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Modern technology has made the requirement for information flow to be quick and effective. We have been able to achieve this through the internet; the medium i.e the internet has facilitated each of us, by making the communication cheap and fast. News for U.K is available in the Australia as soon as it’s on the media, accessible by millions at one time. The growth of the internet is a necessity nowadays. Now internet, where people choose to spend a major part of their day has brought social communities where people can chat, message, share beliefs, extract information, share information about things they are interested in. The internet being the centre of usage for millions of users every day, thus it also appears to be a medium for brands and products to advertise, but this advertisement is different from the advertisement we see otherwise. This advertisement takes into account that the information flow is fast and inspired by people more than the advertising agencies. So let us see how social networking became the part of our lives.
The last ten years of the century brought the innovative technology – Internet. As predicted by Newman (1991) Internet:
Altered the meaning of geographic distance.
Allowed the huge increase in the volume of communication.
Provided the possibility of increasing the speed of communication.
Provided opportunities for interactive communication.
Allowed forms of communication that was previously separate to overlap and interconnect.
Whereas Grieco and Holmes (1999) (citied in Combe et al, 2003) identifies three powerful features of Internet:
Disintermediation or the removal of brokers by allowing direct communication across spatial and sociometric distance;
Asynchronicyty of the removal of temporality as a barrier to communications;
Oculacy or the ability to communicate messages through images.
According to Hermeking (2006) the spread of modern technology, including information and communication technology (ICT), is commonly regarded both as an indicator of the postmodern era of globalization and as the very precondition for that era of intensive worldwide interactions of people and exchanges of goods, services, information, and capital. On the contrary Hoffman (Hoffman et al., 1995) believes that the popularity of the WWW as a commercial medium (in contrast to other networks on the Internet) is due to its ability to facilitate global sharing of information and resources, and its potential to provide an efficient channel for advertising, marketing, and even direct distribution of certain goods and information services.
world internet users
‘Sixty five per cent of all UK households had a broadband connection in 2008. Adults under 70 years of age who had a degree or equivalent qualification were most likely to have access to the Internet in their home, at 93 per cent’ (Office for National Statistics,2009).
According to Linda Peters (1998) the Web presents a fundamentally different environment- both as a medium and as a market – from traditional communication channels perspective. It creates the Marketspace – a virtual realm where products and services exist as digital information and can be delivered through information-based channels (Rayport and Svikola, 1994).
Social Networking is a phenomena that has seen a rapid growth over the last few years. If you are not involved in one (or more) of these sites you are probably wondering, ‘so what is this Social Networking thing all about?’. Let us go through a general overview of a description of a Social Network –
A website where people are able to develop networks of friends and associates (whether only ever on line, in real life, or both) and create, share or give information on similar interests, tastes, lifestyles and other information. Also keep in mind that social networking websites are like communities.
The Social Networking sites have gained popularity and are on the increase for one simple reason, the ability to share, with others, information about yourself, your interests, your hobbies, your thoughts and your feelings or anything you choose. These can quickly be seen by others in your network and by you through messages, comments, instant messaging applications, photos, games, and group interaction.
Facebook one of the most popular social networking sites started as a site for previous College Associates to remain in contact with one another during and after they had finished College. Youtube is another social networking site not just a repository for uploading various types of videos.
Some people have found new friendship and romance. People get to know events like fires, storms, and even floods in other countries that have occurred locally in that vicinity, usually even hours before these events are made public by the media. People become involved in many discussions which have given them an opportunity to get to know differing cultures and beliefs
One other belief some people have is that it is only Generation Y that use these sites. You will be surprised that many people from many different walks of life in many countries in many age groups use these sites.
Some sites are broad category sites like Myspace and Facebook (now). Some are specific to a narrow category, like Small business, the Arts, connecting Families, Blogging, Making Money on the Internet and Dating Services (using a broad and polite term there).
Some are popular by type of category they use, where others are popular by region (like UK and Europe, Africa, etc).
According to Liu & Shrum (2002) new media (Internet), brought new models of interactivity: user-to-user and user-to-message. The interactivity develops a new meaning when it is applied through Web 2.0 platforms and Social media channels as dialogue between consumer and company becomes much more active and interactive. Contemplating about user-to-user interactivity Ha and James (1998) suggested that “the more communication in a computer-mediated environment resembles interpersonal communication, the more interactive the communication isâ€-. Defined by Steuer (1992) users-to-message interaction as follows: â€•the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a mediated environment in real timeâ€-.
The above figure outlines the E marketing strategy suggested Constantinides (2008)
Nielsen Company analyzed and found that the global average time spent for a person on social networking sites is over five each month (February 2010 data), Facebook being the major part of the usage.
Social networking is a great option to advertise your business. Social networking does not require large amounts to be invested in, rather its free most of the time, moreover its very simple, easy and quick. There are dozens of websites on the internet where you can sign up within a few minutes and network with millions of people quickly and easily. Social media encourages feedback from everyone who is interested. Social media provokes the user controlled media, empowering the users to drive the communities they are in. Make their comments on products and brands, as they come to them. They can exploit these communities to promote a product and also ruin the reputation of one.
Weston (2008) says that, social networking, if approached in the right manner, can build brand awareness, find new customers, help find talent, and help creating a database for market research and analysis. Some businesses find it unnecessary to market themselves on social networking sites, although it is a good way to advertise products/services with knowing what consumers think and want. Social network marketing can be very fruitful for businesses.
Social networking media has been thought to be an advertisement source though should be used cleverly to reap of the benefits from it. Thus it is important that the brands committed to using it should use it in the correct way. Zirinsky, 2009 believes ‘online social advertising is all about two way conversations with consumers, not one way broadcast…making this mistake is far too common and simply makes brands appear out of touch with their audience and reality, and is detrimental to their overall image’.
Social media keeps an edge over other forms of online communication for its use of enabling content sharing on a network. Content sharing and interaction is defines social media making it different from other means of communication. This means that if brands are going to the get value from social media, they should use it for what it is good in; allowing and helping the sharing of interesting material to create relevant positive hype for the brand or product. Powell, 2009 on the other hand states that ‘Brands need to add value into an online community through enabling the sharing of content, if it cannot do this it has little value, and will be perceived as having little value’.
For information sharing social media has accelerated the entire process. James in 2009 has said ‘Across networks, a good or bad experience will be shared, potentially on a huge scale. Between 700,000 and 1.3 million blog posts are made daily and, according to Google, a new blog post is being created every second of every day’.
Most social media services are open to feedback and participation. They encourage voting, comments and the sharing of information. There are rarely any barriers to accessing and making use of content – password-protected content is frowned on. Thus a free portal for information sharing, which is effective and fast engages millions of users, now for brands they should be aware how to engage masses they are interested in, because as discussed earlier social networking is probably the fastest way of communication and words positive or negative spread very quickly.
Powell, 09 debates ‘Normal social etiquette has crossed over into social media. Social media are communities and there are standards and protocols as to what kind of behavior is acceptable and unacceptable’.
This statement suggests that the brands should communicate and behave in the social media as to not offend the users of social networking. It is important that whatever information the brands or products are interested in sharing has been uploaded after careful screening and thought process. The strategy for online advertising has to be defined precisely.
Thorbjornsen et al. in 2002 affirms that empowering consumers is crucial to online relationships. Rowley in 2007 argues that the concept of ‘customer community leadership’ has been proposed with the customer being viewed as a partner. Virtual space was a key aspect in amplifying community member experience.
Kozinets solicited that ‘retribalized’ virtual communities of consumption require a newer framework for traditional relationship marketing theory. It is therefore vital at this point to provide a brief overview of ‘tribalism’.
Cova, 1997 proposes that the potential of tribalism and the linking value has been developed. A tribe is defined as “a network of heterogeneous persons – in terms of age, sex, income, etc. – who are linked by a shared passion or emotion; a tribe is capable of collective action, its members are not simple consumers, they are also advocates;” (Cova and Cova 2002: 602).
The Internet has only helped to increase the potential of tribalism. E-tribes allow people to “gather together in groups based on a huge range of cultural and subcultural interests and social affiliations” (Kozinets, 1999: 253). Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001 argue that it is crucial to notice that tribal communities are argued to be less explicitly commercial than brand communities.
Social Media Web 2.0
Social media and Web 2.0 are two words which are many times used interchangeably in the marketing literature, even though they are not entirely the same. As per the marketing perspective, the Web 2.0 should be apprehended as the recent tool for the marketing communication mix and facilitator and enabler of social media. The Web 2.0 term was introduced by Tim Oâ€ŸReilly in 2004, it has originated from talks about social software and the communities surrounding these applications. Tim Oâ€ŸReilly said “the companies that survived the dotcom boom had something in common;” these companies realized that the “Web” is much more useful for delivering service than being used just as a platform for “packaged” products (i.e. software). Constantinides and Fountain (2008) on the other hand defined Web 2.0 as follows: â€•Web 2.0 is a collection of open-source, interactive and user-controlled online applications expanding the experiences, knowledge and market power of the users as participants in business and social processes. Web 2.0 applications support the creation of informal users ‘networks facilitating the flow of ideas and knowledge by allowing the efficient generation, dissemination, sharing and editing / refining of informational content .” Hoegg believes that Web 2.0 is “the philosophy of mutually maximizing collective intelligence and added value for each participant by formalized and dynamic information sharing and creationâ€-.
Both of these definitions are exhibits of similar concepts for amplifying the collated intelligence, a community regulated by itself, effects of the network, openness in showing the information creation and sharing process, but the vital aspect here is the consumer. There are not many changes in the Web 2.0 compared to Web 1.0 applications from the technological aspect; value over here is created by the people as they do not just use this software but also play a major role in the creation of these soft wares. Thus as apprehended in modern IT solutions and models, user input is the most vital aspect, can be viewed on a global level with each social networking website.
Web 2.0 applications are still considered to be in the development stage, they are categorized according to the purpose and field of the research. Constantinides and Fountain (2008) classify them into 5 broad types according their nature:
“Blogs: Short for Web logs: online journals, the most known and fastest-growing category of Web 2.0 applications. Blogs are often combined with Podcasts, that is, digital audio or video that can be streamed or downloaded to portable devices. Examples: www.blogtopsites.com , www.blogger.com and several others.
Social networks: applications allowing users to build personal websites accessible to other users for exchange of personal content and communication Examples: www.facebook.com , www.myspace.com and others.
(Content) Communities: Websites organising and sharing particular types of content. Examples are applications of Video sharing: http://video.google.com, www.youtube.com, http://etsylove.ning.com, Photos sharing: http://www.flickr.com, Social Bookmarking: www.digg.com , http://del.icio.us and Publicly Edited Encyclopedias (Wikis): www. wikipedia.org , http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page.
Forums/bulletin boards: sites for exchanging ideas and information usually around special interests Examples: www.epinions.com, www.personaldemocracy.com, http://www.python.org.
Content aggregators: applications allowing users to fully customise the web content they wish to access. These sites make use of a technique known as Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (RSS). Examples http://uk.my.yahoo.com/, http://www. google.com/ig, http://www.netvibes.com/.”
Blogs and blogging
Web Logs (knows as Blogs), according to Tredinnick (2006), are arguably the “oldest” Web 2.0 applications and have been in the web space since mid 1990â€Ÿs. Constantinides and Fountain (2008) states that it is the most known and fastest-growing category of Web 2.0 applications. Published in Daily Blog Tips, 2008 ‘A “Blog” is a Web site, usually run by any individual with regular entries of discussions, happening of events, or other content such as graphics or videos where entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order and has permalinks’. Antony Mayfield argues (2008), the most important features of the blogs are Linking, Trackbacks, Comments and Subscription (RSS) which allow companies to engage with their stakeholders and facilitates conversations between them.
Good blogs are used by people to easily access information and share the viewpoint of things. People from various geographical locations, can log in and write blogs at one place, being able to share knowledge and express them. Blogs help people discover a lot a things that a layman would not be aware of but yet, through a search engine would reach a blogspot where he or she can gain the information they require.
The internet guru Seth Godin (2004) remarked that good blogs work when they are based on: candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness, controversy and utility. Armano (2008) groups these features to 4 Câ€Ÿs of blogging. Furthermore, Huang in 2007 identified the main techniques for how to manage brand communications according to various blogging motivations.
Table 2.2. Bloggersâ€Ÿ motivations.
Source: Huang (Huang al., 2007)
Social networking is the fastest growing Web 2.0 application, and this is the main reason for the social media to prosper as quickly as it is powered by effective, fast communication, this media is driven by the users demand. A user prefers to believe in their counterpart rather than any organization.
McKinsey defines social networking as systems that allow members of a specific site to learn about other members’ skills, talents, knowledge or preferences. Pew/Internet believes- A social networking site is an online location where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users. Wikipedia states that a social network service focuses on the building and verification of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. It provides various ways for users to interact – chat, messaging, email, video, file sharing, blogging and discussion groups
The features of social networks present an opportunity to create brand communities and interact with them online. It allows people from all over the world to sign up within a few minutes and access the information available, this has allowed the organizations to be acting in a multinational mode, as they can reach anywhere in the world with the least amount of time taken.
Tim Oâ€ŸReilly (2005) thinks otherwise and said that “Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core which could be visualized as a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core” (Appendix 2.4). Therefore it is difficult to classify the Web 2.0 into the precise groupings, because the applications are interrelated and most of the time a few Web 2.0 features works on one platform. The mixture of Web 2.0 applications working under one site are known as “Mash-ups”. On the contrary according to Mayfield (2008) this combination of two or more pieces of content (or software, or websites) is one of the phenomena in social media that make it at once so exciting, fast-moving and sometimes bewilderingâ€-. But even more vital aspect of Web 2.0 applications is the coherence with the different platforms. Social applications are getting more and more popular on mobile devices (Phones, iPods (via podcasts)). In fact, according to BBC News (2008) one of the reasons the Internet usage on the mobile devices is increasing Web 2.0 applications. According to Drury (2008) social media applications has an ability to bring “Head” (Professional) and “Tail” (UGC) content together in all the formats (audio, video , text). As more and more professionally edited websites incorporate social media content some companies (i.e. Joost) are trying to apply Web 2.0 principals (live participation) for even bigger media platforms as TV. These applications are being tested in the Internet TV and in the near future have a good chance to redefine TV experience completely. All these changes open new opportunities for integrated marketing campaigns, where marketers are enabled to reach bigger number of audiences of consumers at all their touch points with mediated world at one-stop shop.
Facebook is the most used social networking site that has involved the masses all over the world. Facebook is a social networking site, which provides users with a platform to create a personal profile page, add ‘friends’, and send messages, post on their profiles, comment on their status. Kazeniac, 2009 said that since the company was founded in 2004, it has become the top ranked social networking site. According to Facebook Statistics (2009), there are over 300 million current active users (i.e. users that have logged-on in the past 30 days). Facebook users have claimed the site a “necessity, along the lines of oxygen, water, and food” (Verna, 2009). For many people, visiting Facebook has become an integral part of their daily lives, and has even caused some to have an unhealthy obsession with the site. According to Elizabeth Cohen (2009), a CNN medical correspondent, therapists are seeing more and more “Facebook addicts,” who become compulsive Facebook users to the point where the site interferes with relationships, jobs, and normal daily life. The site has transformed social communication in the 21st century, with Facebook and other Social networking sites reaching hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
Facebook achieves the comptetive edge by adding new features and developments on a continuous basis. Since it is free to create an account, Facebook has to generate its revenue elsewhere, through a venue such as advertising. Companies can utilize Facebook’s features to reach their audiences in different ways. Gangadharbatla (2009) states that Social networking sites are changing the way advertisers reach consumers, and that these changes are transforming online advertising all together. There are a variety of ways to use Facebook, and the different features allow creativity and experimentation in advertising. For instance, when users log-on, they are taken to a homepage called a “News Feed” which highlights recent activities from other users. Each Facebook account also includes a personal profile page, a “Wall” to write public messages to other users, Facebook-generated applications (photos, events, groups, video, notes, and links), and an inbox to write private messages to other users. The site also allows users to add optional features called Platform applications to connect in new ways. According to Facebook’s statistics (2009), more than 70% of Facebook users utilize Platform applications on a monthly basis. Since these Platforms are optional, it is significant that users are seeking out additional Facebook features and uses for the site. The purpose of Facebook has shifted, as the continued popularity of added features proves that its users are looking for more than just casual networking with friends.
A few of the currently popular platform applications include games, fan pages, and gifts. Social-network gaming company Zynga has dominated the site with applications such as FarmVille, Café World, and Mafia Wars. Zynga has over 126 million monthly active users, making it the leading Facebook development platform. The company reported that they currently spend approximately $50 million on Facebook advertising annually, and this figure is expected to increase as the company continues to develop over the years. The games allow Facebook users to purchase virtual products with a credit card, as a means to advance further in the game. Techniques such as these provide Zynga with Facebook-user generated revenues and encourage more advertising and developing on the site.
Advertisers can also utilize the option to create a free fan page, where companies and individuals can invite users to become a “fan” of a product, service, person, company, brand, etc. The page is set up similarly to a profile page, with the option to add status updates, photos, announcements, etc. According to Facebook’s statistics (2009), over 10 million users become fans of pages on a daily basis, which provides growing possibilities to reach consumers without any financial risk. The updates on the fan pages are also displayed on the home page news feed of the fans who have joined as fans. There is also a chance to buy birthday gifts, as Facebook has expanded its ‘gift shop’ to include real gifts alongside virtual ones. This type of online shopping connects cyber space with the real world, so that what happens online does not necessarily stay online.
Impact of Social media advertising
Castells, 2000 states that it has long been suggested that the western world in particular operates in a network society. The leitmotif of societing – the link is more important than the thing – is central to tribalism. Crucially, tribalism encourages dialogue in many directions and combinations; Business to Consumer (B2C), Customer to Business (C2B) and Consumer to Consumer (C2C).
Drury (2008) suggests that when analyzing social media marketers too often concentrates on the “media” factor, when “social” element is the key, because marketing within social media is about building a relationship and conversation with the audience, where the simple message delivery is changed by ongoing exchange of perceptions and ideas between company and the consumer. Haven (2008) argues that social media key elements are not entirely new as features of sharing, connecting, opining, broadcasting and creating has been long in our lives, but there are several characteristics of new technologies and behaviors that set them apart from the past:
Reach – Historically, audiences for the common person have been limited: a tribe, family, friends, neighbors, or the local community. Today’s technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.
Accessibility – The means of production for most media used to lie in the hands of enterprises with unlimited resources (financial or human). Today’s technologies for media creation are available to anyone at little or no cost.
Usability – The means of production typically required specialized skills and training, both technically and creatively. Today’s technologies simplify those processes, or in some cases reinvent them, so anyone can create and operate the means of production.
Transparency – People, especially Americans, historically kept personal information to themselves and had a general distrust of authority (enterprises, government, etc.). Today, people are willing to share anything about themselves (interests, location, family situations, health condition, etc.) in a public venue, and today’s technologies make that both possible and purposeful.
Recency – When people did have the means of production and distribution in the past (albeit limited), the time lag between communications was typically long (days, weeks, or even months). It was a limitation of the technology or system in which it operated. Today’s technologies enable instantaneous responses and dialog where only the participant determines the delay in response.
From the results of a research, Ofcom (2008) identified the following “fundamental principle” of social networking; ‘By extending their social networks, users have the opportunity to communicate with people who share their interests and with people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds’ (Ofcom,2008). And, ‘Communication with family and friends was found to be the main reason adults used social networking sites’ (Ofcom, 2008). Next Thing Now (McCann, 2008) said that 74% of social media users use the social media to be able to get in touch with their friends.
This fact emphasizes on the fact the social network advertising has to be dealt with care and for the reason of not getting into the line of bad publicity. Glen Urban argued that the customer has much more power then ever before because of the three main reasons:
A study from Delloite Touche USA narrated that 62% of the U.S consumers read consumer generated online reviews and 98% of them find these reviews reliable enough. 80% of these consumers say that these reviews have affected their buying intentions. According to Lockhorn (2007) word of mouth campaigns can take off very quietly through niche communities and can be powerfully persuasive, or conversely result in an astonishing backlash.
This perhaps is not good for products, the habitat in which they are pushing to gain an entry is not notably considerate, and even if they do get a break, there is still a lot of competitor brand presence. James, in 2009 states that ‘In a UK study by Jam/MySpace in early 2009, 26% of social media users said they already felt bombarded by too much clutter/advertising’. The social media networking is uncommon and challenging and the brands that do not comply to the requirements will have to combat as their competitors reap on the market share. But the ones that can exploit the environment stay to make deeper relationships with the audience, and increase their brand awareness.
The information over a social network spreads like a fire. Thus a bad word or a wrong mode of communication will also travel to millions of people at the same time, accessible by millions. The User Generated Content (UGC) can become an influential message of the consumer to the consumer (C2C) about the company and therefore should be carefully monitored. In fact, the content is the new message in social media channels. According to Eikelmann (Eikelmann et al, 2008) the best marketers can do in this environment is to try to engage with the consumers through social media in order influence these messages. Drury (2008) proposes that instead of sending simple messages, marketers should provide the audience with content that would intrigue them and would also be a means to kick off conversations at. Therefore, influence will become a standard measurement in Marketing 2.0 (Dowdell, 2008). As blogger and social media strategist Douma (2008) put it: “The age of persuasion is over. Welcome to the age of influence.”
‘Give us the people control and we will use it, if you do not give us control you will lose us’ (Jarvis, 2009).
Control now lies with the users, their perceptions, opinions, demands, satisfaction is what matters more. ‘Previously, the powerful; companies, institutions and governments – believed they were in control, and they were. Now the internet allows us to speak to the world, to organise ourselves, to find and spread information, to challenge old ways, to retake control’ (Jarvis, 2009).
Companies realize this shift in control when they can stop holding on to what is lost, and start indulging in what is going to attract consumers. Engagement means giving the users content that is interesting and would appeal the masses, also providing them space where they can discuss the content. The control can be handed to the consumer. If the consumer spreads out a positive word for brand, this will create a positive image for it.
Social media communities are used by humans, for a brand to prevail, it must use emotions, or undergo the subsequent results. Jarvis 2009 quotes ‘Today, when you lose a customer, you don’t lose just that customer, you risk losing that customers friends. And thanks to the internet and blogs and consumer rate and review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world’.
According to Powell (2009) ‘The brand is no longer
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