Vox Populi, Research Paper Example
Words: 2103Research Paper
The rise of the new social networking media, the Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, has profoundly changed the ways in which people express themselves. These new platforms of communication and interaction are a space in which the vox populi, the “voice of the people”, can be expressed and heard. One of the most precipitous ways in which the social media have affected the vox populi is with regard to consumer behavior, by changing the relationship between the consumer and the brand. The rise of social media and new patterns of consumer behavior has in turn fueled the rise of social media-based advertising, leading to changed patterns of interaction between vendors and their consumers.
The social media ecosystem has been burgeoning in recent years, and within it, social networking has emerged as the most powerful and dynamic force (Hutton and Fosdick 564). The Universal McCann (UM) “Wave” social media study series found that in 2006, 27% of respondents to its survey had social network profiles (564). A mere four years later, 74% of respondents had social networking profiles (564). The motivations for social networking are born from distinct needs for self-promotion, sharing novel experiences with others and interacting with them, and “to simply have fun or waste time” (566). Staying in touch with friends and making new ones are two of the biggest motivations for using social networking sites, with the result that to date, “social networks now have surpassed all other means of keeping in touch with people, even outstripping face-to-face contact in 2009” (566-567).
As Tuten explains, social media marketing, especially by means of social networking, has largely monopolized the conversation about online advertising (19). Social communities, after all, encompass a very wide range of different kinds of social networking sites, “including forums, online social networks, brand-sponsored virtual worlds, open virtual worlds, social video and photo communities, and social news and bookmarking Web sites” (19). From this, the power of social media marketing could scarcely be any more obvious: it offers a precipitous and powerful new way for consumers and brands to interact with each other as never before (19). The social media ecosystem is a complex one: it includes creators, who actually develop content, i.e. blogs, websites, video channels on YouTube, etc.; critics, who generate commentary, critiques, and reviews which can in turn influence much opinion; collectors, who “consume user-generated content actively by using RSS feeds and tagging sites”; joiners, who are participants, and spectators, who consume media but do not comment or interact with others much (22). This is the ecosystem within which advertisers must work if they are to hope to succeed. Advertisers who are successful use the structure of the social media ecosystem well, for example by generating content that engages with many users of the “joiner” and “spectator” types, and, ideally, gains the attention of some of the critics and creators as well (22-28).
This development has tremendous ramifications for marketers in their advertising. For example, Twitter ranks its top “tweets”, updates of 140 characters or less, and during the 2011 Super Bowl these rankings “featured UGC [User-Generated Content] in support of such advertised brands as Carmax and Stella Artois”, not to mention previews for feature films (Hutton and Fosdick 568). Brands such as Pepsi Max and Doritos rocketed into the upper strata of the global Twitter rankings (568). At the same time, consumer engagement with company websites is declining: from 2008-2010, the percentage of users who reported having visited a company’s website within the previous six months fell from 85% to 75% (568-569). Social media engagement with brands is on the rise, with users starting to flock to brand-based communities on such social networking sites as Facebook (569).
In this same vein, Botha and Mills reported that “social media sites are now as influential as, and perhaps more so than, conventional media” (83). It would be difficult indeed to overstate the ramifications of this for brand management (83). Social media can produce a tremendous groundswell of ‘buzz’ about a brand, whether in favor of it, as with Unilever Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, or against it, as with “the Greenpeace versus Nestlé Kit Kat Palm Oil debacle” (83). In the new social media ecosystem, it is the vox populi that prevails more and more, in ways that would have been unimaginable in the old media ecosystem (84).
Advertisers that achieve and maintain success in this new social media-dominated landscape do so by recognizing that in this space, the consumers predominate (Botha and Mills 84). Here, the consumer is king, and companies that recognize this and respond with the appropriate savvy can generate tremendous positive attention for themselves (84).Indeed, there are some truly remarkable social media advertising success stories: Old Spice launched a Facebook campaign that netted the company some 120,000 fans (Bóveda-Lambie and Hair 222). Restaurant franchise Red Robin launched a “brand ambassador effort, which resulted in 225,000 ad impressions through buzz marketing of their current fans” (222). And the social media offer so many ways for companies to keep in touch with their consumer bases: everything from blogs to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace (222).
A key part of the phenomenon of this rise of consumer power as an expression of the vox populi in social media is word-of-mouth (WOM) communications (Okazaki 12). In the world of social networking, word-of-mouth consists of “informal communication regarding the ownership, usage, or characteristics of particular goods and services” (12). For young consumers, in particular, social media-based WOM communication on mobile devices is especially important for establishing brand reputation (12). In light of the high rates of mobile phone usage and social media networking by these young people, it is small wonder indeed that mobile-based social media advertising has taken off (13). Sony Pictures launched a mobile-based promotional program for its feature film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, which included quizzes based on a short message service (SMS), as well as multimedia message service (MMS) images (13). And when automobile manufacturer Volvo launched the S40, they used a print-based ad to invite customers to send the word “MYSTERY” by text message (13). Customers who did so “received a reply with a link that enabled them to download the appropriate video tool to play the teaser trailer directly on their phone” (13). And as Okazaki found, users’ self-identification with their mobile devices meant that WOM communication through mobile devices was “more strongly associated with willingness to make referrals than face-to-face WOM” (17, 23).
As Chatterjee explains, one of the most powerful ways in which an advertiser can leverage positive word-of-mouth communications is by selecting and cultivating an ‘influencer’, someone with a presence on a social media network that has attracted no mean following (77). Using clickstream data, Chatterjee analyzed consumer activity to test these influences (78). Perhaps the most interesting hypothesis tested was that consumer-generated brand messages would outstrip marketer-generated brand messages in terms of both recommending power and referral propensity (83).
What Chatterjee found was that in fact, customer-generated recommendations have more influence in their ability to generate more recommending power than market-generated brand messages; however, they were not able to generate a greater propensity for referrals (94). That said, social networking yielded positive correlations between recommendation and referral visits (94). An interesting finding was that long-term members of social networks are much less likely to recommend a product or service than are newcomers; however, the weight of the recommendations generated by these long-time users is significantly greater (94). In other words, ‘less is more’ with these users: when they do lend their clout to a product or service, it carries considerably more weight (94). And although members with a larger network size are not more likely to generate recommendations than members with a smaller network size, they are more likely to generate referrals, since, after all, they are connected with significantly more people than the other users are (94-95). Chatterjee also found that media matter a great deal: video media, in the form of video links associated with sponsor messages, were considerably more likely to generate referral visits (95).
How, exactly, do users of social networking sites view social networking advertising? Taylor, Lewin, and Strutton examined precisely this question, with an eye towards ascertaining the various diverse factors that might affect the answers. As these authors explained, there appears to be a trade-off involved in advertising on social networking sites: more advertising means more revenue for the site, but it also tends to annoy users (258). User annoyance at unsolicited advertising is believed to have contributed to the decline in MySpace’s market position vis-à-vis rival Facebook (258).
What Taylor et al. found was that in fact, those advertisements that were perceived by users as informative and entertaining did the best: they resulted in the most positive user attitudes toward advertising on the sites (267). Perhaps even more interesting, however, these authors found that users’ perceptions of advertised brands as congruent with their own self-identity and self-image were positively correlated with their attitudes about advertising (267). Additionally, users’ conceptions of social networking as both “exciting and socially desirable” were related to their attitudes about advertising as well (267). In other words, peer influence and self-congruity affected users’ perceptions of advertising on social networking sites. Less invasive advertising, advertising that was less annoying and disruptive, also did better, as did advertising that did not raise user concerns about their privacy (267).
The use of user-generated and crowd-sourced content in advertising is showing increasing promise, as Ghose, Ipeirotis, and Li found. The key problem, these authors argue, is that advertisers are not keeping up with the wave of social media-generated information (493). Product search engines often fail to do anything more than simply provide numerical rankings for internet resources, as opposed to taking advantage of user-generated content, such as reviews (493). This is a significant shortcoming, because this user-generated content is a very important source of information for consumers in making their purchasing decisions (493). These authors were able to successfully leverage a number of sources of information pertaining to consumer reviews of hotels. And their findings were indeed enlightening: for example, the interaction of the variable ‘low temp’ with the variable ‘lake’ was correlated with a decrease in demand for hotels, indicating that consumers used social media information to form judgments about the desirability of a location based on temperature and climate (505). Customers also formed judgments about the desirability of a particular hotel by judging the reviews that they perused in terms of textual quality and style (505).
Social media have democratized the marketplace in novel ways, tilting the balance of power towards the consumers in the information economy. Through social networking, consumers exchange information with each other, whether by interacting with friends or by perusing the reviews left by other consumers for a product or service on a site such as Amazon, for example. The opinions of other users, as expressed through reviews or through original content, carry a great deal of clout. Companies that succeed in marketing in the social networking arena understand all of this: they realize the importance of heeding the vox populi in an increasingly socially networked, interconnected and interlinked world. Advertisers that manage their consumer relations well can reap the rewards of social media buzz.
Botha, Elsamari, and Adam J. Mills. “Managing New Media: Tools for Brand Management in Social Media.” Close 83-100.
Bóveda-Lambie, Adriana M., and Neil Hair. “Advertising Versus Invertising: The Influence of Social Media B2C Efforts on Consumer Attitudes and Brand Relationships.” Close 209-236.
Chatterjee, Patrali. “Drivers of new product recommending and referral behaviour on social network sites.” International Journal of Advertising: The Quarterly Review of Marketing Communications 30.1 (2011): 77-101. EBSCOhost. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Close, Angelina G. G., ed. Online Consumer Behavior: Theory and Research in Social Media, Advertising, and e-Tail. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Ghose, Anindya, Panagiotis G. Ipeirotis, and Beibei Li. “Designing ranking systems for hotels on travel search engines by mining user-generated and crowdsourced content.” Marketing Science 31.3 (2012): 493-520. EBSCOhost. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Hutton, Graeme, and Maggie Fosdick. “The globalization of social media: Consumer relationships with brands evolve in the digital space.” Journal of Advertising Research 51.4 (2011): 564-570. EBSCOhost. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Okazaki, Shintaro. “The tactical use of mobile marketing: How adolescents’ social networking can best shape brand extensions.” Journal of Advertising Research 49.1 (2009): 12-26. EBSCOhost. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Taylor, David G., Jeffrey E. Lewin, and David Strutton. “Friends, fans, and followers: Do ads work on social networks?” Journal of Advertising Research 51.1 (2011): 258-275. EBSCOhost. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Tuten, Tracy L. Advertising 2.0: Social Media Marketing in a Web 2.0 World. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2008. Print.
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