Understanding the role of social media in the SME acquisition and incorporation of market intelligence

Iva Atanassova, Lillian Clark

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Purpose of the Paper - To provide a conceptual model for investigating how Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) acquire and incorporate real-time market intelligence via Social Media in order to develop their marketing strategies.

    Background - SMEs, defined as companies that employ less than 250 people and have an annual turnover of €50million, are a critical aspect of EU economies. SMEs suffer from numerous resource, skill and time constraints, and their approach to marketing is often shortterm and tactical rather than strategic. On the other hand, SMEs are also characterised by their experiential learning style and flexible internal culture. Consequently, SMEs heavily rely on networking, Word of Mouth (WOM) and other relationship building activities in their marketing activities. Given the suitability of Social Media for relationship building, as well as its ease of use, many SMEs have adopted Social Media as part of their business activities but still often struggle to use Social Media strategically or measure its contribution to their enterprise. In particular, the market intelligence gained through Social Media has been recognised as a strategic asset, but few studies to date have examined how SMEs can or should gather or develop this intelligence.

    Approach - An extensive review of literature on SME marketing, Social Media’s role in marketing and organisational learning styles was undertaken to identify an appropriate conceptual framework for future studies that would take into account the unique characteristics and operating environments of SMEs in gathering market intelligence. As a result of the review, Dynamic Capabilities theory (DCs) was identified as the best fit for development of the conceptual framework, in particular DCs’ Absorptive Capacity (AC) concept, which posits an organisation’s ability to identify, assimilate and exploit knowledge, as a key factor in growth and responding to change.

    Findings - The key constructs of DCs, SME marketing and Social Media literature were synthesised to product a conceptual framework that will serve as a basis for developing further research into SME market intelligence gathering and subsequent strategic development. The model will guide research into Social Media’s role in the key DCs phases of Recognition/Absorption, Assimilation/Sense-Making and Exploitation.

    Research Limitations/Implications
    - This first study based on this conceptual framework, a series of exploratory case studies on SMEs in Southeast England, is current being undertaken. Practical Implications: Research based on this conceptual framework will provide SME practitioners with guidelines in expanding their use of Social Media to gather market intelligence and contribute to their strategic development.

    Contribution of Paper - This paper makes the argument for extending research into SME Social Media practices from outbound marketing activities into the areas of market intelligence gathering, and provides a conceptual framework for this research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
    EventAcademy of Marketing Conference 2015: The magic of Marketing - University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
    Duration: 7 Jul 20159 Jul 2015


    ConferenceAcademy of Marketing Conference 2015
    Abbreviated titleAM2015
    Internet address


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