Most of the florists are small enterprises that have little in terms of a budget for marketing through conventional media. Therefore, finding a substitute medium that is more economical and applicable to consumers’ communication behavior in the modern Internet era has become crucial for these businesses. Characterized by a large user population, low cost, and ease of use, social media have become that substitute and have been increasingly adopted by florists for marketing their products. Numerous social media networks exist (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010), but Facebook is the most popular social media network worldwide (Nelson, 2010; Stankov et al., 2010; Wilson et al., 2012).
It has been reported that between 39% and 61% of florists in the United States have adopted social media in marketing, with younger flower shop managers or those working in large flower shops exhibiting a higher adoption rate (Prince and Prince, 2014). Because of their benefits in marketing, scholars have urged florists to integrate social media into the marketing communication work (Hall et al., 2012). In the case of 1-800-Flowers.com, consumers cannot only make purchases on the official Facebook brand page, but they can also gain valuable information for reference from the official Facebook brand page for making the most satisfactory purchasing decisions (Anderson et al., 2011; Baird and Parasnis, 2011; Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010).
As florists are gradually treating social media as a comprehensive integrated marketing communication tool, the return on investment in social media marketing must be determined to assist florists in developing marketing strategies. The method for evaluating marketing performance on social media differs from that for conventional media. Conventional media advertising seeks increased brand awareness, positive attitudes, and memorability after broadcast, which are expected to increase sales volume. As a result, conventional media marketing often uses financial indicators as the basis for evaluating marketing performance (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). Unlike conventional media, social media are characterized by high social interactivity, the application of which focuses on triggering consumers’ actual behavioral participation to converse, share, and cocreate with other consumer members for achieving the goal of brand awareness, brand loyalty, and word of mouth, which will have a more durable, positive effect on sales (Hoffman and Fodor, 2010). If financial performance is used as the measure for social media marketing performance, then the characteristic of social interactivity is overlooked.
Therefore, scholars have commonly suggested using users’ engagement behaviors of liking, commenting on, or sharing posts as marketing performance indicators of an enterprise’s Facebook brand page (Cvijikj and Michahelles, 2013; Sabate et al., 2014; Tafesse, 2015). Consumers’ response behaviors of liking, commenting on, and sharing posts have a double meaning for marketing: 1) they reflect the degree of consumer engagement with the brand and 2) they increase the exposure of an enterprise’s brand messages. It is the so-called the like economy of social media (Gerlitz and Helmond, 2013). As a message disseminated by an enterprise on social media triggers users to discuss, provide feedback, or actively share the information with others, the enterprise’s act is considered effective social media management (Hoffman and Fodor, 2010; Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). This reflects the importance of Facebook brand page management to enterprises, in particular the composition of contents posted.
Previous studies for other industries besides floriculture have highlighted the importance of the message contained in a post and its media format in terms of triggering the abovementioned social media response behaviors. However, consumers in various industries seem to have distinct preferences regarding the message and media format of a post. For example, scholars focusing on the Facebook posts in the food, beverage, and automobile industries have discovered that the numbers of likes that entertaining posts receive have far outnumbered those of posts in other content categories (Cvijikj and Michahelles, 2013; Tafesse, 2015). By contrast, De Vries et al. (2012) analyzed posts from the Facebook brand pages of various industries and discovered that entertaining posts received fewer likes than posts in other categories. As for promotional posts, Luarn et al. (2015) examined posts from the Facebook brand pages of companies in multiple industries, and revealed that promotional posts with messages regarding purchase discounts, samples or coupons received the most likes from users. However, Tafesse (2015) found that promotional posts did not have significant effects in terms of triggering users to like or share the Facebook posts in the automobile industry.
The media format employed in a post is also a critical factor affecting users’ response behaviors on Facebook because of its effect on the perceived information richness of a post, which influences the effectiveness of the post in communicating to consumers (Daft and Lengel, 1986; Lengel and Daft, 1988). Therefore, a suitable media format can increase the clarity of message communication. The media formats frequently employed in Facebook posts include text, photos, videos, and links (Cvijikj and Michahelles, 2013; Kwok and Yu, 2013; Su et al., 2015). Similarly, although the media format has generally proved to be effective in increasing users’ responses to Facebook posts, study results differ with media format being the most effective. For example, Kim et al. (2015) investigated posts initiated by various industries and discovered that posts with photos were more effective in eliciting responses from users than posts with only text or videos, but the effect differed from industry to industry. Luarn et al. (2015), however, obtained different findings as they looked at the Facebook posts of various industries and found that posts with links and videos were more effective in triggering likes, comments, and shares by users.
Because of the importance of social media in the marketing communication and future prospects of the floral industry, the amount of related research has increased in recent years. For example, Hall et al. (2012) analyzed the importance of social media to florists and provided suggestions on how to operate social media successfully in the floral market. Prince and Prince (2014) surveyed the social media adoption rate for florists and investigated whether the adoption of social media was salient to the success of the florists’ business. In addition, Yue et al. (2016) explored the activities and contents of posts that millennial consumers preferred for florists on social media platforms. Several studies on consumer floral purchasing behaviors have highlighted the importance of social media in the floral market. For example, an investigation by Russell Research (2016) revealed that social media were the third major source of information on floral products for the X and Y generations, being surpassed only by family/friends and TV. In particular, Facebook is the social networking platform most widely adopted by the consumers of the younger generations (Irani et al., 2011; Yue et al., 2016).
Although Facebook has become the main social networking platform for consumers to gain information on floral products, how consumers respond toward different types of florists’ Facebook posts has not been explored. To address this deficiency, this study aims to 1) develop a taxonomy of florists’ Facebook posts to clarify florists’ current message strategies on Facebook brand pages and 2) examine the effect of posted messages and media formats in terms of triggering consumers’ responses of liking, commenting on, and sharing these Facebook posts.
The goals of this study were implemented using data obtained from empirical Facebook posts initiated by florists in Taiwan. About 80% of the florists in Taiwan are located in metropolitan areas. In particular, 70% of them are in the Taipei capital area, with many of them feeling the burden of the increasing rent for store space on their business operations. Subsequently, many florists have closed their physical stores or relocated to more remote alleys, with the result that online flower shops have become an alternative plan for these florists to continue to run their businesses (Yuan, 2010). Because of this industrial background and the high reach of Facebook among the Taiwanese population in that 75% of Taiwan residents have a Facebook account (Taipei Times, 2014), many florists have created a business page on Facebook as part of an attempt to increase the exposure of their brands. Therefore, this study provides empirical evidence that is valid in examining the study questions targeted in this study. The study’s results can serve as a reference for florists who are interested in improving their performance in social media marketing.
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