Selling Vs. Helping : Exploring The Ideal Digital Content Steering Strategy For Optimal Online Customer Engagement In Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS)
De Silva, Marie
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Customer interaction in the B2B Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS) sector saw a drastic paradigm shift to digital platforms from a predominantly physical ecosystem in the last decade. Digital transformation of the overall business sphere and growth of social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook and LinkedIn impacted the KIBS sector significantly. However, despite its criticality, theoretical and empirical explorations synthesising KIBS and digital content strategy has been significantly scarce and fragmented. Replication of B2C and retail based strategies have been evident in the sector, but the rapid growth of KIBS in the global economy and its growing digital audiences have created a significant need for KIBS specific digital content engagement strategies at present. This study therefore was conducted to explore the ideal content steering strategy for the KIBS sector through a comprehensive theoretical review and empirical investigation. It sought out to address the key research questions of (1) What factors facilitate digital content engagement? and (2) What factors facilitate digital content diffusion in the KIBS sector? and essentially what content appeals more out of ‘selling’ (utilitarian) or ‘helping’ (assertive) based digital content on SNS. A comprehensive literature review was undertaken for this purpose based on which a conceptual visualisation of engagement and diffusion factors were addressed. Secondly a two-pronged in-depth empirical investigation of digital content of three New Zealand based small and medium tier KIBS entities was undertaken in the forms of a qualitative content analysis and a field experiment in order to gather empirical evidence to address the research questions. Primarily Facebook and LinkedIn were used as the platforms in the analysis owing to the presence of all three participants on these SNS. The study established a new stream of research for academia synthesising KIBS and digital content marketing and visually conceptualising the phenomenon, being the first of its kind. The results of the study revealed that utilitarian (Helping) content garnered higher ‘engager’ participation deeming it more effective in comparison to assertive (Promotional) content which garnered more ‘passive’ and ‘expressor’ participation. However, both approaches were only successful subject to being combined with informative and collaborative elements in posts and in presenting it in visual formats such as video or images. A comprehensive guideline for KIBS content development to leverage diffusion was further presented as a result of the study for KIBS digital marketers. Further intervention factors such as network overlap and bandwagon heuristics and more were identified as potential influencing elements in this case, while potential demotivators to KIBS content engagement were also retrieved for future exploration.