Putting in Their Two Cents
Why are social network users, and particularly younger ones, jumping in on brand conversations?
Strategic marketing and advertising professional Olga Kazakova, marketing manager at Austin, TX-based Volusion, discusses demodirt.com’s recent coverage of the effects of social networking on consumer behavior.
In Growing Up Digital, author Don Tapscott introduces the Net Generation—those born between 1977 and 1997—and states that "Choice is like oxygen for this generation.”
If you’re a Facebook user, briefly scan your newsfeed and count the number of times you see mention of a brand. Users are sharing where they’re going shopping, what lavish meal they’re enjoying at a new restaurant or what must-have baby item they just snagged. And others are joining in on the conversation, offering a supportive or differing opinion to plug additional insight to the conversation. Every “Like”, every “Share” is a form of a review at the most trusted level that influences readers’ choices about where to spend their money or time.
Younger users, who tend to be most comfortable with different forms of technology, are interacting on social networking sites as they once did through email and instant messenger. But today, marketers and advertisers have a front row seat at the one-to-many conversation. Their goal is to reach advocates who will spread the message to their trusted network. But how effective is advertising in such an intimate channel where users control everything from the groups they join to the virtual gifts they pass along?
Richard Neal, founder and chief information officer of Temetic Research tells demodirt.com in a recent interview, social interactions are interwoven into who we are and how we self-identify. Identity is a major function of our relationships on social networking sites. By simply creating a profile and filling in the information fields, we discover shared interests, connections and beliefs within ourselves and among each other. We identify with other people, either at the strong or weak tie level, and can invent and reinvent our social personas time and time again.
As communication researcher, Dr. Jenny Sundén puts it, an online profile is where a person can ‘type oneself into being.’ Furthermore, followers, fans, contacts and connections become synonyms for ‘friend.’ Privacy settings aside, we share our life with the network that follows it, posing an interesting opportunity for brands
Social networking sites are basically story-telling sessions. One user shares his story and then another user shares his. Instantly, a tale is told through photos, status messages or applications. Brand managers and marketers are listening to consumer stories and segmenting users by demographics and interests. But the truth of the matter is that users see little connection between their own interests and Facebook advertisements—no matter how effective the segmentation. In fact, 87 percent of respondents in a University of Texas study said they do not trust Facebook ads.
In the same study, users were asked, “If your Facebook profile had to have an advertisement on it and you could choose the company, which company would you choose?” Respondents reported brands that they were directly engaged and interested in to have the prime spot. They wanted the company to be representative of them and their interests. One respondent mentioned energy drinks like Monster Khaos and Red Bull, because she’s always on the go and known for it. Another mentioned Starbucks because it was a part of her daily routine. Several mentioned Apple because the technology empowered them to get things done, faster.
Respondents also conveyed what brands they wouldn’t choose. For example, one respondent said “If I had to choose an advertisement for my page, it would need to represent me and the things I like. I wouldn’t pick something like Sperry boat shoes—loafers that all the fraternity guys wear—because that’s just not me. That’s probably the last thing I would want to have on my page for others to see.” The respondent was hesitant to interact with this brand because it would jeopardize his online identity.
There is lucrative opportunity available on social networking sites if a brand can make a connection with its brand users and followers. In the University of Texas study, 81 percent of respondents said that the things they read on Facebook were often talked about in an offline setting.
For advertisers, this poses a tremendous opportunity to create brand messages that are worthy of being talked about in real-life conversation. Best of all, the next 10 years of online socializing look bright. On July 2, 2010, Pew Research revealed that 85 percent of respondents in a 895 person study agreed with the statement: "In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage and other relationships, I see that the internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future."
Internet users are continuing to see the positive effects of online socializing in the relationships they form and the new ideas they harvest. If done effectively, advertising on social networking sites creates an opportunity for the marketer to connect with a person’s lifestyle and tap into word-of-mouth behavior.
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