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Abstract

In addition to traditional marketing communication instruments, social media marketing has become a powerful tool of interaction with participants within supply chains. An increasing number of com-panies, especially in the US, are using social media platforms not only to market their products and manage their customer relationships, but also to initiate active interaction and communication with current and prospective customers. One core objective of this study was to evaluate certain content and contact features, as well as social media activities of companies of the Austrian food and bever-age industry. The evaluation of the content and interactivity possibilities on corporate websites was carried out with a set of criteria that had been elaborated according to research literature. Another objective was to gain insights into threats, risks, and opportunities for companies when interacting with customers by means of social media. This was done by a qualitative survey amongst Austrian business leaders. The research study clearly shows that a minority of the Austrian food and beverage industry actively uses social media platforms for marketing purposes and interaction with present and potential cus-tomers. Usually the platforms are not applied for active customer relationship management but for distributing exactly the same advertising messages already broadcasted via traditional mass media. The basics of a successful customer relationship management by use of social media are frankness, willingness to engage in dialogue, truthfulness and a short reaction time. In this case, potentials can be activated, while risks are minimized. The results imply that social media applications are innova-tive alternatives for implementing effective customer relationship management initiating a true dia-logue with customers. However, more knowledge on how to properly use social media marketing seems to be necessary within the food sector.

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