Social Media & Contemporary Yoga SMEs

by Joy Kao

The increasing adoption of social media attracts many businesses to exercise their employment of it to make profitable use. However, it seems a pure market trend and the benefit of lower cost appears to drive the adoption further. Many medium and small businesses still remain undecided about social media due to the lack of understanding about what it is and how to utilise it effectively. This report explores 8 SMEs’ attitude and motivations towards social media for marketing by adopting grounded theory approach. While the use is popular among businesses, there is a wave of criticism about the inability to offer authenticity of the well-known large brands. There seems a positive impact to smaller businesses and in order to investigate how authenticity transmits, SMEs are targeted in this research. In particular, authenticity is considered important for any yoga community according to traditional yoga teachings. Therefore, this research offers a systematic way of understanding and conceptualising social media marketing and its role in contemporary yoga SMEs context. The research aimed to develop the theory through descriptions, to theorising by condensing raw data into concepts.


Social Media and Contemporary Yoga SMEs, photographer: Joy Kao, model: Joy Kao

Joy is practicing yoga and is now actively using social media to promote her own contemporary yoga business.

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Social media in terms of its definition and typology is introduced briefly so is to improve background knowledge on the subject, then the current state of thought of contemporary yoga SMEs is reviewed. This study is going to examine the marketing domain on social media and contemporary yoga. The popularisation of yoga in the West is observed and supported by the deployment of marketing through social media. Additionally, this research on social media in the contextual setting of contemporary yoga SMEs hopes to gain a new insight into the scholarly work in social media marketing.

Social media, unlike other traditional internet based technological advancement, not only penetrates people’s everyday life, but offers the opportunity for transforming how firms conduct businesses nowadays. Social media is known to contribute substantially to the operations and success of businesses (Bennett 2012). At the same time, it presents a challenge for businesses, as the firms which successfully utilise social media are exceptional (Kietzman et al. 2011). Lack of understanding about what social media is and how to engage with it is identified as the initiation of the challenges (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010; Kietzman et al. 2011). Hence, there is a need to gain greater understanding if lack of knowledge hinders social media deployment for business purpose. On the other hand, social media offers the possibility for businesses of all sizes to engage in a timely and directly manner with their audiences, which is relevant to not only larger businesses, but also to smaller enterprises (Kaplan and Haelnlein 2010). Since most of the services on social media are free of cost implement, it appears more attractive for SMEs, primarily due to their characteristic of having restricted resources (Barnes et al. 2012; Levy and Powell 2003). Therefore, this report will further investigate how the cost benefit of social media unfolds in the practical usage of SMEs.

Consumers are increasingly contributing in user-generated marketing content; in turn, many businesses start to exercise their marketing programs to reach the consumers. Unlike traditional media which often prohibits businesses due to cost, social media enables businesses to perform marketing communications with lower budgets (Hanna et al. 2011). The distinct feature of social media for marketing communication enables the impact of consumer-toconsumer conversations to magnify in the marketplace (Mangold and Faulds 2009). In that sense, social media is suggested to be a hybrid role in firm’s Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategy, because in the traditional sense, the marketing communication mix enables firms to communicate with the audience (Mangold and Faulds 2009). Even though businesses recognise the needs to be active on social media, there is still a lack of appreciation in terms of how to utilise this distinct feature of social media for marketing communication effectively. This study will further explore how social media is adopted and what the experiences are as a marketing communication tool in real practise.

Contemporary yoga is a globalised phenomenon; the yoga diaspora began over a hundred years ago, and over the past few years its popularity has grown in new manifestations (Singleton and Byrne 2008). Yoga is listed as one of the top ten fastest growing industries in America, the number of Americans who said they have practised yoga in a survey was more than 10 million in 2006 (Moran 2006; Mattews 2012). The growth continues each year; the wellness industry as a whole, including yoga studio business is worth an estimated $3.4 trillion (£2.24 trillion) in 2015, with $446 billion of that coming from organisations dedicated to ‘mind, body and fitness’ (Lawry 2015).

The growth of contemporary yoga seems to have direct relation to the popularity of social media. As Huffington Post (2014) reported, there are more than 400,000 #yogi tags on Instagram. The story, “a yoga girl to business woman” tells of how Rachel Brathen, a yoga teacher and author, utilised social media to become an Instagram star. She explained how social media became her living and why there is need for more ‘authenticity’ in business (The Guardian 2015). There seems a market trend where more and more contemporary yoga entrepreneurs are looking to social marketing programs in an effort to reach their audience.

However, at the same time there is a rise of opposed reaction to ‘social media yoga’, which is a phenomenon that contemporary yoga practitioners upload a large amount of extreme yoga posture photos on social media. The reaction is to object to this trend which not only turns the yoga community into competitive mode, but also projects the false idea of contemporary yoga being about only postures, rather than lifestyle. Therefore, this research hopes to gain an insight on how contemporary yoga businesses can stay true to their beliefs while also utilising social media for marketing to achieve the businesses’ desired outcomes.


In this research 8 international contemporary yoga SMEs (as seen in figure below) were interviewed in order to understand the motivation, and the experience of social media adoption in a global mind-set of contemporary yoga in business context.



Figures below illustrates theoretical model that emerged from the interview data.


The contextual map of social media deployment process and its role in contemporary yoga SMEs


The majority of contemporary yoga SMEs are found to have poor knowledge in terms of what social media is and how to use it effectively. To convey their business message is their main objective for most of the businesses. Half of the firms believe social media is a platform for customer service by reinforcing the audience’s knowledge in yoga, as well as providing add value services, such as well being consultation. ‘Pull’ marketing strategy is commonly adopted amongst most of the interviewees which indicates a ‘soft’ approach towards the businesses marketing communication strategy. Social media is integrated into the yoga businesses’ IMC strategy for which advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing are the most frequently utilised promotion mix. In terms of adopting social media for inbound marketing, community building was found the most effective method. Creating talking points by posting outrageous and interesting topics can successfully stimulate conversation, whereas establishing community is perceived useful to extend the crowds’ attention. Requesting feedback not only helps shape the sense of community, but also helps to encourage conversation.

Authenticity was mentioned across all interviewees, the obligation to deliver an authentic message was influenced by traditional yoga teaching. It views that the practise of yoga should be integrated into every aspect of life, that is the so-called ‘yogic lifestyle’. To insist on delivering authentic brand messages underpins positive engagement performance. In order to generate suitable content while at the same time maintaining authenticity, requires creativity which is identified as a main challenge in most of the cases. A relationship between having sufficient knowledge and utilising social media marketing effectively is identified. Creativity enhances social media capability which is recognised. However, it is only evident in one case, firm 6. Perhaps access to more businesses with a professional knowledge and sufficient practical experiences regarding social media marketing will help to develop the understanding in the future.

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