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Facebook Marketing Report

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 5521 words Published: 18th Sep 2017

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James Byrne   

Task 1: Facebook Consumer Behaviour

  1. Introduction

Consumer Behaviour has been described as the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use or dispose of products, services, ideas ir experiences in order to satisfy needs (Solomon et. al., 2010). It is increasingly recognised that consumption is a process not just a purchase event. This is especially evident when examining behaviour on social media platforms, in this case Facebook. Traditional models of consumer behaviour do not directly apply to this online environment. There is no inherent monetary purchase decision as Facebook provides it user end services seemingly for free. Founded in 2004, Facebook is currently the biggest social networking service based on global reach and total active users. Worldwide, there are over 1.79 billion monthly active Facebook users (Facebook MAUs) which is a 16 percent increase year over year. (Source: Facebook as of 02/11/16). This is despite the hyperchoice available to consumers in regards to social media platforms which include Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus and many others. Such a plethora of platforms present the consumer with a choice not based on cost but on factors such as time, user experience and connectedness. This paper will examine the success of Facebook both from a user's perspective and commercially and examine the challanges facing the platform going forward.

C:UsersJamesDropboxNCIrlContempary ConsumerFBstatistic_id264810_number-of-facebook-users-worldwide-2008-2016.png

For the purposes of this study a user diary was kept over 17 days where activity of particular interest was monitored and recorded -see Appendix at end of document. Behavioural patterns across different users are detected and discussed.

 

  1. Motives for Joining and Using Facebook

Motivation can be described as the processes that encourage behaviour (Solomon et. al., 2010). Facebook has very successfully positioned itself as both a communication channel and an informational tool between individuals, brands and news outlets. Consumers use Facebook to fulfil a number of primary needs - socialising, entertainment, self-status seeking, and information (Park et al, 2010).

Some examples of can be seen in this study;

Socialising

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The user initiated the communication through a public post of photos that indicated they were on holiday in Australia. A friend subsequently enquired "How was the trip?" and the response was "I did it!! Absolutely sensational - I'm still buzzing 🙌 Miss your face, how's home?". This conversation illustrates the role Facebook plays in reinforcing personal relationships. This post also displays self-status seeking as such a foreign holiday is highly desirable and portrays a certain lifestyle.

Entertainment

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Many humours videos and images are posted to Facebook. This one features potential trying to steal a bike which is tethered to a fence and subsequently falling off.

Comments included:

"That sXXX was funny. They can sue his ass though for personal injury."

"That's what they get for stealing lol"

"Homeboys got wreeecked"

Users frequently shares these posts with their friends. This action provides a indication of the users' personality.

 

Self-status seeking

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This seemingly humours post also fufills the function of portraying a desirable possession. Convertible cars tend to be more expensive than hard tops and indicate a particular type of lifestyle. That is message is linked to possessions is underlined by one self aware comment "I have a vw polo and brought a 10ft tree home in it today .... who needs a convertible"

The post also fulfils the need for uniqueness - to stand out from the herd. It emphasises the individual and their (relatively) unique qualities (Solomon et al, 2010).

 

Information

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As well as using Facebook to access organisational news sources users can request information to queries from their friends. This post received 9 comments with suggestions. Word of mouth whether initiated or requested is an important component in the platform's user experience. Individual's often trust the opinions of their peers more than commercial communications such as advertising. Opinion seekers thus may regard recommendations by peers and associates as credible and reliable thereby increasing the chance the will influence purchase decisions (Shu-Chuan & Yoojung, 2011). In their proposed model, tie strength, homophily, trust and two types of interpersonal influence, normative and informational, are proposed as the main influencing components of electronic word of mouth.

Gülnar et al, 2010 categorised the motivations for using of photo/video sharing websites such as

Facebook, under seven headings. In order of importance they are: narcissism and self expression, media drenching and performance, passing time, information seeking, personal status, relationship maintenance, and entertainment. Here are some examples of those that differ from Park's earlier classifications.

Self Expression

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This post displays remembrance, history, gratitude, patriotism and politics. It conveys a lot of information about the user's beliefs and values. Interesting to note the inclusion of a Pearl Harbour hashtag, a feature that is more commonplace on twitter than Facebook. not commonplace on Facebook.

Posts displaying narcissism might include those promoted by lifestyle bloggers whether they operate on the worlds of fashion, fitness or health. The concept of media drenching refers to a user's gratification through the frequent posting of images. Here is such an example where 86 photos of a holiday in Vancover are posted.

 

Narcissism

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Reinforcement of personal status and relationship maintenance can be seen in the following post. The drivers outlined by Gülnar et al, 2010 overlook the factors that influence avoidance of social media and the approach-avoidance conflict inherent in some user's attitudes due to a range of factors including fake news, perceived time wasting and privacy issues.

 

Reinforcement of personal status and relationship maintenance

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The user is celebrating his recent engagement with his online community. Such a noteworthy personal event is recognised by the number of likes (170) and comments (32) all of which were in the form of congratulations;

"Sooo happy for you!!!!!! She's one in a million xxx"

"So thrilled for you both. Fab piccie! Xx https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png"

Just fantastic superb news! https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f60/1/16/1f470_1f3fb.png👰🏻https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f3/1/16/1f3a9.png🎩https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f8c/1/16/1f389.png🎉 congratulations you troopers xxxxxhttps://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f68/1/16/1f495.png💕https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f68/1/16/1f495.png💕https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f68/1/16/1f495.png💕

The use of emojis helps convey the positive reinforcement. Thus the personal relationships both with his fiancée and broader peer group were strengthened.

 

Entertainment

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This post received 26 likes and 1 comment "Guys !!! Y'all are absolutely beaut. Wish I could've been a part of this".

Facebook is both used as a vehicle to communicate and portray a users lifestyle and

 

  1. Virtual Identities

The self-concept refers to an individual's perception of themselves (Solomon et al, 2010). High self esteem indicates a positive self concept. Marketing communications can sometimes tap into the variance between an individual's actual self (existing state) and ideal self (aspirational self). Brands tend to focus on the positive aspects of the ideal self rather than the negative connotations of the actual self. For example a gym posting on Facebook in December might tend to focus on the potential of getting in shape in the new year rather than avoiding eating less over the Christmas period. An extreme example of the reverse was the response to this ad by Protein World last year where it was perceived as focusing on people's inadequacies.

Debate raged whether portrayal of such imagery as the ultimate definition of attractiveness in marketing communications presented negative body image connotations to the audience particularly younger females. The controversial generated nearly 400 complaints to the UK ad watchdog that it objectified women and was socially irresponsible. Such an ideal of beauty can cause conflict if the viewer does not share these characteristics (Solomon et al, 1990). Such marketing communications may go some way to explain why consumers have become increasingly more wary of marketing communications (Bousch, Friestad & Rose, 1994).

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However such ideals of beauty evolve. In the early part of the twentieth century it was fashionable to be pale skinned as it denoted one who spent time indoors ie. Not involved with manual labour. However as air travel and package holidays expanded in the 1960s a summer tan became fashionable as it implied wealth and status thus fulfilling hedonic needs. Tactics understanding these western cultural norms can be seen nowadays online in holiday postings by travel agents and social bloggers. Generally direct ostentatious displays of wealth or conspicuous consumption are avoided on social media, particularly during the recent recession in many western countries. Rather such status is implied through the postings or experiences such as a foreign holiday or dinner at an exclusive restaurant. This contrasts somewhat with the theory proposed by Veblen, 1899 who proposed that some consumers namely a leisure class consciously consume visibly in order to inspire envy in others.

Possessions continually aid the concept of self through symbolism (Levy 1959). Consumer behaviour can further be examined in the concept of the 'extended self' whereby the buying and using of objects contribute towards our individual identities. The extended self comprises individual characteristics such as appearance, ideas and experiences plus external factors including persons, places and objects that form part of existence (Belk, 1987). The extended self encompasses 4 levels:

 

Individual

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Family

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Community

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The posts show pride, association and tribe identity based on common geographic association. The National Geographic story received national coverage.

Comments include:

'Some county for one county!'

Seen that sure best place to live https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/ffc/1/16/1f44d.png👍

'I say it time and time again. We are so lucky to live here.'

'we already knew this though right?! The most beautiful and the most fun! Cannot wait to go back. It's going to be epic!'

 

Group

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The act of consumption is varied and depends on the product or service in question (Holt, 1995). Consumption particularly in group environments encompasses four interrelated facets;

experiencing, integrating, playing, and classifying. Integration, the act of integrating objects of consumption in best way to manage self identity echoes Belk's extended self concept.

Examples of such consumption in Facebook can be seen in posts at sporting and other events.

IMG_4350.jpg

In many posts such as this the user is not featured in the image, rather the event itself is the subject. The experience is the essence of the consumption. Other examples of this are music festivals and holidays. Displays of experiences consumption can reinforce self identity derives by hedonic motives.

Consumers might also avail of products and services for socio-cultural reasons (Solomon et al, 2010). This post by a GAA club, in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal was for a fund raising draw in which the first prize is a house.

The promotion garnered national media attention while the draw pages generated 631 likes by mid December. The post is aspirational showing the prize but not the entry cost so as to reduce approach-avoidance conflict. The post taps into community pride and local identity. Reference groups such as this can have a significant effect upon its member's evaluations, aspirations and behaviour (Park & Lessing, 1977). Online communications have accelerated the spread and impact of word of mouth communication, especially when marketing communications are integrated through an omnichannel approach. Shares and likes boost visibility among other users. Behaviours in virtual communities have been found to differ from open forums (Kling & Courtright 2003).

Approach-avoidance conflict occurs where individuals desire a product or service while at the same time appreciating the real or perceived negative consequences. One example of a user expressing a case in point is illustrated here.

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The abstention from chocolate (presumably for a longer objective goal) is causing inner turmoil. An illustrative conservation with a friend ensues:

Friend: "Ah it's Christmas ---"

Poster " I'm going to explode if I so much as look at another box of celebrations https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/ff2/1/16/1f615.png

Friend: " --- just enjoy u will deflate in January https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/fd0/1/16/1f602.png

Poster: Naw, seriously...I don't even like chocolate. I'm a crisps gal me https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v6/f4c/1/16/1f642.pngbut there's chocolate everywhere, just begging to be eaten. This struggle is real --- haha!

It could be argued that the initial Facebook post facilities biological / psychological needs in that tension is reduced by the cause being shared with colleagues. The state of unpleasantness is reduced through application for drive theory.

Facebook posts and shares can be seen as a conspicuous form of self-presentation. Consumers create and manage their online identities by associating themselves with signs, symbols, material objects and places (Schau & Gilly, 2003).

This post shows an idealised view of homelife. Each photo is carefully framed to show specific elements. Seasonality is explicit in the Christmas tree. The user's conveys their media consumption through the HD television. The tone is one of contentment and fulfilment.

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Self-presentation as conceptualised here builds on Goffman's (1959) theories of identity and social performance. His thesis was that identity is a built through a conscious effort to project specific presentation norms. Consumers can inhabit various parallel identities online. For example a man can be a son, father, husband, sportsman, professional and friend. Social media activity may focus on one or more of any of these aspects of his life and identity.

C:UsersJamesDropboxNCIrlContempary ConsumerFBScreen Grabs2016-12-16 12.27.01.png

For example in this post the man poses as both a partner and a father in another idyllic Christmas scene. Families are the bedrock consumer group for many brands. They facilitate collective decision-making whereby products and services are decided on jointly and brand communicators must take into account the roles and objectives of each of the groups members. Children are increasingly involved in such decision making especially in the technological sphere. On the other hand parents may limit children's access to online sites and social media to protect them from unsuitable content and users.

Taking self-presentation a step further some celebrities have been accused of photoshopping images thereby creating a fantasy self portrayed as reality to their followers, Such imagery can suggest unattainable goals and increasing hedonic satisfaction among this elevated grouping.

Symbolic interactionism as defined by Mead (1934) focuses on the roles that object acting as symbols play in self-identity. For example in the following post the concert ticket acts as a metaphor for the user's self-perceived identity through lifestyle and interests. The ticket itself is to an old concert and is nominally worthless but is obviously of perceived value to the user. Consumption helps to define the individual or extended self (Belk, 1988). In the past consumers may have defined themselves through material possessions such as a record collection. Nowadays their self identity could be intrinsically linked to abstract factors such as quantity of Facebook friends or number of virtual birthday wishes.

IMG_4346.jpg

In the past consumers may have defined themselves through material possessions such as a record collection. Nowadays their self identity could be intrinsically linked to abstract factors such as quantity of Facebook friends or number of virtual birthday wishes.

Consumers tend to use products and services that compliment their actual and ideal identities (Clairborne & Stringy, 1990)

 

  1. Needs and Goals

Maslow's (1970) hierarchy of needs categorises five needs ranging from basic psychological needs, through safety, belongingness, ego needs to self-actualisation at the highest level. Facebook generally fulfils elements of the top three needs.

Here is an example of belongingness need fulfilment from this studies diary.

C:UsersJamesDropboxNCIrlContempary ConsumerFBScreen GrabsFile_004.jpg

Belonginess encompasses love, friendship and acceptance. A  tactic of Facebook's is to acknowledge friendship overtly by providing an album of shared experiences.

Text on 1m 4 sec "Friendversary video":

  • Hey A & B.
  • Four years ago today
  • You became friends on Facebook
  • Nice!
  • Photo album - On Cover: "You've Shared All of This Together. By A & B".
  • You seem to like each other a lot.
  • 452 times to be exact.
  • Close photo album
  • And while there are billions of friendships..
  • there's only one like yours ;)
  • That's awesome!
  • From all of us at Facebook (logo included).

The felling is home spun. Facebook positions itself as a central ingredient in the friendship - a facilitator and admiring observer celebrating mutual co-creation. Scale and individuality are both themes. Vinyl record player and photo album are nostalgic items - physical cues for a digital relationship.

Examples of ego need posts include images of a new car inferring status or a graduation scene inferring accomplishment. Self-actualisation is conveyed through the consumption of enriching experiences such as a holiday or concert.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is limited to rational behaviour and is culturally specific (Solomon et. al, 2010).

Consumers' desire sometimes is in conflict with rationality. Dangerous pursuits and unhealthy products can be seen as attractive on one level yet not on another. This video posted by online publisher Lad Bible plays on that theme. It  was created by French ad agency BETC to drive alcoholism awareness and has been extremely successful generating 4.8 million views and 2.5k comments. In every frame across a wide range of situations and environments the female subject is accompanied by some form of alcoholic drink. However comments mixed with many seeing the imagery as promoting an inspirational lifestyle. Though it created a conversation, irrationality in consumer decision making muddies the debate.

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This post emphasises danger and is targeted at the extreme sports enthusiast.

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5. Concerns and Issues with Facebook

Fake News

Following criticism of its role in the recent US election, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg maintained that Facebook is not a media company. (Ingram, 2016). The debate over whether social platforms should control and regulate the content hosted on their platforms has increased. The issue for Facebook is whether fake news and other dubious content affects it's credibility among consumers. Only 4% of web-using adults in the US have a lot of trust in the information available to them on social media (Mitchell, 2016). They are much more cautious about content received through this medium than that received from local news organisations (22%), national news organisations (18%) and family and friends (14%). This is despite the growth in access to news online which has risen to 81% from just 12% in 1996. 62% of adults now access news through social media - a figure that rises to 84% for 18 to 29-year-olds. Further questions have been raised about the potential of such platforms to facilitate deception, defamation and bogus profiles (Light and McGrath, 2010). The low trust invested in the information received from family and friends contrast with studies that indicate that consumers rely on such more than advertising (Arndt, 1967)

One example captured during research was a post from FOX8, a news station in North Carolina.

Here is the text of the video commentary:

  • "This is what happens when a fake news story goes viral. A Salisbury man is now in jail and facing some serious charge for firing a rifle inside a D.C. restaurant called Comet Ping Pong. Edgar Welch told police he was self-investigating an online conspiracy that the restaurant was tied to a child abuse ring. Welch had his first appearance in court today."

This illustrates a disconnect between so-called traditional and social media whereby newspapers and TV stations resent the perceived lack of regulation applied to social platforms in regards to authenticity and accountability.

Any decline in trust in and involvement with online content is of primary concern both to Facebook and also advertisers on the platform. Consumers are increasingly media literate and sceptical of commercial communications tactics (Bousch, Friestad & Rose, 1994). Consumers use Facebook to communicate directly with brands. Complaints and comments need to be rapidly responded to and resolved to ensure a positive online consumer experience and maintain brand legitimacy.

A Filter Bubble creating an Echo Chamber

Facebook as with other social media platforms incorporates algorithms, based on user profiling through recording of online behavioural patterns, to define which updates are most relevant for them and to be display them on their pages. Thus users become more exposed to posts that align with and reinforce their established interests and opinions. One extreme example references the recent Brexit vote in the UK. This remain voter could not find any evidence of support for the leave campaign on his news feed on Facebook.

A user in the study for this paper was similarly frustrated with receiving filtered posts from third parties.

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Only seeing posts that you agree with might suggest that everyone agrees with you which is commonly a distortion of the world view. Such selective exposure increases the likelihood of confirmation bias (Bessi, 2016). It could also polarise opinion through reinforcing pre-existing beliefs and increase antagonism when those that hold a differing view are encountered either in the on or offline environments.

Influence on Children

Although social media and online in general provides opportunities for learning and interaction there are fears of the potential threat of addiction, early sexualisation, bullying and a sedentary lifestyle have on impressionable young people, Despite Facebook having a rule preventing children under the age of 13 from opening an account, between 23% and 34% of kids under that age have Facebook accounts (Aiken, 2016).

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A recent report by UK telecoms regulate Ofcom found that social media is central for both tweens and teens. Some 23% of 8-11s and 72% of 12-15s have a profile. Children are messaging, sharing and liking throughout the day, including during school hours and late into the evening, with 9% of 11-15s communicating via social media at 10pm. Both 8-11s (43%) and 12-15s (52%) consider Facebook their main social media outlet. Another recent survey found that three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates (Carrington, 2016). The poll also found children spent twice as long playing on screens as playing outside. 74% of 5-12 year olds spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.

Spam and other Unsolicited Posts

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Here is an example of a poor customer experience leading to a complaint to the company in question regarding their frequent unwanted invitations. Such features on news feed can be seen as intrusion and negate positive interactions. Also of concern is the trend towards links with ambiguous headlines (click bait) and trolling comments (keyboard warriors) and disclosure of private details (Ng, 2016).

6. Conclusions and Opportunities for Further Research

The motivations for joining and using Facebook are wide and varied encompassing individual and gold needs and goals. Central to its appeal is the facility to develop and shape different virtual identities to various peer groups. However the attractiveness of the platform could be stifled be perceived weaknesses and barrier in the online user experience.

This study is limited as some Facebook behaviour as some functionality behaviours cannot be observed through news feed. Behaviours of consumers in the context of user-generated content has been categorised as posting, lurking, and networking (Morrison et al, 2013). Behaviours omitted from this study include closed group conversations, direct messaging either to other users or organisations and viewing without follow up action. This could be research through surveys and diaries of a robust sample size. There is also the opportunity to compare consumer behaviour on Facebook versus other social media networks.

Brands and organisations must recognise the evolving environment to take full advantage of this opportunity to communicate to and with their consumer bases.

 

Task 2: Facebook Revenue Model

  1. Introduction

Facebook has a market capitalisation of $342.75 billion. It employees over fifteen thousand people.

Marketers are employing the Facebook platform because of

 

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