in accordance with the overall use in Ireland. However, most IGDCs are still leveraging Twitter in an unsophisticated way, without using a clear strategy. Also, Irish SMEs, the main clients of IGDCs, have shown a slow adoption of the tool. On the other hand, the service sector which has been identified as a great prospect for IGDCs is the sector with the most presence on Twitter. Developing a strategy suggests that specific skills are required. These skills were reviewed and are similar to the ones required by IGDCs to run their design process. Therefore the skills previously identified as deficient (i.e. marketing, communication and sales) may become a barrier to developing a Twitter strategy that secures competitive advantage. However, because social media marketing is not traditional marketing, IGDCs may be able to embrace this type of marketing and implement strategies that can lead to competitive advantage. The literature has identified that Twitter is best used in conjunction with other social channels as part of an overall strategy. Due to a lack of resources (e.g. staff, budget, time), SMEs like IGDCs cannot leverage many social media tools. The way they would usually implement social media is by using an integrated model whereby existing staff take on the social media role on the top of their other functions. This finding was confirmed through interviews with social media specialists. The literature and fieldwork have recognized the key limitations of Twitter as: audience must be on Twitter; treat Twitter as a business tool by allocating the appropriate resources (e.g. people, time, budget); obtain buy-in from leadership and internal empowerment; set up measurable goals to calculate ROI. 7.2.1.3 Objective 03 Define competitive advantage in the context of marketing and identify what types of competitive advantage can be achieved through Twitter to establish ways IGDCs could best leverage Twitter.
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The literature has identified that those who manage customer relationships well are more likely to gain competitive advantage. IGDCs are inclined to network with their clients and Twitter is a great tool to enable the creation of such relationships, so these findings indicate that IGDCs have opportunities to create competitive advantage using Twitter. Interviews with social media specialists strongly support the fact that Twitter can be used as a marketing tool to secure competitive advantage. Various competitive strategies using Twitter were reviewed and it was identified that the success of any strategy relies on the level of engagement of the company with its communities. The most appropriate competitive strategies IGDCs could implement on Twitter to secure competitive advantage were determined based on the IGDCs‟ opportunities identified during the literature review. These are based on: managing customer relationship and delivering customer service; building brand awareness and managing reputation; building thought leadership; and promoting to attract sales. 7.2.1.4 Objective 04 Examine current case study examples of businesses that follow the best practice principles for an effective use of Twitter, to identify any relevant elements for IGDCs. Once the research had identified the various types of competitive strategies IGDCs could implement on Twitter to secure competitive advantage, case study examples of companies who have successfully implemented these strategies on Twitter were searched in the literature and analysed to identify the relevant elements that could apply to IGDCs. These became best practice examples. The review of these companies‟ Twitter strategy and account analytics identified four main parameters that could help assess how effectively they are using Twitter: the presence of a bio and link to main website; the account creation date; the number of followers; the number of tweets per day. Then, these four parameters were used when reviewing IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts. But it was found that these parameters were not sufficient to assess effectively a company‟s level of success using Twitter. Social media specialists confirmed this and added that the assessor must have knowledge of the strategy the company under review has implemented on Twitter to be able to assess the effectiveness of their Twitter use.
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When comparing the use of Twitter by IGDCs with these case study examples, it was found that IGDCs are still using Twitter in an unsophisticated manner, with 84% (46 out of 55) of the IGDCs‟ Twitter accounts not being used strategically. The other 9 IGDCs appear to be using Twitter with a better level of success, but not as well as the case study examples, which suggests that no IGDC seems to be using Twitter in line with best practice. 7.2.2 Recommendations

Based on the conclusions outlined in the previous section, recommendations for IGDCs to successfully leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage are presented. Recommendation 1: Develop a social media strategy Before adopting social media in general, IGDCs should assess how they would fit within their overall business strategy. Then they should define a social media strategy and associated objectives. The choice of using Twitter should be made depending on whether it is the right tool to achieve those objectives. The research has found that IGDCs have the potential to create competitive advantage using Twitter; therefore, if Twitter fits the social media strategy, IGDCs should leverage it. Recommendation 2: Turn IGDCs’ opportunities into competitive advantage using Twitter IGDCs mainly win business through their network so they could leverage Twitter to help them remain in contact with their existing network and manage customer relationships. Additionally, IGDCs could leverage Twitter to create new networks. Indeed, as the design market is highly competitive, to secure competitive advantage, IGDCs need to broaden their target market. They should examine opportunities to work with other sectors in Ireland (e.g. service sector), to engage with prospective clients overseas and/or to collaborate with other design firms/partners abroad. Twitter could help them to achieve this. But, IGDCs who wish to leverage Twitter to capture wider markets should be aware that there are cultural factors that influence the popularity of Twitter within countries. Therefore, they should investigate the prevalence of Twitter within
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the targeted country before joining Twitter. Also, IGDCs need to remember that their overall business strategy should align towards entering wider markets. IGDCs who wish to enter new markets, could use Twitter to start engaging with their overseas prospective clients/partners but should also ensure they have the appropriate resources to fulfil the demands and satisfy their overseas clients. IGDCs should create a strong studio culture to help them differentiate from their competitors and to be easily recognised by their audience. Twitter could be a tool on which IGDCs exhibit their culture and personality through the use of their brand identity, a distinctive tone of voice, etc. IGDCs should promote their expertise using a design process as a selling tool. Indeed, the use of such tools could assist in presenting IGDCs as specialists in their field. Twitter could assist IGDCs in promoting their expertise and knowledge of design best practice. Most IGDCs have recognised lacking marketing, communication and sales skills. These skills are required for their core business as well as to promote the value of design to clients, which is vital to remain competitive. Therefore IGDCs who wish to become more competitive should consider addressing them. In addition, these skills are critical to successfully implement and manage Twitter, so by addressing them, they would be able to use Twitter effectively to promote their services. Finally, they should also investigate ways to acquire PR skills, which are essential for an effective management of Twitter. Recommendation 3: strategies for IGDCs to implement on Twitter Based on which opportunities IGDCs would like to develop into competitive advantage, they can implement various strategies. The research has identified four main strategies IGDCs could implement on Twitter to secure competitive advantage: managing customer relationship and delivering customer service; building brand awareness and managing reputation; building thought leadership; and promoting to attract sales. Again, which strategy IGDCs choose should depend on their overall business strategy.

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Recommendation 4: Twitter as part of a social media suite Another point to be considered by IGDCs is that Twitter should not be used on its own. Indeed, IGDCs who wish to adopt Twitter should remember that Twitter is part of the overall business strategy and that, other social channels should also be used with it. Social media experts suggest that blogs and Linked In are channels that complement Twitter well, for B2B companies. Therefore, IGDCs should also examine these various media when implementing their social media objectives. Recommendation 5: Be aware of Twitter main limitations Before deciding to adopt Twitter, IGDCs should also be aware of its main limitations. First, they should ensure their audience is on it. Then, they should get buy-in from management and create an internal culture where everyone in the firm understands the Twitter initiative and is supportive of it. Next, they should treat Twitter as a business tool and allocate the appropriate resources to it:  Assign the most suitable people to implement and manage Twitter: decide between a dedicated or an integrated model. Due to the size of IGDCs and the economic situation in Ireland, it is most likely that IGDCs would adopt an integrated model; then, they should select the right staff to take on the Twitter role.   Allocate the right amount of time for staff to train and then to carry out their Twitter role. Provide a budget for the Twitter initiative.

Lastly, they should set measurable goals that meet their Twitter objectives to be able to calculate ROI and avoid the frustration of not knowing if their Twitter efforts are valuable. This is particularly important since there is a great chance that the Twitter role would increase the workload of existing staff in the Twitter integrated model. The following diagram summarises the points recommended to IGDCs to successfully leverage Twitter.

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Overall Business Strategy
ALIGN

IGDCs opportunities

Social Media Strategy Social Media Suite Other Social Media
ADDRESS

TWITTER

ADDRESS

Twitter Limitations

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Figure 7-1: Summary of recommendations for an effective use of Twitter - Source: Marillet (2011)

7.3 Further study
Social media is a vast topic. It covers a huge landscape of channels that are being gradually adopted by businesses for social media marketing purposes. A lot of titles are available on the various topics of social media but because it is a recent technology all the same, there is still space for further study, especially when focusing on specific tools within a specific country. Therefore, the following research possibilities could be undertaken. This current research was carried out from the IGDCs‟ perspective. An examination from the client‟s perspective could find similarly interesting results that could help IGDCs to shape their services to their clients‟ needs. Indeed, clients of IGDCs could be interviewed to understand their engagement with social media and their expectations from the various social channels with regards to their relationships with service providers such as IGDCs.

ACHIEVE

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Another research could explore the ideal set of social media tools for IGDCs to secure competitive advantage. Because it was difficult to identify IGDCs who used Twitter effectively, the proposed study might encounter the same issues. However, it is possible that outside Ireland, some bigger GDCs are successful with their social media initiatives and could therefore be ideal candidates to interview with a view to draw a framework on the best practice implementation and management of social media for a GDC. Also, another study could examine the current use of social media by IGDCs. This would provide a snapshot of the involvement of IGDCs with social media in general and help understand their biggest challenges to see how these could be addressed. Similar businesses that have successfully leveraged social media could be interviewed on the challenges faced by IGDCs to identify solutions that could apply to IGDCs.

7.4 Summary
The aim of this research was to establish how Twitter can assist IGDCs in securing competitive advantage. To achieve this, the literature was interrogated to comprehend the IGD sector and their main attributes, to gain an understanding of Twitter and how it can be leveraged strategically and to become familiar with the notion of competitive advantage and the various competitive strategies. Then, the primary research assisted in analysing the current use of Twitter by IGDCs. It also helped gather viewpoints from various social media specialists on the best practice principles of a successful implementation and management of Twitter. The analysis of the use of Twitter by IGDCs indicates that the sector is underutilising the full potential of Twitter. IGDCs need to take a more sophisticated approach to Twitter and use it as a marketing tool if they want to gain value from it. The interviews carried out with social media specialists helped established a consensus with the data gathered during the literature review and enabled a framework of best practice implementation and management of Twitter to be drawn. IGDCs who have identified Twitter as a potential tool to implement as part of their business strategy should set Twitter objectives that fit with the overall strategy. Then, they should ensure their audience is on Twitter. After that, they should identify other
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social channels that complement Twitter best, again in relation with their business strategy. Also, IGDCs should ensure they get buy-in from management as well as an internal culture that supports the Twitter initiative. Then, the appropriate resources and measurable goals to calculate ROI should be put in place. Then, if IGDCs feel they lack the marketing, communication and sales skills required to effectively use Twitter, they should consider training plans. IGDCs have the potential to successfully implement and manage Twitter, but they need to follow a framework like the one detailed in this chapter and customise it to their needs, based on the strategy they are aiming for.

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Appendices
Appendix A: Twitter terminology

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Appendix B: List of IGDCs (from IDI, DBI and ICAD sources)
Irish graphic design company Website url under review Twitter account? (Y/N) Y Y Y N Y N N N Y Y N Y N N N N N Y N N Y Y N N N N N N Y N N N N Y Y Y Y Twitter handle Source

The Brand Union Threesixty ICAN Old Hat Design Associate 20-20 Vision Baseline Blink Design Catalysto Ltd Clickworks Creative Inc Dara Creative Design Factory DesignBank Ltd Design Ink Designworks Dolmen Drawinginc Eamon Sinnott and partners Form Frank Fuse Graphic Design Ltd Huguenot IDEA Janus Design Konnect Media Martello Media Mesh Design Consultants Neworld Associates Pica Design Principle Profiles Design and Marketing Ltd Proviz Design and Visualisation Rain Design Partners Raven Design Red Dog Roomthree Design

http://www.thebrandunion.com/ http://www.threesixty.ie/ http://www.ican.ie/ http://www.oldhat.ie/ http://www.designassociates.ie/ http://www.2020vision.ie/ http://www.baseline.ie/ http://www.blinkdesign.ie/ http://www.catalysto.com/ http://www.clickworks.ie/ http://www.creativeinc.ie/ http://www.daracreative.ie/ http://www.designfactory.ie/ http://www.designbankltd.com/ http://www.designers-ink.ie/ http://www.designworks.ie/ http://www.dolmen.ie/ http://www.drawinginc.ie http://www.sinnott-design.com/ http://www.form.ie/ http://www.frankideaworks.com/ http://www.fuse.ie/ http://www.huguenot.ie/ http://www.idea.ie/ http://www.janusdesign.ie/ http://www.konnectmedia.com/ http://www.martellomedia.com/ http://www.meshdesign.ie/ http://www.neworld.com/ http://www.pica.ie/ http://www.principle.ie/ http://www.profiles.ie/ http://www.proviz.ie/ http://www.raindesign.com/ http://www.ravendesign.ie/ http://www.reddog.ie/ http://www.roomthree.com/

http://twitter.com/#!/thebrandunion http://twitter.com/#!/wearethreesixty http://twitter.com/#!/icanadvertising NA http://twitter.com/#!/designAssoc NA NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/catalystoltd http://twitter.com/#!/clickworksirl NA http://twitter.com/#!/daracreative NA NA NA NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/drawinginc_ie NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/frankideaworks http://twitter.com/#!/fuse_design NA NA NA NA NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/neworldigital NA NA NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/raindesign http://twitter.com/#!/ravendesign1 http://twitter.com/#!/reddogdublin http://twitter.com/#!/RoomthreeDesign

DBI ICAD ICAD ICAD DBI DBI DBI DBI DBI, ICAD DBI, ICAD DBI, ICAD DBI DBI DBI DBI DBI, IDI, ICAD DBI DBI DBI DBI DBI, IDI DBI DBI, IDI DBI, ICAD DBI DBI DBI, IDI DBI DBI DBI, ICAD DBI DBI DBI DBI DBI DBI, ICAD DBI

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Irish graphic design company Website url under review

Twitter account? (Y/N) Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y N N Y N Y N Y N Y Y N N N N N Y Y Y N N Y Y Y N N N N

Twitter handle

Source

Source Design Consultants Ltd Totem Visual Communcations Zebedee Marketing and Design BradleyMcGurk Partnership Dynamo BFK Bristle Bird FWD Frameworkdesign Webfactory Process Pixel Design X Communications Light box Tibus Hoopla Associate Atelier David Smith Cody Delahunty Detail Design Studio Dynamite Fresh Design Image Now Imagination Design Junior Kunnert & Tierney Language Littleseal Design Studio Milk Nick van Vliet Design Origin Red & Grey Design Resonate Design Scale Swollen Yellowstone Communication Zinc Design Consultants

http://www.sourcedesign.ie/ http://www.totem.ie/ http://nutshell.ie/ http://www.bradleymcgurk.com/ http://www.dynamo.ie/ http://www.bfk.ie http://www.bristlebird.com/ http://www.frameworkdesign.ie/ http://www.webfactory.ie/ http://www.process.ie/ http://www.pixeldesign.ie/ http://xcomms.ie/home.aspx http://www.lightbox.ie/ http://www.tibus.com/ http://www.hoop-la.ie/ http://www.associate.ie/ http://www.atelier.ie/ http://www.codydelahunty.com/ http://www.detail.ie/ http://www.dynamite.ie/ http://www.fresh.ie/ http://imagenow.ie/ http://www.id-mp.com/ http://www.studioaad.com/ http://www.kunnertandtierney.com/ http://www.language.ie/ http://www.littleseal.com/ http://www.milk.ie/ NA http://www.origin.ie/ http://www.redandgreydesign.ie/ http://resonate.ie/ http://www.scale.ie/ http://www.swollen.ie/ http://www.yellowstone.ie/ http://www.zinc.ie/

http://twitter.com/#!/sourcedesignd2 http://twitter.com/#!/TOTEMVisCom http://twitter.com/#!/NutshellCork http://twitter.com/#!/bradleymcgurk NA http://twitter.com/#!/bfkdesign NA http://twitter.com/#!/FrameworkNews http://twitter.com/#!/webfactoryirl NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/xcommunications NA http://twitter.com/#!/tibus NA http://twitter.com/#!/weareassociate NA http://twitter.com/#!/codydelahunty http://twitter.com/#!/Detail_DS NA NA NA NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/ChrisKunnert http://twitter.com/#!/robinhegarty http://twitter.com/#!/Ronandevlin NA NA http://twitter.com/#!/originstudio http://twitter.com/#!/redgrey http://twitter.com/#!/resonatedesign NA NA NA NA

DBI DBI DBI IDI IDI, ICAD IDI IDI IDI IDI IDI IDI, ICAD IDI IDI IDI IDI ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD

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Appendix C: List of IGDCs with a Twitter account
Irish graphic design company The Brand Union Threesixty ICAN Design Associate Design Inch Catalysto Ltd Clickworks Dara Creative Drawinginc Frank Fuse Graphic Design Ltd Neworld Associates Rain Design Partners Raven Design Red Dog Roomthree Design Source Design Consultants Ltd Totem Visual Communcations Zebedee Marketing and Design BradleyMcGurk Partnership BFK FWD Frameworkdesign Webfactory X Communications Tibus Associate Cody Delahunty Detail Design Studio Kunnert & Tierney Language Littleseal Design Studio Origin Red & Grey Design Resonate Design Originate Creative Ogilvy&Maher Dublin Hummingbird Studio Viscious Design Studio Double Odesign Sweet Design Studio Pixelated New Graphic Design for Market Alpha Solutions Graphedia BlueInk Penhouse Inspire Fire Irish Web HQ Midpoint creative Design Tactics The Hive The Creative District ebow Twitter handle http://twitter.com/#!/thebrandunion http://twitter.com/#!/wearethreesixty http://twitter.com/#!/icanadvertising http://twitter.com/#!/designAssoc http://twitter.com/#!/designinch http://twitter.com/#!/catalystoltd http://twitter.com/#!/clickworksirl http://twitter.com/#!/daracreative http://twitter.com/#!/drawinginc_ie http://twitter.com/#!/frankideaworks http://twitter.com/#!/fuse_design http://twitter.com/#!/neworldigital http://twitter.com/#!/raindesign http://twitter.com/#!/ravendesign1 http://twitter.com/#!/reddogdublin http://twitter.com/#!/RoomthreeDesign http://twitter.com/#!/sourcedesignd2 http://twitter.com/#!/TOTEMVisCom http://twitter.com/#!/NutshellCork http://twitter.com/#!/bradleymcgurk http://twitter.com/#!/bfkdesign http://twitter.com/#!/FrameworkNews http://twitter.com/#!/webfactoryirl http://twitter.com/#!/xcommunications http://twitter.com/#!/tibus http://twitter.com/#!/weareassociate http://twitter.com/#!/codydelahunty http://twitter.com/#!/Detail_DS http://twitter.com/#!/ChrisKunnert http://twitter.com/#!/robinhegarty http://twitter.com/#!/Ronandevlin http://twitter.com/#!/originstudio http://twitter.com/#!/redgrey http://twitter.com/#!/resonatedesign http://twitter.com/#!/originatecreate http://twitter.com/#!/ogilvydublin http://twitter.com/#!/hmbsdublin http://twitter.com/#!/viciousdesign http://twitter.com/#!/doubleodesign http://twitter.com/#!/DesignedbySweet http://twitter.com/#!/pixelatedbetty http://twitter.com/#!/newgraphic https://twitter.com/#!/designformkt http://twitter.com/#!/alpha_solutions http://twitter.com/#!/graphedia http://twitter.com/#!/blueinkireland http://twitter.com/#!/penhousedesign http://twitter.com/#!/insp_ire http://twitter.com/#!/fire_studio http://twitter.com/#!/IrishWebHQ http://twitter.com/#!/mpointcreative http://twitter.com/#!/designtactics http://twitter.com/#!/thehivedublin http://twitter.com/#!/CreativeDistric http://twitter.com/#!/ebowdublin Source DBI ICAD ICAD DBI Aiden Kenny's research DBI, ICAD DBI, ICAD DBI DBI DBI, IDI DBI DBI DBI DBI DBI, ICAD DBI DBI DBI DBI IDI IDI IDI IDI Aiden Kenny's research, IDI IDI ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD ICAD awards ICAD awards Google search on Twitter Google search on Twitter Google search on Twitter Google search on Twitter Google search on Twitter Aiden Kenny's research Google search on Twitter Google search on Twitter Google search on Twitter Twitireland Aiden Kenny's research Twitireland Twitireland Twitireland Twitireland Personal network Personal network Aiden Kenny's research Aiden Kenny's research

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Appendix D: IGDCs’ Twitter account information
Information was retrieved using script run on Twitanalyst (2011) List of 55 IGDCs with their Twitter account information
Account has link to web (Y/N)? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Twitter handle Company name penhousedesign Penhouse neworldigital Neworld Associates ebowdublin ebow frankideaworks Frank thebrandunion The Brand Union mpointcreative Midpoint Creative icanadvertising ICAN Detail_DS Detail.DesignStudio wearethreesixty wearethreesixty pixelatedbetty Pixelated Betty reddogdublin Red Dog Design fire_studio Fire redgrey Red&Grey Design bradleymcgurk Bradley McGurk xcommunications X Communications webfactoryirl Webfactory Ireland designformkt design for market CreativeDistric TheCreativeDistrict fuse_design FUSE DESIGN doubleodesign Double O Design newgraphic New Graphic IrishWebHQ Irish Web HQ designtactics DesignTactics graphedia Graphedia thehivedublin the hive clickworksirl clickworksirl robinhegarty Robin Hegarty ravendesign1 Raven Design NutshellCork Kieran Dwyer insp_ire insp_ire codydelahunty CodyDelahunty alpha_solutions Alpha Solutions drawinginc_ie drawinginc bfkdesign BFK Design designinch Design Inch ChrisKunnert kunnertandtierney hmbsdublin Hummingbird Studio DesignedbySweet Sweet Design Studio sourcedesignd2 Source Design weareassociate Associate raindesign rain design partners resonatedesign Resonate Design TOTEMVisCom TOTEM originstudio Origin Design tibus tibus

Account has a bio (Y/N)? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y

Account # #Tweets Created Tweets #Followers #Following per day 20-Apr-09 1432 489 603 1.7 20-Mar-10 1126 492 409 2.3 05-Sep-09 641 658 798 0.9 23-Oct-09 662 607 444 1 29-Jan-10 114 524 301 0.2 19-Aug-09 1718 274 288 2.4 16-Dec-08 756 1503 1479 0.8 07-May-10 193 204 137 0.4 11-Jul-08 933 475 649 0.8 07-Apr-10 286 251 780 0.6 22-Jun-10 1618 295 137 4 06-May-10 329 119 212 0.7 27-Jan-09 127 195 179 0.1 06-Jun-10 247 151 305 0.6 28-Jan-09 238 815 688 0.3 22-Apr-09 145 314 56 0.2 20-Jun-11 24 20 96 0.6 17-Jan-09 131 677 88 0.1 15-Aug-09 302 589 95 0.4 23-Sep-09 194 613 1960 0.3 11-Mar-09 175 407 196 0.2 09-May-07 224 87 75 0.1 04-Jun-09 323 451 252 0.4 04-Jul-09 98 159 61 0.1 11-Mar-09 86 445 107 0.1 05-Jan-09 133 71 42 0.1 09-Mar-10 318 135 290 0.6 03-Mar-10 71 36 26 0.1 05-Jun-09 78 64 75 0.1 29-Jun-09 224 160 117 0.3 14-Apr-10 53 65 11 0.1 08-Feb-10 113 62 68 0.2 13-Nov-09 135 169 196 0.2 17-Feb-09 57 121 79 0.1 17-Jun-09 73 76 99 0.1 15-Jun-09 270 64 107 0.3 04-Aug-10 29 124 184 0.1 22-Feb-08 705 118 307 0.6 29-Jan-10 115 37 57 0.2 01-Apr-10 24 85 50 0 14-Apr-09 64 68 96 0.1 11-Feb-09 21 52 19 0 09-Dec-09 0 30 20 28-Jul-09 26 29 7 0 25-Jul-08 2 13 1 0

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Twitter handle Company name daracreative Dara Creative FrameworkNews Framework Design blueinkireland Keith Byrne designAssoc Design Associates catalystoltd Catalysto ogilvydublin Ogilvy Dublin originatecreate Originate Creative viciousdesign Vicious Design Ronandevlin Ronan Devlin RoomthreeDesign Roomthree Design

Account has a bio (Y/N)? Y Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y

Account has link to web (Y/N)? Y Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y

Account # #Tweets Created Tweets #Followers #Following per day 26-Aug-10 11 12 2 0 12-Jan-11 19 11 13 0.1 14-Sep-09 11 9 9 0 26-Jun-09 25 9 4 0 30-Mar-11 4 4 15 0 30-Mar-11 0 4 0 03-Sep-10 2 2 6 0 06-Apr-10 0 2 24 01-Mar-10 3 10 18 0 16-Dec-09 2 8 10 0

Note: the data obtained is not in working day (i.e. out of seven days). Therefore, for the analysis based on the number of tweets per day, the data in this table has been translated into working days as this study reviews Irish companies‟ accounts and hence assumes that these companies‟ working days are Monday to Friday. IGDCs whose account met the 4 criteria tested as part of the process (“Is account sophisticated?”)
Account has a bio (Y/N)? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Account has link to web (Y/N)? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Twitter handle penhousedesign neworldigital ebowdublin frankideaworks mpointcreative icanadvertising wearethreesixty reddogdublin fire_studio

Company name Penhouse Neworld Associates ebow Frank Midpoint Creative ICAN wearethreesixty Red Dog Design Fire

Account Created 20-Apr-09 20-Mar-10 05-Sep-09 23-Oct-09 19-Aug-09 16-Dec-08 11-Jul-08 22-Jun-10 06-May-10

#Twe ets 1432 1126 641 662 1718 756 933 1618 329

#Followers 489 492 658 607 274 1503 475 295 119

#Following 603 409 798 444 288 1479 649 137 212

#Tweets per day 1.7 2.3 0.9 1 2.4 0.8 0.8 4 0.7

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Appendix E: Thematic questions for interviews
THEME 1 Establishing background and field of expertise Purpose Expected response Probe questions First, to set the participant at ease; then, to establish their expertise perspectives and values in the field Brief biography outline of their job role establishing core interests within a social media perspective Could you briefly outline your current role and function? What particular areas of social media are you dealing with? What types of companies/clients do you work mostly with? THEME 2 Twitter as a social media tool Purpose To gain insights and expert perspectives on the phenomenon. It is because of Twitter‟s success as a social media tool that companies began to adopt it for business purposes. Gaining views from experts can be compared with literature findings and establish consensus on Twitter‟s potential. Individual opinion and interpretation on the success and prevalence of Twitter What would you attribute to the success of Twitter as a social media tool? Are you aware of culture having any impact on the prevalence/popularity of Twitter within countries? Use of Twitter in [your country] in relation to other countries? THEME 3 Using Twitter as a marketing tool successfully, to leverage competitive advantage Purpose To gain expert perspectives on the use of Twitter as a marketing tool. Hearing their experience and views on how companies can harness competitive advantage using Twitter can be crosschecked with the findings from the literature and establish consensus on the potential of Twitter as a marketing tool to secure competitive advantage. Individual views and interpretation on the use of Twitter as a marketing tool to secure competitive advantage, examples of companies who have been successful at this Given the success of Twitter, do you think companies can leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage? Are there any companies worldwide that you feel are currently using twitter effectively? What do you think they are doing to achieve this? Are you aware of any Irish/UK companies that are achieving similar success? What criteria would you use to determine whether a company is effectively using Twitter (e.g. Twitter analytics)? Given the adoption of Twitter worldwide, do you think a company can use Twitter to capture or access wider markets? Overseas? Have you got any examples?

Expected response Probe questions

Expected response Probe questions

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In your opinion how do you think a company should measure ROI? THEME 4 Effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses Purpose To gain insights and expert perspectives on the best practice principles for an effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses. An effective use of Twitter can assist a company in securing competitive advantage. Gaining opinions from experts can be compared with the literature findings and can establish a consensus on the best practices for a successful implementation and management of Twitter. Individual opinion and interpretation of what is defined as an effective implementation and management of Twitter. Personal experience in relation to effective implementation of Twitter. In your opinion, what are the best practices for an effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses? Do you feel implementing Twitter is more suited to a particular type of company? (product/service) Do you think the effective implementation and management of Twitter is limited by the company size/structure? Do you feel Twitter can be managed by existing staff in terms of workload? From your experience, do you think a company who wish to secure competitive advantage can implement Twitter on its own? Or should they implement other social media channels?

Expected response Probe questions

Which social media channel would complement Twitter best? What are the key skills that a company should have to manage Twitter? What importance would you place on marketing skills? CONCLUSION Purpose Expected response Probe questions To close the interview, ensuring the participant has nothing else to add May add a point or emphasize on something we previously discussed. Is there anything you feel we have not covered and you would like to stress as being important to mention?

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Appendix F: Ethics – Information of non-confidentiality
An information note was emailed to participants to inform them that confidentiality was not possible as part of this research. “To ensure accuracy, with your permission, I will record the interview and forward a transcript to you afterwards for your consideration. The interview will form part of the submitted dissertation and as such will not be confidential. Should you have any questions on this matter let me know.”

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Appendix G: Interview with David Scanlon
Interview participant Company Date of interview Duration Platform David Scanlon Enterprise Ireland 9/8/2011 41 minutes Skype

CM: First, I would like to understand your background. So, it would be great if you could briefly outline your current role and function. DS: OK. So, I am part of the Enterprise Ireland Internet Marketing Unit. Just to give you a bit of background about Enterprise Ireland, we are a government funded semi-state agency and we work with export focused companies, so any Irish company that is looking to export overseas. So you are looking at manufacturing and services companies. And we work with about 3,000 to 3,500 companies. So the Internet Marketing Unit rebranded; we used to be an e-business focused unit and we are in existence about five to six years. The focus in the past was on helping non IT managers of small to medium enterprises to understand the opportunities offered by the internet. It was really about making them more comfortable and familiar with the use of technologies. We were helping to make them familiar with website and mobile devices. But really over the last couple of years, the focus has very much changed on to marketing – marketing of the company and marketing of the services – and a capability of using the technology itself; so less about the technology and much more about the strategy behind, the marketing itself. We would work with companies, helping them to understand how they can use the tools afforded by the internet as part of their business development; how they can use the internet to identify new customers, and to tailor their products or services better and even to deliver those services as well. We would work with management at a very senior level, like managing director and CEO and try to get them to understand the opportunities afforded by the internet. It is not just “you can have a new website and you can have this new Flash technology” attitude, it is much more about the opportunities of making sure their staff have the capabilities to use the tools properly, with good structures and good processes within the companies. That is pretty much what I do. CM: OK. That‟s great. Now, when you talk about online opportunities, would these include social media? DS: Absolutely. Social media is a huge part of that. But it is not just social media; we would look at aspects that touch all parts of our client companies (organisation, operational structure). So social media is part of it but we would also look at the usability of a website; we would look at things like email marketing; we would look at things like customer relationship management and software tools, so that clients can track all their interactions with their prospective and existing clients. Anything that digital touches as part of the operations, we would try and advise companies on that. CM: That‟s great. Thanks for that, David. So let‟s move onto theme 2, which is about Twitter as a social media tool. First I would like to ask you what you would attribute to the success of Twitter as a social media tool?

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DS: The biggest attribute of Twitter that I would see being an advantage for businesses is the ability to listen into conversations, from customers, from prospective customers, from competitors, and from other stakeholders across their industry. You never had such an opportunity to tap into what people are thinking about your industry and your sector. And because it is public and because people are sharing their experiences, they are sharing their opinions and recommendations about products and services that might be yours, those of your competitors; you can find about industries that you might not have thought of being competitive to you or industries that could be possible partners for you; that opportunity to listen into these conversations is a goldmine. And at the same time, I think this presents Twitter‟s biggest challenge as well to companies because it is so noisy, there are so many conversations and trying to find out what actually is relevant to your company and what‟s just something you can procrastinate on for an entire afternoon can be difficult. CM: Very good. And in relation to the use of Twitter in Ireland by businesses, how would you compare it to other countries? DS: I think our use of Twitter in Ireland would be fairly typical for a European business environment. Especially for most Irish companies that fall into the small to medium enterprise bracket, Twitter matches the way they tend to market themselves and tend to do networking. A lot of marketing done by Irish SMEs tend to be done by the owners, who are going to these business networking meetings. And, Twitter really suits that sort of approach. So, I think we are very much on the same path as other European countries. CM: How about other countries, like the US for instance? DS: I think the US have a different approach to how they sell, how they market themselves. They are probably better at doing self-branding and self-promotion around the individual. Maybe better is the wrong word; but they certainly do it more than the Europeans and the Irish. So, there is less of that from the European perspective, I think, there is less talking about the individuals, there is more talk about the community and there is more talk about how we can help in terms of the products and the services that our company can deliver. It is like a cultural change or different ways used by the Europeans and the US. CM: That was my next question actually. Do you then think there is a cultural factor that impacts on the use of Twitter by different countries? DS: Yes, I would agree with that. I mean, it is subjective and it is generalising but we can definitely see that difference between Europe and the US. CM: Well, that is some interesting information there, David. Thank you. So now, I would like to move onto theme 3, which is about using Twitter as a marketing tool successfully to leverage competitive advantage. So given the success of Twitter, do you think it is possible for companies to use it as a tool to secure competitive advantage? DS: Yes, absolutely. I really think it is even not a matter of competitive advantage anymore, it is an essential tool for businesses. But I can understand some companies are not comfortable stepping into, what is seen as being a very fast pace and intensive business channel, because of their past experiences using social media or using the web or for resourcing issues. They may not be comfortable moving into Twitter opening an account and engaging. But because the tools for listening are free, you don‟t have to create an account to listen, you don‟t have to engage with people to listen on Twitter. If they are not doing that, I think that they are missing on such a massive opportunity. You know, there are two ways you can look at this, you can look at listening online for brand mention and monitoring to make sure that nobody is saying anything bad about you; and if somebody is saying something bad about you that you
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can get an opportunity to respond; also if someone is saying something good about you that you can get an opportunity to reach at them and thank them. So this is what brand monitoring is. But you also have new market opportunities; if you see somebody is giving out about your competitor for instance, and you act proactively, then you create new opportunities. If you are only listening in about what people think of your competitors it can help you shape your services and your products, so it is a good effort for service and product development. But if you are an active user, you can also proactively talk to people who have experienced issue with competitors and say to them “I am very sorry you are having a problem with competitor x‟s service. Have you thought of using ours?” I think that managed well, Twitter presents a massive opportunity for businesses. CM: Ok. And would you know of any company worldwide that you feel are currently using Twitter effectively? DS: I think there are lots of examples. There are plenty of Irish examples. We would have a list of our client companies that we would see being active on Twitter and using it well. I personally have a list of over 200 of our client companies that are currently using Twitter. They are using it for lots of different things, you know, depending on their audience and depending on their business goals as well. Some companies would be using it just for customer support. There is one of our client company called „Realex payment‟ – they are an online payment processing company – and they use Twitter very very well for customer support. They would take queries and support questions from their customers on Twitter and they would respond during business hours. Twitter is a really good channel for doing that. So that would be one way of using Twitter. There are many other ways of using Twitter, you could use it for thought leadership and being seen as being an expert and someone who contributes to a community. And then again, there are plenty of Irish companies who are doing that effectively. CM: That‟s great. Now, do you think, given the adoption of Twitter worldwide, a company can use Twitter to capture or access wider markets? DS: Yes, I think so. Absolutely. But Irish companies need to be careful about how they go and try to tap into overseas markets, because there is trap you can fall into where you can reach out hundreds of thousands of people that you think might be interested in your product/service and but, if you are not prepared from a customer support perspective to deal with them, then you can do yourself a lot of damage. You will actually damage your reputation. So I think yes, Twitter presents an opportunity for reaching out wider markets and I think it could from a market research perspective because Twitter gives you so many options to search for people by location; so let‟s say you are looking to find out “how many people are looking for graphic design services in Boston” so Twitter can give you a real feel of what the demand is. So I think it really is a great tool from that perspective. CM: And have you helped any such companies who are trying to capture wider markets? DS: Yes, that would definitely fall into the kind of work we do in Enterprise Ireland. We would not actively go and tell people to open Twitter accounts but when we talk to them about their marketing strategy, we would talk to them and get them to think very carefully about what they are going to be doing in the digital space; really, what we ask them to do is think about what their business strategy is; and the first thing they need to do before they think about opening a Twitter account or any other social platform they have to have a good decision made about what they want to talk about. That seems simple but for most companies it is actually quite difficult. And if you try to ask an Irish company to define what they do in a 140 characters on Twitter, they can argue among themselves for a week before they come back with an answer. They all have different ideas about what it is they do and exactly who
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their customers are. So getting your topic of conversation right, and getting a really strong picture of who your audience is, how they want to consume information and how they want to be engaged with is really important. And companies should have this in their mind before they go anywhere near setting up a Twitter account. CM: Alright. That makes sense. Now I would like to get your expertise on what criteria you would use to determine whether a company is using Twitter effectively. DS: It is interesting. A superficial way that you could look at someone‟s Twitter activity and say whether or not it is effective, is to use the third party influence tools. CM: Like Klout for instance? DS: Exactly, like Klout or Peerindex. Those kind of tools. They are not perfect, by any manners or means, but they are consistent if you are looking for some sorts of score on their activity. Personally, I don‟t think you can look at a Twitter account and determine whether the use is effective. You need to understand the context of why the company is using Twitter. For me, my biggest motivator on my success Twitter, what I will look out for is activity. So either you ask a question to your Twitter community and you get a certain number of responses or you share a link and you measure how many people click on it. You know, if you are not getting activity from your community/followers, then you ask whether you are doing things right or not. One way you could look at activity, is looking at retweet; you could look at the Twitter stream of any particular company and see how many people are retweeting what they are sharing; that is one good score I think, even though it is not perfect. You can go back to the context of the company and then look at the activity level is on their engagement with the community. CM: Thanks. Now, how do you think a company should measure their return on investment (ROI) on Twitter? DS: It is linked to business goals. So when we talk to companies about their use of social media we are really trying to get them to focus on a measurable goal, a measurable business objective that they can track. So it could be something like number of new qualified leads that they are getting in or traffic that‟s been driven to a corporate website; they can track those, like “how many users have come to my company site from Twitter?” and the objective could be that they want to keep driving that number up because the more traffic they are getting, the more conversation they get on their website. So that could be a solid, concrete goal to measure. Other people might be looking at it from a customer support perspective: you could say “well, I spent two hours last night on the phone trying to resolve customer support queries and I am more active on Twitter now and people can get me there and it is an easier service and it is quicker”. So measuring the amount of time that you are spending dealing with customer support queries that could be another measurable targeted goal that you could have. CM: So if I understand well, setting ROI depends on what the company wants to achieve on Twitter? DS: Exactly, it depends on the company, on what they are trying to use Twitter for. CM: OK. So I would like to move on the theme 4 now. So what do you think are the best practices for an effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses? DS: I think a key issue is having staff that are capable of understanding the channel and that are capable of engaging with your customers and your audience properly. So, for that, companies must be prepared to put training – a reasonably significant amount of time for
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training staff – and treat it as a proper business development channel; it is not just something that you can throw together quickly. So you do need to invest in staff training. Another point that I feel is essential is that it is very important that everyone in the organisation knows what social channels are being used. Not everybody in the organisation is going to tweet, not everyone will want to and not everybody should, because some people are just going to be bad at it, they just don‟t have the social skills needed. But I think it is really important that everybody knows what social media channels are being used. Because if everybody knows the kind of social channels that are being used, then you‟ll get really good responses when you get queries coming in so people will say “I‟ve got a question that someone asked me on Twitter about such product/service. Who is the best person to talk to?” and people will have a good understanding of what social media channels are there and what they are used for. And then, looking at it from the other side, if you got a really interesting piece of content (e.g. a new service, a great client success story), then if you understand all of the various social channels that you have, you will know where to share that information, even if you don‟t have access to them yourself. You‟ll know where in your own company to go to share that information. So everyone in a company should know what social channels are being used by the company and who to go to, to share contents. That took us a long time to figure out because the way social media evolves is usually very organic and it comes from the champion who really loves using social media. You have that one person, you think that‟s fantastic and everybody else thinks “that‟s fine; let that one person go off and take care of it”. But that one person might be really good at social media, but that one person can‟t know everything that is happening in the company. So it is very important that everybody knows how to share information with whoever is managing those social channels, Twitter channels, whatever they are. CM: You were talking about training staff, do you think Twitter can be managed by existing staff, in terms of workload? DS: I think one of the biggest opportunities Twitter offers is a great way to personalise the company. So it is about the individuals, and especially it is about authenticity and passion. So if you‟ve got people in your company who are particularly good at their jobs, who know perfectly how a service works or how a product is developed, whatever it happens to be, but that person is an expert at it, then they are the people who should manage Twitter. You want their voice, their experience, their understanding to serve Twitter. So not only should you not hire somebody to just put content into a Twitter account, but you should encourage the staff who are the experts. That would certainly be best practices, as far as I am concerned, of how I would encourage our company to be doing. Some people would say it is an extra demand on their time and everybody is busy absolutely but you know, you have to place importance on that depending on how important it is for the business. So if you are saying, “Twitter is going to be the way that we win 90% of our new business”, then you have to start resourcing that. I think where you can benefit from hiring external staff is on deciding where and how the conversation is happening. So a company might be struggling to decide “should we be on LinkedIn, Facebook, should we have a company blog?” so they can really benefit from bringing a consultant/online marketing manager. But the actual engagement has to come from the company. CM: You were talking about various social media channels, there. In your opinion, for a company who‟d want to use Twitter to achieve competitive advantage, could they use Twitter on its own or should they use it in conjunction with other social channels? DS: It depends. I think that for B2B companies, what seems to work quite well is a combination of Twitter and LinkedIn. They seem to complement each other quite well. You can have different types of conversations with two different sorts of communities. It does

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crossover quite well in my experience. For a B2C company, LinkedIn would not be the place to be. That is not to say that they are companies who can‟t do extremely well just using Twitter. Although you would struggle to find companies who solely use Twitter for all of their business activities. So they might use Twitter just for customer service and then use another platform for other marketing things. I would struggle finding an example of a company who would do everything solely on Twitter. CM: When you were talking about B2B companies, you were saying that Twitter and LinkedIn complement each other well. Could you detail what they would use LinkedIn for? And Twitter for? DS: Ok. LinkedIn is quite a powerful platform for marketing perspectives, as it allows companies to showcase the capabilities of their staff in a very structured way. So, I can say “here is my engineer John, here are his credentials and the qualifications that he has” so you can establish that this person is a real person who works in my company. And you can encourage your staff to engage with very, very niche communities on LinkedIn. So you will find very specialised groups on LinkedIn around topic matters. So you get your experts in your company to engage with those communities, so they are in very targeted niche groups, talking about what they are passionate about and what they are experts about. And they are influencing the people in these groups. But that is quite a small circle of people, so what you can do then, is use Twitter to broadcast what it is that you are talking about to that small group; you could say “here I am talking about this topic to this small group of people on LinkedIn” and then tell Twitter about it because Twitter has a much bigger audience that allows discovery much more easily than on LinkedIn. You can have searches, you can have saved searches for topics, keywords, etc on Twitter but you cannot have on LinkedIn. So if you are looking to identify who thought leaders are, it is easier to find them on Twitter than on LinkedIn. CM: Great. Now, do you think implementing Twitter is more suited to a particular type of company? We were talking about B2B and B2C models, but how about companies who sell products versus those who sell services? DS: Absolutely. I have yet to find a company that I don‟t think Twitter is useful for. You know, if the conversation is happening on Twitter, then it should not matter at all whether the company sells products or services. CM: Now, I would like to move on to the skills. What are the key skills a company should have to manage Twitter? DS: One of the things that is important is time management. That is something that comes up a lot when you talk to company, because Twitter can be quite distracting, it is a great place to go and spend two hours of your time procrastinating as well. So it can be quite difficult to manage your time effectively on it. So you need to make sure that staff will be using Twitter are focused on what the objectives are and on what the outcome should be. And that is not to say that people have to be robots as well, because you know, you are not going to get good engagement with people who are just tweeting contents about corporate messages, that are not talking about anything or commenting on anything. You need to be able to mix that up. But you need to ensure your staff is focused on what the company is trying to achieved using Twitter. Otherwise, they will spend hours wasting time. But I really think what you need to convey to your staff is to be „human‟ on the platform, because, as I said no one wants to engage with someone who acts as a corporate robot. Also, you really need to make sure that staff understand what the boundaries of the behaviour online are and teach them about what is acceptable to say and the risks. Actually, I think our approach with our own staff when we were training them on how to use Twitter was communicating the risks, keep them aware of
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what obligations and responsibilities are on what they were sharing: so for instance, publishing something on Twitter is like publishing in the Irish Times, that they are responsible. I think you can‟t be too strict because I don‟t think you can create templates on what can be said on Twitter because people would get bored very quickly, but instead explain things that should not be said. CM: Alright. And how about marketing skills? Do you think they are important? Or are they less important than when using more traditional marketing tools? DS: Is it in terms of the staff using Twitter having marketing skills? CM: Yes. DS: No, I don‟t think it is as important as people being educated to be authentic. If you want to be seen as a thought leader, you want these experts from your company to talk about what they are good at and not to try and force them to think in a marketing way. Because their expertise, their energy and their enthusiasm for what they are good at will be what engage people. But whoever comes up with the (Twitter) strategy will need the marketing skills. You were talking about traditional marketing skills, they are the same skills; the approach that you use, the way that you measure things and then the way you implement them in the company, it does not matter if it is Twitter or if it is trade shows or white papers in industry magazines, whatever happens to be, the principle behind it is still marketing. It is still a different channel. CM: Ok, thanks for clarifying this. One last question I forgot to ask earlier, would you be aware of what sectors are the most present on Twitter in Ireland? DS: Sure, I think it follows the traditional early adoption rule. You have a lot of technology companies and software development companies; they would be the early adapters of the technology. Then you would have micro enterprises, with one or two people in an office, doing consultancy work. Then, after that, probably recruitment consultants. CM: OK. I would like to close the interview now. But before that is there anything you feel we have not covered and you would like to stress as being important to mention? DS: No. No, I think we covered most of it. CM: Ok. Well that was very helpful, David. So thanks very much for your time today. DS: Thank you.

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Appendix H: Interview with Rachel Clarke
Interview participant Company Date of interview Duration Platform Rachel Clarke Momentum Worldwide (London) 11/8/2011 33 minutes Skype

CM: To start with, could you briefly outline your background, current role and functions? RC: Ok. Currently, my job title is Head of Engagement Intelligence, in an agency called Momentum. The team focuses on social media, from tactics and implementation through to strategy and thinking. So we do all the gamut of the different types of social media. It is a team of seven people and the agency has about 100 people and they do digital and sponsorship and various other marketing things. My background is primarily project management, IT project management, starting with Diageo. Then I moved into the website area and picked up social media there about seven years ago. So I have been working in the social media area since then, internally for clients under Diageo and then working for JWT in New York as a digital social media strategist and then I have spent some time over here working in agencies doing similar work than what I am doing at Momentum. CM: Alright. Could you give me a bit more background on what Momentum does? RC: Momentum is an integrated marketing agency. It has a number of quite large clients like Amex, UPS and Sony Pictures. We do a whole variety of stuff such as managing events; we are running the UPS Olympic program. We do all sorts of things like that. And we also produce websites through our digital team and team support because obviously the way social works, it sits in the heart of what you need to do these days because it is a digital world. CM: So would your team advise Momentum clients on their social media strategy. RC: Yes, we can do that. We can develop an ad for you, we can run a Facebook page for you, we can run Twitter accounts for you, we can tell you how to run Twitter account, we can do research, etc. The work that we do tend to split in three areas; one which is about understanding the conversation; so we do a lot of research, a lot of time spent watching people across social networks to understand how they behave and things like that; another area is to create something for people to talk about, so it is a program, it is a piece of contents, it is an event, etc; and the third area is about managing conversations and long term relationship for clients, so we would be managing Facebook pages, for instance. CM: That is a great presentation there, Rachel. Thank you. So now I would like to move onto Theme 2, the use of Twitter as a social media tool. My first question is, in your opinion, what would you attribute to the success of Twitter as a social media tool? RC: Simplicity. It is very easy and everybody can get it. It has been around for about five years now and it started off as an SMS tool and it was about group messaging. But when it moved to the web, it obviously opened to a lot more people. Now, it took a long time to sort of get accepted and at the start, people were thinking “why do I want to tell to all the public
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what I have for breakfast?”. But Twitter is about ambient intimacy, getting a quick update on what your social network is doing. By social network it usually means, for most people, people they know personally. It is not just random strangers, it is people you already have a relationship with. Now over time what you actually got is a whole bunch of businesses on it, celebrities on it, news people on it and the format has changed. So the same group of people, instead of having solely connections with their friends, they can connect with their favourite celebrities/companies because they feel they talk to each other. So Twitter has developed in a wider social media. The heart of it is 140 characters, very, very simple, quick updates, on the web, it is about that simplicity which means that I can either, sit and watch or I can take part in the conversation. So that is why it is successful. It fulfils a need for gossip, it fulfils a need for ongoing conversation; it has also turned into a very good tool to find things out very quickly, which is another reason for Twitter success. So the moment you started building a substantial body of people on it, when you started to get the media people involved in it, TV and that sort of industries, then it took up on its own because it became an essential part of everybody‟s use. CM: And from a business perspective? RC: From a business perspective, there are a number of reasons why businesses or the people associated with the business would be on Twitter. One of which is very personal: it is about building a personal brand, building a level of personal expertise. But one of difficulties is that very few people necessarily split personal and business life on Twitter; they have and account and they talk about both things. So, from a business perspective, individuals can be on there to build their own personal brand/expertise. There is a fascinating story about a BBC reporter, who is currently moving from the BBC to ITV; she has 60,000 followers on Twitter; she has built that because she is a public figure, a celebrity; and some of the articles that you see around actually say “BBC looses 60,000 followers”. People follow the BBC when they follow her. So are the followers going to stay with her will be an interesting thing. Or is she going to the do the exact same thing there is another interesting question. But this is the case of a personal account on Twitter. Now, businesses and brands, from a more professional side, are having again slightly different reasons for being on Twitter and they are all valid reasons. Some of them are thinking “we are just going to broadcast that news out”, and it is a valid reason but as a business, putting out your own press release does not do you a lot of good. So as an information source, businesses tend to think that they can only broadcast their own things. But it does not really work because there is no added value. So usually businesses move on to use it to share information and to do more interesting things to do with their audience. Some businesses use Twitter for sales generation and Dell and Sony, being two of the biggest ones; they can put out offers and they are using to drive sales because over time they have developed enough followers so they can actually generate leads from it. Other companies use Twitter for customer care, so it is an extension of their customer service. So if you look at Vodafone, look at the mobile companies, they are very good at it, and British Airways as well. They have an actual customer service team whose job is now to answer Twitter instead of answering the phone but it is always in that same team, the customer service team and they solve problems and you know who is doing it; there is a personality there. And the best way, in my opinion, for businesses to engage, is to have some kind of a personality and tone of voice. CM: OK. Thanks. Now how would you say the use of Twitter in the UK compare with other countries? RC: I don‟t know the figures from the top of my head. For me, one the thing you can do to assess the use of a tool within a country is to see how many brands put it on their advertising and how many TV programs show it. So, in this respect, the use of Twitter in the UK is pretty

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high and also it has a very high profile. You will see the way it gets used, it gets promoted on TV programs, all the brands will have it; so many of the audiences are in contact with it and many people use it. I think Ireland‟s usage is high as well, as I understand it. The US usage is high too. Again I would have to find the exact figures, as I don‟t know them from the top of my head. CM: That‟s fine. Would you think culture have an impact on the popularity of Twitter within countries? RC: Yes, it would do. Because if you are a country that is open and that usually has that type of “gossipy” thrive and that sort of quite relaxed personal relationship, it (Twitter) is going to have a high thing. My guess, and against it is something I haven‟t researched on, is that the use of Twitter in countries like the Far East, like Japan, would be a different usage. It is still extremely popular because Japan was the first country using a different language (than English) where Twitter became popular. But potentially because of the culture, its use is going to be different. I mean, that‟s one thing again picking up on Japan, if you look at the earthquake and the subsequent release of radiation, the Japanese government very quickly went on to Twitter and started posting all the information on Twitter in English and in Japanese. CM: Thanks for that, Rachel. Now I will move onto the theme 3, the use of Twitter as a marketing tool to leverage competitive advantage. So I would like to get your thoughts on this statement. Do you think companies can leverage Twitter to secure competitive advantage? RC: Yes. There is customer relationship engagement. Now, for many businesses, calculating an ROI on that is very, very hard but enough research has been done that if you, as a customer, have a relationship with a brand through a social system, you are more likely to spend more money. There is a nice piece of work that was conducted; it says that if you are a Facebook fan, you are likely to spend more than a hundred dollars more than a non fan, for example. Now the cause and effect there isn‟t necessarily the right thing: are you a Facebook fan because you spend more money or do you only spend more money after you became a Facebook fan? I know that personally, if I have the choice of two companies selling the same product and one was active on social media and the other one wasn‟t, I am more likely to go with the one that is active on social media, because you see that company as someone you can create a relationship with. So I think there is competitive advantage of driving sales, of building awareness, of all this kind of things. CM: You mentioned ROI before, how do you think a company can measure ROI on Twitter? R: Direct ROI on Twitter is very hard, but then again, direct ROI of any marketing tool is never easy. I mean, it is the same with every tool. Twitter is just one tool in the complete arsenal, and you can‟t use it on its own. Just trying to gain a competitive advantage using Twitter does not work. You have to get everything else right as well. So it is just another tool in the box. And you need to work out how you are going to maximise the efficiency on it. If you can do things like pre-post stuff and release, there is whole bunch of automation you can do to help you do that. But in reality it is all about building relationships with people. And if you look at Dell, for instance, who are using Twitter to drive sales, they could not have done the sales driven from Twitter, if their employees hadn‟t been busy on it beforehand, building relationships and connecting with people and then promoting the sales. CM: OK, I understand. And when you are saying that Twitter cannot be used on its own, you mean it should be used with other social media?

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RC: Well, it should be used as part of the marketing mix. Because imagine if you say “right I‟m going to do a Twitter model.” Well, how do you get people to Twitter? How do you let people know that Twitter exists? So is it going to go on you POS, is it going to go on your marketing materials? So, it is one tool; it is not something you can use on its own. CM: Ok, I get it. And how about small companies who cannot afford hiring a dedicated person for social media, do you think they can still manage Twitter using their existing staff to fill in the role? RC: Yes. I mean if it is being seen as part of their role and the appropriate time and attention is given to it. When you talk about service and relationships and that sorts of things, best people to talk about it are the people who are working there. And you are right, many companies cannot afford getting an agency, but an agency is not always the best thing to do. If you are doing it (Twitter), you need to put some work upfront and think of what you are trying to do with it, what your tone of voice is going to be and most importantly how you‟ll use it. The reason being is that there are a lot of things that companies are trying to do cheaply, by hiring a 20-year-old intern and all sorts of things like that, that by making mistakes might cost money to the company and impact the company‟s reputation. So it‟s important to get some work done upfront. So one of the important things is, for small companies, look at some social media guidelines, work how they are going to do it, make sure people understand all the best practices. So not jump straight in. Jumping straight in if you don‟t already know Twitter you are going to “screw” yourself. CM and RC laugh. CM: Now, let‟s move on. Given the adoption of Twitter worldwide, do you think a company can use it to capture wider market? RC: The problem, you see, is that it is language specific. Especially if companies do it and they don‟t employ an agency. If you are tweeting in English, you‟re only going to get English speakers. So using Twitter to draw out business elsewhere, if everybody‟s speaking in English, I mean nobody knows where you are. So you can always do that and it‟s the matter of working out what your search plans are, how you are going to talk to people and how you are going to connect with people. You can get business that way. I mean, I have some anecdotal evidence, no actual data, but businesses like hotels, B&Bs, using Twitter, obviously capture some kind of overseas business. So you can do it that way. But to be honest, it is about getting awareness; if you take these graphic designers who are looking for overseas business, if someone overseas is looking for graphic design services, they are not going to start off with Twitter, they are going to start with research. However, I have already got a relationship with these people so they may look at me. So using this tools is about putting something into a consideration set for a potential purchaser. Twitter is not this sort of “I need this now, I am going to search for it”. CM: Alright. Let‟s move on to the next question. What criteria would you use to determine if a company is using Twitter effectively? RC: The first question I always ask is “what are the business objectives?”. If you don‟t know that, you are going to find it difficult. If you don‟t know what the objectives are, you are doing an external view. How I do it is I look at followers versus following ratio, so if someone is following thousands of people but is not followed by many people, then, there is something wrong there. I also look at interactivity, so how many times people are talking to them and how many times are they talking to people, so that‟s one other things. Retweet is another thing as it is an indication about how good the content is.

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CM: So to summarise, you look at the followers/following ratio, then you look at the types of tweets they use – if they engage using @mentions, @replies – and you also look if they are being retweeted? RC: Yes. CM: Alright, anything else? Like third party influence tool and similar tools? RC: Yes, they do add to the picture. CM: Alright, next question then. Would you know of any small company in the UK or in Ireland who‟s being really successful on Twitter, in your opinion? It is a tricky one, isn‟t it? RC: It is a tricky one. CM: It‟s fine if you don‟t have one. RC: Oh actually, there is a company called Diablo Skinz – I will send you the link in an email – they are a company who do covers and designs for things like iphones and ipads and things like that. And they are very, very active on Twitter. And I think, from what I can see they have got business by having Twitter relationships. For example, they are Formula 1 fans and they are constantly talking to people on Twitter about it, so they have developed relationships with them which have led to business. So they are a good example. I‟ve just sent the link to you. CM: Great. Thanks for that. So, let‟s move onto our last theme about the effective implementation and management of Twitter. In your opinion, what are the best practices – I know we‟ve touched this a bit in the previous questions – but could you outline the best practices of implementation and management of Twitter? RC: OK. So be clear about what you are doing – be clear about the fact that this isn‟t the solution to everything. Then, make sure that in the business, you are giving the right amount of time to do this, because it is not something that should be chopped on beside, you have to put some efforts in. Make sure you are very clear how you are going to talk to people, what you are going to do and understand the rules. I mean, you have to understand the system, so often what‟s better is to find someone who has a personal account; use proper English: if it is a professional account, treat it as a professional thing, don‟t drop in to text jargon. Then make sure there is buy-in from the top level and make sure everyone understands why it‟s been done. It‟s not seen as being „silly little Twitter‟. You need to have the right culture internally. CM: Ok. Now do you feel Twitter is more suited to a certain type of company? For instance a company who sells products versus a company who sells services or companies using B2B models versus companies using B2C models? RC: I‟ve seen successes in all sorts of business. In B2B, B2C, products, services, etc. I‟ve seen good and bad. It is about how you do it. I think there is a definite understanding of what the tool can do and make sure you are doing it the right way. CM: Ok. And in the UK, what sectors are the most present on Twitter? RC: Good question. I don‟t know. Everybody. I can only talk about what I see and I don‟t think it is a sector driven thing, I think it is a company driven thing. So I see a lot of phone companies on there, I see a lot of airlines on there, I see a lot of tiny businesses on there because they have direct relationships with their customers.

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CM: OK. We‟ve briefly touched upon this before, but do you feel the effective implementation and management of Twitter is limited by the company size or structure? RC: It is limited by the company will. And then, do they want to do it? If they want to do it, they will get it done. CM: Alright, lastly, I would like to talk about the skills required to the effective implementation and management of Twitter. I would like to hear your opinion on this. RC: Understand the internet. I mean, it is one of these things that if you‟ve never had an online presence, asking that person to go and be effective on Twitter is very difficult. So you‟ll have to have that empathy and you‟ll have to understand memes and all that sorts of things, you need an appreciation of how life lives on the internet. Also understanding people, so be happy to talk to people and chat. You need to be a people person to be effective. And also, understand the business environment; again one of the biggest risk is that some of this activity is pushed to, again, interns, who are very good at understanding how to behave online, but who would have no idea of what the implications are of some of the things they say; you know, the business implications. CM: How about marketing skills, Rachel. Do you think they are essential for people to use Twitter? RC: It depends what you are going to do with it. But every single touch point is a marketing touch point. So you need to understand that every time you talk to somebody, it is a marketing opportunity. And it is about representing the company in the right way. CM: Great. Thanks for that. So, we‟ve covered all the questions on my list. But before we close the interview, I would like to ask you if there is anything you think we have missed and you would like to cover? DS: No. No, I think we‟ve covered it all. CM: Yes? RC: Yes. That‟s probably everything that I would say about how to use this tool. CM: Alright. Well. Thanks a lot for your input on this. It was really useful. RC: Thank you.

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Appendix I: Interview with Conor Lynch
Interview participant Company Date of interview Duration Platform Conor Lynch SocialMedia.ie 18/8/2011 33 minutes Face to face

CM: First, could you talk about your background, job role and functions? CL: My background is a marketing degree from DIT. Then, I went to Smurfit college and I did a Marketing post grad. So five years of marketing management education and about 12 years ago I started working in online marketing. I started working in a technology company. Then, I worked in digital agencies and online digital marketing agencies and I was a direct marketing manager for a year and a half help to launch a bank, but I always wanted to set my own thing to create something. I like creating stuff. So I set up a number of website and three years ago I set up Connector as a social blog, then I started running social events and then I turned it into a social media business a year and a half ago, rebranding it as socialmedia.ie about nine month ago. And Connector.tv remains as the blog or network for business to consumers end of things and business to business is on socialmedia.ie. My role is founder and managing director. We have a mix of services from training, to consulting, build websites for people through using Wordpress. And we are actually getting a contract from an university in Ireland to create a social media course, to design and deliver a course for them to final year business management students. So that‟s all very positive. I am the main employee and then I have a number of part-time employees working with me and now we are taking on the first full-time junior trainer starting next week. He has done marketing lecturing, he will take the pressure off me by delivering training so I can focus on new areas and be more maybe the managing director rather than delivering all the training. CM: Ok, and what type of clients are you working with? CL: There is a mix of SMEs, start-ups and large corporations. So we‟ve done workshops for big companies like banks, software companies. So we are very lucky to work with some of the big companies but most of our work with the group training is for SMEs and start-ups. There is a huge knowledge gap for these tools, so we are helping them to fill that gap. CM: Great. So now let‟s move onto theme 2, Twitter as a social media tool. So according to you, what would be the main attribute to the success of Twitter as a social media tool? CL: I would say Twitter has become popular because it facilitates open and interactive dialogs and communication. So people like to communicate and they would have traditionally used peer to peer communication, like text messages which is one person to another, whereas Twitter is similar to text message but it is actually allows interactivity, open communication so other people can get involve, so it is more like real life where people have conversations in groups rather than on one-to-one. Also, the emergence of smart phones, people are constantly connected, constantly communicating so Twitter arrived at the right time.

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CM: How about for businesses, what do you think made Twitter popular or attractive to them? CL: I suppose it started off like most tools, they start off being popular with people in the technology sector; so blogging became popular with technology sector first, and I think it is similar with Twitter, it became popular with bloggers first, because it is a way to distribute their new content. So it is really from the digital marketing sector to other areas of society across all professions. But yes, essentially people who like to communicate, like to share, Twitter is a great way to share, distribute content and ideas. CM: And would you think culture have an impact on the use of Twitter within countries? CL: I am sure it does, yes. But you are probably more of an expert than I am CM: I am asking this because I found Twitter was hugely popular in the US and less popular over here, in Europe. So I was wondering if it was a cultural thing. What would be your thought on this? CL: Well, first it is an American company. But I think the Americans have a lot to say as well, and they are more advanced with online digital tools in general. So it would make sense why it is more popular over there. CM: Ok, we‟ve covered theme 2. Now, let‟s move onto theme 3. First, would you think it is possible for companies to use Twitter to secure competitive advantage? CL: Absolutely, yes. Social media is a great way to build communities, to attract people and maybe build communities by communicating around a shared passion. Twitter is a good way to connect with people. Before you could sign up on emails, newsletters but people are less inclined to sign up for these anymore, so Twitter is a good way to connect with people. I suppose by having innovative campaigns and communicating with people cleverly it is a way of building stronger bonds and keeping out your competitors. So, yes absolutely. CM: And would you have any examples of companies who have achieved this? CL: There is a number of examples. In the US, you have several airlines who are using Twitter well; you have also have Wholefoods. In Ireland, I think the likes of Vodafone are very good, listening attentively to what people are saying and then responding very quickly to any negative sentiment. The quality of monitoring tools is getting better so people will be able to respond faster. Companies recognise the fact that negative sentiments or the fact that people are talking about brands, depending on their Klout score, for instance, they can be quite influential. So it is important for them to listen, to react fast to any negative comments and solve problems. Another successful campaign I can think of is KLM; they had this campaign where they were listening to what their passengers were talking about on Twitter before they boarded jets and give them a little present when they arrived on board, based on what their interests are. So there are a lot of examples where companies have used tactics like this on Twitter to give a little bit of buzz. Actually, two years ago we did a campaign for Toyota with four bloggers and the campaign was launched on Twitter and ended up getting a half page article in the Sunday Business Post. Recently, Crack Bird, the restaurant, did use Twitter effectively by having all their bookings done through Twitter; there again, their innovative use of Twitter ended up with a lot of traditional media coverage. So good campaigns can sip into traditional media which can give an extra benefit that can be priceless as well.

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CM: Ok, thanks for that. You were talking about Klout score there. Would that be one criteria you would use to assess if someone is using Twitter effectively? CL: Yes, that is one. PeerIndex is another one. Also, you can look at a sample of tweets, how long they have been tweeting, how many tweets, how many followers, how many people they follow, and then look at what they are talking about. The area is getting more and more „scientific‟ and there are more and more tools to help analyse Twitter accounts. CM: Do you think you can assess if someone is using Twitter effectively without knowing their aims are? CL: Well, if you are just looking at somebody‟s account, you are getting a superficial view; they might have one account but they might have several; you need to look a bit deeper to understand their strategy (if they have one). You can see if some people have very basic knowledge of Twitter, if they are just using Twitter to broadcast information about themselves, so if someone is really bad on Twitter you can see it. Instead of talking they are just pushing out offers and messages, they don‟t talk to people, they don‟t even have a link to their website, so you can see they are not using it well. CM: Great. Now, do you think Twitter can be used by companies who want to capture markets outside Ireland? CL: Absolutely. It would depend on the company and the sector and the product/service they sell. If it is in the digital sector or media, chances are, a lot of users around the world in that sector will be using Twitter; if it was industrial machinery, you know, maybe they won‟t. So it depends on the sector. CM: Is it something your clients are interested in? Is it a service you offer to them? CL: Yes, we do that. Most of our clients still focus on Ireland. But we‟ve started getting some clients with a more international focus; so we would look at their concepts/strategy and what type of content they want to create. So it could be by using the likes of blogs and apps, and getting the message out there using tools like Twitter. It depends on the client. CM: Alright, so once the strategy is clear and the company is going to use Twitter, how do you advise them to calculate their return on investment for Twitter? CL: It depends on what their product or service is. If it is something that can be transacted online, by sending people to a webpage – a specific landing page based on a link – they can see that it is directly coming from Twitter so they can measure the clicks on the link. They can then Google analytics, they can see where people are coming from. And there is no reason why people shouldn‟t be able to make direct sales from links distributed through Twitter, because if people can buy something they‟ll come in from all angles. Then, you can measure click through rates on links like shortened url, for examples. CM: Alright, let‟s move onto our last theme, then. In your opinion, what are the best practices for an effective implementation and management of Twitter by businesses? CL: I suppose it is going back to having a digital marketing strategy; what are the goals? What do they want to achieve? Should they be using it at all? They don‟t necessarily have to use Twitter. It‟s not absolutely essential. If they are using it, I would suggest they have a conversational strategy; so it is basically, map out, every week or every month, what they are going to talk about; so it is making plans around messaging – what are the different things the company is up to. And then, leaving room for more ad-hoc things. For instance, we‟ve
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launched ebook and we have implemented a strategy using a conversational calendar so on Fridays we are going to distribute via Twitter, links to the ebook on the social media dictionary, on Thursdays, it is going to be training advices. So we come up with little themes to remind people what services the business offers. CM: Before implementing their strategy on Twitter, what would you advise businesses to do, still as part of best practices? CL: I think they should set up columns on Tweetdeck based on searches (e.g. keywords, etc) and start following what people are saying. So listening first, then following a few people. So getting familiar with Twitter and what is happening on there, rather than jumping in it and making mistakes. CM: Ok. Now do you feel any type of company can implement Twitter? CL: I think it is open to any company. It could be B2C, it could be industrial, it could be anything. If you are creative, there is always of making it work, you know. But you are going to put time on it, so it really only make sense if your audience; if some of your buyers or customers are using it, you can use it. If none of them are on it, maybe you can use it differently to communicate with your partners. There has to be somebody there to engage with. CM: So one limitation of Twitter is to have the audience there. Are you aware of any other limitations? CL: I suppose time is another limitation. You spend a lot of time going through tweets. Also, I suppose having access to Twitter constantly, through internet and smart phones. CM: OK, thanks for that. Now, my next question is about the most present sectors on Twitter in Ireland. From your perspective, what would they be? CL: I suppose, digital, media, marketing, technology; they would be the early adopters. Then you‟ll find it is moving out to various other sectors, companies who are trying to use new tools to do business. CM: And do you think the effective implementation and management of Twitter is limited by the company size and structure? CL: No. You could have a one person company and still be effective. The key is that it should not be a monologue, it should be a dialogue. CM: For your SME clients for instance, do you feel they can use their existing staff to manage Twitter? CL: I think they should allocate time for training; Twitter is not really difficult, but people are often worried of new technologies. But if they give the time, they would figure it out. Some people are afraid of technologies, some embrace technologies. The good thing with Twitter is that a company can set up one account that can be managed by different people and it is fine once the tone of voice is consistent. That way you can spread the work load. CM: Now, do you think a company can use Twitter on its own if they wish to secure competitive advantage?

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CL: I wouldn‟t think it is sufficient. I mean Twitter is 140 characters so you are limited with what you can say. I wouldn‟t rule it out, you know, being creative you could probably come up with something pretty good. But essentially it is distributing links back to something like blogs where you‟ve got regular visitors. So without blogs, you would find it difficult to get your message across. CM: So, in your opinion, would a blog be the ideal complementary tool for Twitter? CL: Yes, blog or any other regularly updated contents. I think blogs are the engine of social media, because that is where you are putting your message, what you want to talk about and then you distribute that and you get people to look at that via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, etc, etc. But ultimately you should bring people back to your website. CM: That‟s great Conor. Now, final question. What would you see as the key skills to implement and manage Twitter? CL: Key skills… I suppose having an eye for catchy headlines, to get to people and get retweets. Also, if someone is very chatty and likes socialising and talks a lot, they would probably be the person for Twitter. That‟s fine but you might lose a member of staff because they‟d be talking all the time. I suppose also the ability to use new tools. CM: Ok. And how about marketing skills? Do you feel they are essential? CL: Absolutely, marketing would be key. And sales and customer service. It is not just marketing, it is listening to unhappy customer and address issues. So you cannot get just marketing people to use Twitter, sales people and customer service people should be using it equally. It is not departmental, it should be across the company. So as one person, one minute I am doing sales, one minute I am doing marketing, etc. So small companies would not have different departments, they would just have the holistic view of the company. CM: Alright, I have asked everything I wanted to ask you. Would you like to add anything that you feel is important to mention? CL: Well, you could follow me at @connector_ie and socialmedia_ie. But no, I don‟t think I have anything to add. CM: Alright. Thanks very much for your input, Conor. That was great. CL: Thanks.

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