Institute of Marketing at University of Münster / Social Media

July 2010

Mr Krafft, Germany’s major social media portals recorded 72 million hits in the first quarter of 2010 alone. In your opinion, why are people so fascinated by online social networking?

Well, for one, even for the uninitiated, they are extraordinarily simple to use. It’s so quick and easy to learn how they function and how to post your own profile. Also, the actual dynamics of the thing are absolutely fascinating: you can communicate with people anywhere in the world in real time. A new form of gossip and chat in virtual space. With the right mobile, even if you’re bobbing about at sea, you can share your joy at catching a huge fish with others all over the world. Social media offer a previously unimaginable immediacy and opportunity for self-expression. But at the same time, they offer a kind of anonymity which gives you the freedom to portray yourself as you would wish to be. And so you can grandstand or show only the best aspects of yourself, well, that is, unless other people post comments otherwise. In this respect, social networks can be very cruel. However, even this has a certain attraction for some. Overall, social networks are a kind of playground.

Do you see any potential for companies in Germany to use social media platforms for their own marketing activities?

In principle, I believe there is huge potential. This is clear from the fact that virtually every major company is already present on the networks. However, exactly how much potential they offer is difficult to quantify. More important is that the social media platforms offer new opportunities for content, which did not hitherto exist. For instance, customer management as well as advertising and promotional activities are significantly more dialogue-oriented and better targeted over the social networks. Or just think of the opportunities for co-creation, where companies develop new products together with customers. It means that you can learn from your customers. And there are more possibilities. For example, social networks are also useful for recruiting – and I use them for this as well. In fact, some of my colleagues launched a new textbook on Facebook, by starting a fan page for it directly after publication. Incidentally, social networks should be taken seriously as competition for qualitative market research. In some cases, focus groups may become obsolete, because information can be gained by careful online observation, although it has to be said that the findings are not as representative.

In your opinion, what rules should companies observe to ensure that the “digital village

There are really no official rules, but I believe that there are a couple of factors which are absolutely essential to ensure the health of the system:

Manipulatory intervention and censorship must be taboo. Online communities are very sensitive in this respect. Fictitious profiles can quickly backfire and the stigma of loss of credibility can virtually never be eliminated from the web.
Dealing with data protection responsibly is also an absolute must and here it is essential to remember that it’s not just good news which spreads around the web like wildfire and remains there forever. 
All in all, I recommend that companies maintain a serious, restrained presence.

Finally, a personal question: are you on social networks? If so, what do you like best and what don’t you like about them?

I’m a rather cautious networker: I generally remain passive. You might say, I keep the handbrake on. I mainly use Facebook, StayFriends and Plaxo to stay in touch with colleagues. My main difficulty with these networks is that they are really time-consuming. You can very quickly lose yourself in them….a click here and there, and you lose all sense of time. The technical term for this is the “flow phenomenon

Thank you very much for the interview!

Click here to access the Institute of Marketing at the University of Münster