Facebook and New Zealand organizations – a PR perspective

I recently had the opportunity to hear a talk by Dr Kane Hopkins (School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University) on how New Zealand organisations are using Facebook*.

First up were his 3 takeaways for the session:
1. Facebook is best used as a space to interact with customers (via likes etc) – it is not an easy way to sell or market
2. “Likes”will enthusiastically engage with an organization
3. Much of what happens is meaningless!

Facebook is:
– a communication space – not a marketing space – it’s about people expressing who they are and who they like
– a customer services tool – people like organizations and then post customer services queries – this has created a burden for some organizations

Facebook observations:
– “liking” is easy – but pretty meaningless. For instance people can like something but not necessarily back that up by donating money – the exception is where likers have a strong attachment to causes they support (e.g Paws for Justice)
– because of this, Facebook on its own is not enough. Organizations successful on Facebook – like Paws for Justice – use it as just another communication channel
–  photos are king on social media – people are interested in photos of other people and spend more time looking at them than videos (this is worth keeping in mind!)

The actual research looked at 12 organizations – and posts over 21 days (these could be posts from the organisation themselves, or posts others had put on the organisation’s wall). The four models of PR (Grunig + Hunt, 1984) were applied to the Facebook communications of the organizations studied. On Facebook most for the PR activities of the organizations observed were in the areas of customer service, stakeholder engagement and events.

The challenge!
– organizations need to be smart – a Facebook presence may not be useful – and just because everyone else is on it, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you
– it is very difficult for a brand to establish itself on Facebook – big brands do well because they are big – so they will get a lot of fans (e.g. Coke)
– Facebook keep changing the rules which is becoming a problem with administering pages
– how does an organization keep people interested so they continue to appear in people’s news feeds?

The good news for organizations:

– people want to engage with you (especially younger people)
– Facebook pages provide venues for fans to voice opinions
– Facebook is a great source of marketing intelligence (e.g. Air NZ asking people where they would like to go)

Kane is undertaking more research in this area – and it will be fascinating to see what comes out of that. It is clear that it is still early days for understanding Facebook – and despite claims to the contrary out there, it is very difficult to be an expert on it!

*Kane’s presentation was base onresearch by a Massey University Master’s student – I’ve yet to get their details.

Marketing journals you can access online

I’ve added a new links section for marketing journals you can access online – first to be added is the Marketing Bulletin from Massey University:

The Marketing Bulletin is a refereed academic marketing journal that provides a forum for reporting research and disseminating ideas relating to the theory and practice of marketing and marketing research. The Marketing Bulletin is listed in the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training’s (DEST) Register of Refereed Journals.

This site provides access to the full text (PDF format) of all of the articles published in the Marketing Bulletin to date. In addition to the traditional articles, a special feature of the Marketing Bulletin is our Technical Notes section, which provides access to user-oriented software and information for various marketing applications. Please feel free to browse the site and download what you like, so long as you agree to abide by our Terms of Use Policy.

Surveys: Getting better return rates through incentives

One of the great things about working at a university library is you can get to along to lunchtime lectures on Wednesdays to hear academics talking about their research. The Dept of Communication, Journalism and Marketing here at the Turitea campus of Massey University has been running an excellent series of talks this year. This week Dr Mike Brennan spoke about “Doing research on the cheap”.

Mike spoke about using surveys to conduct experimental studies on how to improve return rates (this was for mail surveys). One of the key ways to improve return rates is to use an incentive, but what works best? As part of this experiment surveys had 20 cents, 50 cents, or $1 attached to them, or a chance to go into the draw for $200 or a $200 voucher, and there was a control with no incentive.

Return rates are improved by providing the incentive with the survey, rather than the promise of a prize draw or voucher. Turns out the 50 cent incentive got the best return from the first mail out in this experiment:


Mail 1

Mail 2

Mail 3





20c mailout 1




50c mailout 1




$1 mailout 1




20c mailout 2




50c mailout 2




$1 mailout 2




$200 prize draw




$200 voucher




(NB We didn’t get a date that this research was done. Many thanks to my colleague Jane Brooker for noting the figures for this table.)

Obviously a small cash incentive is not true compensation for someone’s time, so wording such as “please accept this as a token of our appreciation” in the covering letter works well.

These days NZ Post doesn’t allow cash to be sent through the mail. Intrepid researchers have tried alternatives to cash in postal surveys. These include:

  • Pens
  • Tea bags, coffee bags, or both
  • Scratch and win cards
  • Stamps
  • Golf balls (!)
  • Turkeys (presumably vouchers for them!)

                                        choc2                                                                                                                                                                                                         Gold foil wrapped chocolate coins have also been tried, but a better option is the chocolate squares from Whittakers. Judging by the murmurs of approval from the audience this is likely to be a great incentive!



The other important thing is not to use just one mail out, but to send a reminder or another copy of the questionnaire in subsequent mailouts. As the table above shows this will increase response rates. Various combinations have been trialled and the 3 stage combo of questionnaire with chocolate/replacement questionnaire/follow up letter was mentioned as being successful.

Other external treatments have also been researched – these include using stamped v franked envelopes, brown v white envelopes, tone of the cover letter, status of the researcher (professor v student), colour of the questionnaire. Mike’s profile page details the research he and colleagues have published in this area.

PS –  I see there was a session at the recent LIANZA conference on designing effective surveys by Rachel Esson from Victoria University of Wellington, so that’s one conference paper I’ll be looking out for.