“Who ‘Likes’ You… and Why: A Typology of Facebook Fans” – Digital/Social Advertising

Who “Likes” You… and Why? A Typology of Facebook Fans: From “Fan”-atics and Self Expressives to Utilitarians and Authentics is a study which attempts to categorize Facebook fans by their characteristics on the website. The study’s authors, Elaine Wallace, Isabel Buil, Leslie de Chernatony, and Michael Hogan, used 438 people on Facebook to examine their online behaviors (Wallace 93). This study has beneficial implications for advertising because its findings can identify and target the Facebook Fans most useful to particular companies. Instead of marketing to everyone, advertising money can be tailored to reach the fans most likely to buy a product from a company and increase its customer base.   Additionally, the Facebook Fan provides a type of free advertising by spreading the “brand message” (93).  When the Fan “likes” a brand, their friends see this choice, potentially provoking an interest in the brand and becoming a new customer.

In order to determine the different types of Facebook users, the researchers used an online survey service named SurveyMonkey. To ensure they were surveying the right participants the researchers asked, “Do you have a Facebook account that you have accessed since March 1st?”, and “Have you selected a brand you ‘Like’ on Facebook in the past year?” (97).  After the screening, the survey was given to 438 university students who were considered “regular Facebook users” (96). These participants were asked to consider a brand they recently Liked.

After the participant selection phase, the researchers then asked questions to measure aspects, such as self-expressiveness, brand loyalty, brand love, and word of mouth for the Liked brand (97). These aspects were measured on a scale from one to five with one being strongly disagree and five being strongly agree (97). Once the data was collected, the researchers used cluster analysis to form “clusters” (98). Based on the analysis of the collected data, the researchers determined four cluster types: Fan-atics, Self-Expressives, Utilitarians, and Authentics (102).

The first group, “Fan”-atics, are characterized by high brand loyalty, love and WOM (word of mouth). They like the brand because of both genuine interest, and also to create an image for themselves (102). This is a group that has a lot of Facebook friends, and is high on the scales of self-monitoring and materialism (102). They also are considered opinion leaders and seekers. We used the brand BluePrint Cleanse, whose Facebook page is below, to represent Fan-atics behavior.  A Fan-atic would “Like” this brand’s Facebook page because he/she is genuinely interested in the cleanse, but also because the product helps to create an image of someone who is health conscious. Because Fan-atics show high brand loyalty, love and WOM, this would be a good consumer to target.  Their interest in the product will make them try it, and if they like it, they will spread the positive message.

 

Blueprint

Screenshot from BluePrint Cleanse Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BluePrintCleanse

 

The second group, Self-Expressives, are similar to the Fan-atics in that they also have a high number of Facebook friends, self-monitoring, and WOM (101).  Self-Expressives, however, have slightly less brand loyalty and love, and are lower on the materialism and opinion leader/seeker scale (101).  The primary difference between this latter group and the previous one is that unlike Fan-atics who Like a brand to create an image and out of genuine interest, Self-Expressives usually just “Like” to create an image. We used the same BluePrint Cleanse example to demonstrate that these groups may Like the same brand, but the Self-Expressive only does so because it helps create the health conscious image. People in these groups would be good to target because they have a lot of Facebook friends, and when they try the brand and like it, they will spread brand awareness through word of mouth. However, since Self-Expressives have less brand loyalty, love, and genuine interest, they would not, standing alone as a group, be a prime audience for advertisers to target. The “Likes” made by this group for the brand may not garner any actual purchases because the group is lacking the interest.

The third group that was qualified as a Facebook fan typology is called Utilitarians. This group primarily “likes” brands to gain incentives, but they have no significant consumer connection to the brand (100). Some characteristics of this group include their low levels of brand loyalty, love, and word of mouth. Although they may “like” a brand for it’s incentive, they’re still likely to offer negative comments about the brand to friends and family. They have an average number of Facebook friends, but this group also spends the least amount of time on Facebook. Because of this, Facebook as a social media entity doesn’t play much of a role in their daily lives (101). You can see why it’s not entirely useful for brands to cater to this group via Facebook. They also have a medium level of self-monitoring the activity they do online. They aren’t concerned with the kind of image they’ve created for themselves through “liking” certain brands on Facebook, but it is still very possible that this group uses other aspects of their Facebook to project a desired image. This is done through the selection of what photos they post or the content of their status updates. The members of this group also consider themselves to be not materialistic and they’re Facebook behavior through “liking” brands suggest that they are not concerned with the opinions of others when it comes to identifying with a brand through their Facebook page (100).

One example of an ad or brand that Utilitarians might “like” on Facebook is this ASOS, an e-commerce fashion site targeted at young adult females.

 

 

Although the ad indicates to us that it has a high number of likes, our knowledge of Utilitarian Facebook behavior tells us that most of these likes come primarily from the incentive the ad is giving (access to the exclusive sale preview) and not actual brand loyalty on the part of the Facebook “liker.”

Similarly to the Utilitarians, the fourth Facebook fan typology, “Authentics,” are a group unconcerned with image, however the “likes” they give to certain brands on Facebook are genuine. This group has high levels of brand loyalty and love for the brands they “like” on Facebook. Their level of word of mouth isn’t that high because the brands usually “liked” by this group are established, popular, and not too self-expressive (102). This group also has a low number of Facebook friends, which suggests that the way they interact with brands on social media is reflective of the way they interact with people in real life. The interactions are more intimate and more frequent, making Facebook an extension of their social group in the real world. This makes it smarter for brands to advertise to this group  (102). The scores for self-monitoring and materialism for this group were also low because they do not seek validation from others online via the brand they “like” on Facebook. This goes back to the idea that the “likes” they give to these brands are most genuine.

The three brands below (Tide, Coca-Cola, and Apple) are examples of the kinds of brands the Authentic may “like” on Facebook.

 

 

These are highly established brands with huge followings and for that reason, the word of mouth on these products is significantly lower than say that of the Blueprint cleanse.

 

We felt that this study was significant and reflective of the contemporary climate of ads and brand culture because it suggests something that a lot of consumers have been thinking: there seems to be an immediate disconnect between the amount of “likes” a brand receives on Facebook and actual consumption of that brand. A lot of the activity that takes place, not just on Facebook, but on social media in general has to do with the creation of a desired self. The internet and emergence of digital media has allowed everyday, ordinary people to become social media curators. It’s not just reflective through the photos and content on these various forms of social media but through the brands we “like.”

That being said, there are a few limitations to the study. The sample used in this study was a single-culture sample made up of all Irish students. In order to make the results of this study more accurate, researchers should observe a cross-cultural sample made up of students from different regions of the world (104). There was also a limited exploration of user-generated content. Examining the way students interact with their friends on Facebook through status “likes” and comments on news feeds will help researchers to know whether or not they should broaden typologies to include other members of the Facebook community (104). There is also no discussion of the typologies that “un-like” brand pages. Monitoring this activity would give researchers an accurate time frame between the time a consumer “likes” and “un-likes” a brand.

Understanding Facebook fan typologies is especially important for brand and advertising agencies because it lets them know that something like Facebook “likes” is not always indicative of how successful or unsuccessful their brand is. A suggestion for ad agencies in the future is to open up research departments that specialize in this type of behavioral analysis. This can be thought of as the second wave of the Creative Revolution. Not only will creatives and salesmen be working together to come up with provocative strategies, but researchers of social media behavior can help to measure the effectiveness of these strategies. Creating strong relationships between brands and their consumer constituencies is going to be essential for the future of advertising and digital media.

– BM and CY

 

Bibliography

Buil, I., de Chernotony, L., Hogan, M., Wallace, E. “Who ‘Likes’ You… and Why?: A Typology of Facebook Fans From ‘Fan’-atics and Self-Expressives to Utilitarians and Authentics.” Journal of Advertising Research. 92-109. Web. Mar. 2014.

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USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO REACH CONSUMERS: A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGES

The article, Using Social Media to Reach Consumers: A Content Analysis of Official Facebook Pages, published in the Academy of Marketing Studies Journal in 2013 examines why and how social media should be incorporated in to marketing and advertising strategies by content analyzing official facebook pages of 70 global consumer brands.

Social media has become an integral part of digital marketing; with the rapid growth in web users and everyone migrating online, companies are realizing the importance of having a social media presence to reach those millions of consumers.

Amy Parsons, the author of the article, begins by introducing the nature and significance of social media to explain why companies should establish social media presence. Social media refers to “online tools where content, opinions, perspectives, insights, and media can be shared…(and) at its core social media is about relationships and connections between people and organizations (Nair, 2011, p.45).” It has changed the way of communication, as well as where and how consumers spend their time. It is highly interactive, “unstructured,” according to Parsons, and is focused on generating conversation and fostering community which play an important part in purchase decisions (reflecting the logic of capital) (21).

Social media liberates information in providing the environment for it to grow rapidly and flow freely, whereas traditional media advertising was more controlled in placement and results. Social media as advertising allows interaction between corporations and consumers, allowing consumers to talk back rather than simply be talked to.

This picture of feedback on Nestle’s Facebook page shows there is high risk involved in social media advertising.

Screen shot of

Consumers can also form communities on social media, creating profiles to “connect” with others. These profiles can then serve as information databases for product development, advertising campaign development, and market research. Companies should use social media to engage with consumers as intimately as consumers do with friends and family. Parsons notes that it is important to be responsive and current while developing a style of communication that avoids alienating audiences with out of context tone/content.

As Naomi Klein writes of her experiences with the new cultural outlets for teenagers in “Alt. Everything: The Marketing of Cool” from her book No Logo, “Privatization slithers into every crevice of public life, even [presumed] intervals of freedom” (64) This sort of advertising, in Klein’s opinion, acts as “marketing that thinks that it is culture.” (66) The characterization of Facebook as a new cultural outlet for young internet users that fits within what Klein is saying certainly seems logical.

Parsons then applies the Seven Functional Building Blocks of Social Media (Kietzmann et.al., 2011) to her evaluation of content on official Facebook pages to understand how marketers target and communicate with consumers using social media. Facebook is chosen as the subject  because it has “the largest membership:” as of July 2011, there were 750 million members Facebook users (30). “The average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups, and events,” creating 90 pieces of content monthly and sharing 30 billion pieces of content (web inks, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) (27).

The seven functional building blocks of social media consist of identity – the extent to which users reveal their identity and information within the social media network; presence- whether users are online/”available” or not; relationships- with the likes of mutual friends, family members, et cetera; conversations-including frequency of postings in communicating with other users; groups-forming communities and sub-communities through “liking” same brand; reputation-“the ability of users to identify the standing of others within a social media network” (for example, “like”/”favorite”/endorsing a post); and sharing-sending and receiving of content between users which could include photos, comments, videos, et cetera.

The study evaluates the content of tabs, number of likes on official pages, and wall content of 65 brands (out of a pool of 70 consumer brands, 65 had official Facebook pages). Findings include a range from 3 to 14 number of tabs on main Facebook pages. These tabs and posts for photos, events, causes, and such establish the brand’s identity and reputation while the tabs for “connect/support/questions/FAQ” contribute to the brand’s presence. Discussion/review tabs encourage relationship-building between brands and consumers, as they provide a platform for sharing and conversations. Postings are key to driving conversations which can be promoted by: Calls for involvement, Customer comments, Polls/Poll questions, Product Reviews/Tips/Uses/Recipes, and Contests/Sweepstakes. Postings can be product-related or ask users for positive experiences (like testimonials, but as we have learned, information flows and proliferates, so these can go very wrong and cause counter-effect). Findings from the study show that Facebook postings are controlled in content and in frequency; “companies post on average 24 times within a month”(35).

Parsons’ findings show that companies strive to integrate into the building blocks of social media on Facebook, by exploiting existing networks and encouraging sharing. Their advertising models further reflect the logic of capital (a condition of ads-as-ideology discussed by Goldman & Papson) and the main tenants of the creative revolution seeking to shift the function of advertising from informative to entertaining and transformative. “Companies are trying to encourage consumers to interact with them the same way they do with their friends and family.” (Parsons, 27) Companies do not want their posts to appear like they are ads – they want to appear as if they are like the friends or family that Facebook users see posts from.


 Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 2.46.59 AM

The posts above are examples of posts from Facebook page “Dog-E-Glow”, which posts funny pictures that users often share and are commonly enjoyed by the group of dog owners. The ads don’t show the product that Dog-E-Glow sells – glow-in-the-dark dog collars. These posts are meant to appeal to the central tenants of social media as previously discussed by Parsons – meant for sharing and group formation/exploitation. 

The functions of corporate social media seem to be on generating relationships with consumers. Seemingly corporate Facebook pages hope to generate relationships similar to those with friends and family members. Their postings often put more focus on facilitating the strengths of social media than actually advertising their products (as posts by Dog-E-Glow show). Despite this, corporate pages tend to discourage comments or feedback by often disabling them whenever possible, unless the feedback is likely to be positive. Parsons also observes that there is a “communication strategy” unique to Facebook that is distinct from other social networks. Different networks enable a different sort of outreach, but there may be similarities in the various social networks.

The main takeaways from the article as it relates to the history of advertising as well as the current environment is that social media advertising is a continuation of certain trends in marketing & advertising. This definitely includes aspects of Naomi Klein’s observations from “Alt.Everything” and aspects of the creative revolution’s new method of advertising. Despite this, there are some challenges companies experience translating to the new networks. We can see this from Nestle’s issues, from the failure of the #MyNYPD trending topic, and across many other flubbed social media advertising schemes. Some companies find themselves often unable to control the spread of their content or authenticate themselves in the new medium. Lastly, we can see that advertising may not just be adapting to social media, but actively changing due to it. We’ve all seen ads with hashtags in them or making reference to Facebook, but advertisers now are forced to keep their campaigns flexible to ensure they work within the context of social media. Parsons discovered that pages were used to adjust marketing strategies by gathering feedback from customers, one perhaps unexpected example of social media affecting companies’ overall marketing strategies. There are plenty of ways which we see these changes reflected in the overall strategy of marketing plans of companies. Parsons noted that only 5 of the 70 corporations she attempted to study did not have Facebook pages – the ubiquity of Facebook is becoming difficult for companies to ignore. Their presence in this space indicates to us the emergence of a different media economy that companies are forced to adapt to. We can see some of the changes here, but there may be more to come.

 

Works Cited:

Parsons, Amy. “Using Social Media To Reach Consumers: A Content Analysis Of Official Facebook Pages.” Academy Of Marketing Studies Journal 17.2 (2013): 27-36. Business Source Complete. Web. 5 May 2014.

-TJ Peterson & Jennifer W.

 

“Friends With Commercial Benefits: Social Media Users Do Not Want Their Likeness Used in Advertisements”

Jackie Widmann & Victoria Ontman

Digital/Social Blog Post

“Friends With Commercial Benefits: Social Media Users Do Not Want Their Likeness Used in Advertisements” – By Marie-Andrée Weiss

Within the past five years, technological advances have fostered the growth of a new age in today’s advertising techniques.  Social media has become a major staple within American culture, one that most people utilize in the workplace as well as their personal lives.  As we have discussed the many ways in which advertising affects the development of culture and consumer behavior, we have learned a lot about the effects of social media, both negative and positive.

In the article, “Friends With Commercial Benefits: Social Media Users Do Not Want Their Likeness Used in Advertisements,” Marie-Andreé Weiss examines several court cases and the ways in which social media affected users in terms of their ownership of personally uploaded content.  Weiss discusses multiple cases involving individual users of social media and the ways in which they felt taken advantage of by large corporations.  She elaborates on non-economic versus economic values of the uploaded content, and goes into depth regarding its implications in the greater scheme of advertising and social media.

Weiss begins by discussing the right of publicity and the ways in which people use their uploaded photographs on social media websites.  She references a court case, Chang Vs. Virgin Mobile, which occurred in 2007.  In this case, a young girl posed for a photo with one of her peers, who then uploaded this photo to her personal Flickr account.  Shortly after this photograph was uploaded, a bus-stop campaign appeared in Australia using Chang’s photo as the featured image of the advertisement.  Chang sued Virgin Mobile, claiming invasion of privacy, libel, and copyright infringement.  However, the court dismissed the case and the campaign continued to run despite Chang’s resistance.

Chang Vs. Virgin Mobile,  Image taken from Google.com.

Chang Vs. Virgin Mobile, Image taken from Google.com.

Weiss then continues to discuss another case, Robyn Cohen Vs. Facebook, which took place in 2011.  Facebook users claimed that the “Friend Finder” service violated the Lanham Act, which “prohibits using a name, or a false or misleading description or representation of fact likely to deceive as to the affiliation of this person with another person or this approval of his or her goods or service.”  Essentially, Facebook users were upset with Facebook for affiliating certain friends to various promoted products and/or services.  Facebook claimed “no commercial interest” in users’ identities or likenesses.  Additionally, the court found “no cognizable harm or injury” caused by the Friend Finder, and the case was ultimately dismissed (Weiss, 9).

Friend Finder, Image taken from Google.com.

Friend Finder, Image taken from Google.com.

Facial recognition systems have become a prominent tool among advertisers, especially in the retail marketplace.  Weiss references the “EyeSee Mannequin,” an electronic mannequin used in Italy in cooperation with a mobile app used to track consumers movements and preferences in-store.  With the constant advancement of technologies everywhere, facial recognition is a technique that will only be utilized more frequently in the future.

"EyeSee Mannequin", Image from Google.com.

“EyeSee Mannequin”, Image from Google.com.

Defining the value of uploaded photographs is an arduous process, even for today’s media theorists.  Weiss references yet another court case, PhoneDog Vs. Noah Kravitz, which occurred in 2011.  Kravitz attempted to remain in control of PhoneDog’s company twitter account following his dismissal from the company.  After eight months of tweeting what PhoneDog considered to be “damaging” to the company, Kravitz was sued by his employer and an attempt was made to calculate a monetary charge.  The case was ultimately dismissed due to the fact that each part of the generic Twitter account has a different value that cannot be calculated.  The number of followers, favorites, re-tweets, as well as the content of each individual tweet all hold different values that are far too subjective to compute.  As we have discussed both in class and within our course readings, the economic value of “big data” is difficult to decipher.  However, new technologies are emerging in today’s rapidly advancing society, and both companies and advertisers hope to eventually be able to calculate and monetize the data of individuals for advertising purposes.

Weiss also examines the notion regarding personal photographs having a non-economic value. According to the Copyright act, a self-portrait uploaded on a social media site obtains protection as an original work of authorship. However, users of social media, particularly Facebook, permit the site to utilize their material when they sign up to use the site. In 1990, following the enactment of the Visual Artists Rights Act, artists of visual works were given the right to prevent their names from being linked to their work in “the event of distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation” (Weiss, 12). Unfortunately, this does not apply to your average social media user’s profile picture. The deletion of personal data also blurs the lines of ownership, as data is always being republished and never really disappears. Weiss discusses Pinterest as a success story, considering people “repin” photographs left and right, whether or not they are protected. Pinterest, interestingly enough, retains the rights to their content even if users delete their personal accounts.

Furthermore, a recent EU Proposal enacted in 2012, may affect US entities. In order for big data controllers to utilize material belonging to third parties for advertising, they must consult them first. Should this proposal extend to the US, various social media platforms would be swept into this, too.

Consent also has proven to be an overarching issue. Weiss examines Facebook’s changing Terms of Use which, from April to December of 2012, better explained to users that they agree to give Facebook “permission to use your name, profile picture, content and information in connection with commercial, sponsored or related content served or enhanced by [Facebook]” (Weiss, 14). While these terms may more clearly delineate to people what they sign away, consent is seemingly too difficult to clearly define and could be as simple as clicking “I Agree” when registering for the site. Many people also do not go to the lengths to thoroughly read these terms and so are uninformed of what they sign away. In the EU, however, under the aforementioned proposal, consent is clearly established as “any freely given specific, informed and explicit indication of the data subject’s wish to agree to process of his personal data, either by a statement or by a clear affirmative action” (Weiss, 14).

This naturally leads to Weiss’s discussion of consent to facial recognition. In the embedded image, Jackie’s Facebook provokes her to tag Victoria in the photo, as Facebook’s intelligent facial recognition system aims to automatically help users tag their friends easily. With Facebook’s acquisition of face.com, they made obvious their continued interest in facial recognition. The Federal Trade Commission’s report in October 2012 claimed companies must obtain permission from consumers if they wish to use facial recognition to identify them and further use their images for other purposes.

Personal screenshot taken by Jackie Widmann.

Personal screenshot taken by Jackie Widmann.

In the US, tag suggestions and facial recognition continue to be an integral part of marketing in the social commerce world as advertisers use “friends” likeness and images to promote their products and encourage people to purchase straight off social media site. Weiss concludes the future of social media shall continue to experience a convergence of technology and the physical world, especially where advertising is concerned.

Social Commerce Example, screenshot from Jackie's computer.

Social Commerce Example, screenshot from Jackie & Victoria’s computer.

Social Commerce Example, screenshot from Jackie's computer.

Social Commerce Example, screenshot from Jackie & Victoria’s computer.

How to Target College Students on Facebook

Analysis of “Targeting College Students on Facebook? How to Stop Wasting Your Money”

 

Ever since Web 2.0 hit the mainstream, social media sites have been the trending topic on everyone’s lips. Whether it was joining one, starting one, or using one for commercial purposes, these burgeoning outlets for online communication have been at the center of, and arguably the catalyst for, one of the most exciting times for mediated interaction. Therefore, it is undoubtedly worthwhile and interesting to study the personal interaction on these networks. However, in recent years, as it became increasingly clear that social media networking was here to stay, businesses have begun to get involved as well. And so, a new academic and commercial interest was born: social media marketing.

Social media marketing is the process of using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to build brand awareness, equity, and interact with current and potential customers. These brands create pages, content, and campaigns centered almost solely on generating online buzz and eliciting user engagement. Many companies pour hours of effort and exorbitant amounts of money into their social media advertising efforts. However, who’s to say it is all worth it in the end? All advertising or marketing campaigns, whether online or offline, can be measured by the same thing: return on investment. Regardless of the specific goals of the campaign (i.e. brand awareness vs. directly resulting purchases), ROI can be defined as whether a campaign has achieved its goal(s), and if this achievement was worth the company’s spend.

For years, companies have been pouring resources into social media advertising without any real proof that it was contributing to their business. In addition, many companies use this medium specifically to target the ‘dream market’ of college students. In 2012, Hemant C. Sashittal, Rajendran Sriramachandramurthy, and Monica Hodis did a study that begged this exact question: Is Facebook an effective advertising medium to reach the college-age “alienated spectator?” And if not, how can a brand’s current online strategies be adapted to better reach this audience, and establish a stronger brand-user relationship? The answers that they found, and the advice that they are giving to businesses, are likely not something these businesses would like to hear.

To conduct this study, titled “Targeting College Students on Facebook? How to Stop Wasting Your Money,” the authors collected data from their students, as all three are professors at business schools throughout the country. The study was broken out into 2 stages. In the first stage, five college-level courses taught by a co-author were split into 2-25 student focus groups per class. While one co-author questioned the focus groups about time spent on Facebook and motivations for having a profile and going onto the site, another co-author transcribed notes on the sentiments the groups expressed. In this stage, the authors were looking to draw out common themes they saw surface among these users. The second stage was an open-ended online survey administered to a different co-author’s classes. The survey, which was emailed to 93 students, asked, “Tell me a little bit about why you use Facebook and the role you think Facebook plays in your life.” Of the 93 student solicited, 42 females and 27 males responded, a 60%/39% split, responded. These students’ responses were used as examples to reinforce the themes that were identified from stage 1.

After analyzing all of the data from the first stage, and compiling real life examples from the second stage, the authors drew a few different conclusions. The first of these was that the college demographic “accesses Facebook not just to connect with familiar people on their own terms but also to indulge in their voyeuristic, narcissistic, and exhibitionist tendencies” (Sashittal et al, 496). Those who engage with Facebook to spy on others’ lives do so because Facebook is a low-risk, high-control medium. They are able to log on, and while avoiding any face-to-face interaction, “catch themselves up” on others’ day-to-day activities. “Narcissistic and exhibitionist tendencies” are thus classified as high-intensity users, and they utilize Facebook in a much more proactive way than those seeking a low-risk, high-control medium. Exhibitionists use Facebook as a platform for self-branding. They post images and statuses, share links, as well as complete other actions all to curate a very specific image of themself. In this way, they are projecting the exact version of themself that they want their friends and followers to see. This means that these users are also selective, and consciously exclude things as well. Narcissists use Facebook as “MeTV” (498). These people (and there are one or two in every network the authors claim) use Facebook as their own personal soapbox. They are able to broadcast what they believe to others that, in theory, believe they are important enough to listen to. In addition, they are also able to “seek validation to increase their own perceptions of self worth” (499). Thus, they satisfy an “inner narcissistic” need by posting their own thoughts, and an external one by receiving validation.

The second finding in this study was that this segment of Facebook users tend to multitask when browsing the internet and, in particular, when on Facebook. This means that users are “easily distracted and pay less attention,” and “are less likely to use Facebook to engage in product-related searches” (501). This means that the users in this segment that log onto Facebook, log on with specific goals in mind. These goals, coupled with the employment of severe multi-tasking, render the user completely distracted and nearly completely unable and unwilling to devote “cognitive energy” towards marketing schemes that brands generate. In fact, “not one of the participants reported buying a product or service as a result of seeing an ad or promotion on Facebook” (499).

In addition, the users who are classified as ‘Exhibitionists’ and ‘Narcissists’ actively compete with brands for attention. Those in a network with a Narcissist are much more likely to allow emotional involvement to “suspend disbelief” in regards to the Narcissist’s posts. The same people who believe what the Narcissists broadcast on the MeTV are also more likely to view brands’ attempts to market to them as “intrusive and irrelevant” due to the lack of emotional connection when compared directly to a Narcissist’s posts.

When asked their view on Facebook advertising, the three terms the participants used were, “stale, low credibility, and inordinately opportunistic” (500). Stale refers to the students’ observations that the advertising content was usually not much more than links to company Facebook pages or existing ads from different media outlets. In other words, companies didn’t think to design a new campaign for social media, and thought the users wouldn’t notice. This aligns with the next term the students used, “low credibility.” Many ads on Facebook, especially in the ad placements in the right rail of the page, offer up deals that are too good to be true, and often times are. These ads try to use click-bait lines to lure in unsuspecting users. This undermines any credibility the brand had with users by trying to mislead them—they are now noted as untrustworthy. The last term “inordinately opportunistic” also highlights this eye-rolling transparency for many users. The ads that fall under this category shamelessly use users’ information provided to Facebook to obviously target them in various ways. The example the authors give is that one participant changed her relationship status to ‘engaged’ and immediately began receiving bridal product advertisements.

Although the authors did not note this, it is clear that all three of these terms seem to have one common thread. This is that they all insult the intelligence of the audience. They assume that the transparent, old-fashioned marketing ploys they have been employing for years will go unnoticed with this new audience and on this new platform, which is just not the case. And this assumption, for a narcissistic audience, is a reason to disregard future advertising ventures. It is all of these points that allow the authors to draw their main overall conclusion: that Facebook advertising to college students is wasting resources and is mostly useless. However, not all is lost. With these findings, the authors have been able to make recommendations to enable advertisers to use the space to their best of their ability.

The authors suggest that to reach college students on Facebook, they should tailor their ads in accordance to the motivations of the users. These ads should appeal to the voyeur, the exhibitionist, the brander, and the narcissist. If it is not about the user, it is not interesting. Rather than taking a cheaper route and simply transferring ads for TV and print and posting them on their Facebook page, marketers should make specialized campaigns.

Effective Facebook ads will foster user-centered interaction, engage users emotionally and viscerally, and contain content that is co-created with narcissists. Students go on Facebook to comment, like, and view content that is relevant to their lives. Using one or all of the above criteria will catch the attention of this new generation of alienated spectators. These ads should be user-centered rather than the traditional brand-centered ads. With this in mind, marketers should be wary of the cynicism and shrewd ability of users to identify empty solicitations for feedback. One example of this happening was when The Gap used Facebook as a vehicle to announce the change in their logo. This marketing attempt ended in an adverse reaction of 200,000 angry comments from 30,000 users. The Gap should have utilized the interactive nature of Facebook and asked users what they thought of a logo change rather than just posting it.

Gap Logo

Engaging users emotionally and viscerally is important to get the attention of users who are multi-tasking. Users are not looking to learn information about a product but rather satisfy their voyeuristic tendencies. Like ads that are more visually focused rather than text-based, marketers need to appeal to the emotions of the user. A successful example of this is the Burger King “Whopper Sacrifice” ad which asked users to delete ten of their friends to get a free burger. It attracted users who were narcissists, branders, and voyeurs who were able to participate in this titillating and dramatic activity. With 82,000 participants, this ad understood that users wanted to engage socially and visibly when logging on to Facebook.

Whopper Sacrifice

whopper-sacrifice

Co-creating Facebook content with narcissists is important because the authors suggest they are leaders among social networks. Ads created around social trends like planking or owling provide an outlet for self-expression and to give narcissists and opportunity to show off to thei community. An example of a successful marketing campaign that engaged narcissists is a Corona Light campaign in which users who ‘liked’ the official page were featured on a billboard in Times Square. After users did this, Corona then offered the opportunity for users to post their billboard feature on their own profile page – both promoting the brand and themselves.

 

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The findings of the authors suggest that we are in the midst of a new creative revolution. Traditional ads on new media don’t reach audiences the way marketers want them to. Young people are media savvy and many ads on Facebook don’t acknowledge this. This generation is keen to the old ploys of advertisers and therefore disregard ads that do not change with the times. this is not to say that this group is unreachable – the success of certain campaigns can attest to this. They are still willing and excited to consume ads, but the ads need to offer something they have not before. Social media has changed the way people consume media so ads need to change with these new behaviors. Consumers are more interested in social activities that feed their narcissism rather than just consuming content. In a more fragmented world where it is more difficult to mobilize a large group of people, a different approach is required. Interactive ads that are centered on user’s narcissistic motivations will be the most successful on social media. Advertisers’ work needs to serve these motivations rather than just placing traditional ads on social media. This is perhaps why lifestyle marketing still remains so successful, they are transformative rather than informative. Ads on Facebook can take it a step further and work with users to participate in these ads.

 

Sashittal, Hemmet C., Rajendran Sriramachandramurthy, and Monica Hodis. “Targeting College Students on Facebook? How to Stop Wasting Your Money.” Business Horizons 55 (2012): 495-507. SciVerse ScienceDirect. Web. 7 May 2014.

-CL & JF

 

Eye-tracking and Youtube: Do Banner Ads Work?

The study “Relationships among Two Visual Attentions and Fixation Duration on an Ad Banner: An Exploration through Eye-Tracking on YouTube” was conducted at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.  Researchers chose to use subjects that they felt represented a significant portion of YouTube viewers, given that the research was being conducted at a university they simply put out a call for participants. This method of gathering subjects proves effective because it ensures that said subjects are random.

The researchers eventually found 100 participants that were usable for the experiment and had them choose between three distinct clips on Youtube with the only common thread being that all three clips had ad banners. The point of the study was to a) track the correlation between the attention given to the ad banner on the clip vs. the attention to the clip itself and, b) track the amount of time the participants were fixated on the ad banner.  A device called the Miramatrix eye-tracker was used to track the participants eye movement.

*This video is an example of one of the clips that might have been used in the study with an ad banner at the bottom*

In the end the researchers found that generally the attention given to the banner was underwhelming in comparison to the attention given to the clip. This could be due to a number of factors like the content of the clip itself (which, if interesting enough, will deter almost all of the attention from the ad), the placement of the banner, and the fact that the banners are generally smaller and placed on the bottom of the clip where viewers intentionally choose to avoid looking.  The study reported that only 16.777% of all the subjects visual attention was placed on the ad banners while 71.091% was on the clip itself.  Additionally, the average fixation duration of the viewers was 573 milliseconds meaning that, if a participant happened to glance at the ad banner, the average amount of time spent looking at the ad banner was .573 seconds.

One of the major conclusions that the researchers were able to deduce from this study is that there is a positive correlation between the visual attention and the fixation duration of the ad banners.  This means that the more times someone glances at a particular ad banner the longer amount of time that person will spend looking at the advertisement, which is fairly logical.

This study points out how some types of advertising, although placed in a seemingly high-traffic area such as YouTube, may not be as effective or gain as much attention as one would think.  Additionally it reveals the paradoxical nature of this ad banner type of advertising on Web videos in general.  This issue is highlighted through the finding that the ad banners on YouTube clips and the clips themselves compete for viewers attentions, as well as the correlation between fixation duration and visual attention of the ads.  It is questionable whether or not the owner of a particular clip would warrant this kind of competition on their YouTube video because of the potential inattention that it could mean for his or her own content.  Likewise, an advertiser looking to gain a significant amount of attention to an ad banner would be cautious in placing their advertisements on more popular and potentially more “interesting” or attention grabbing videos because of the inattention that the ads might get.

One issue that this study does not address is that not all YouTube videos contain these banner ads and, from our own personal research, often times these banner ads can be hard to find on YouTube today.  One of the possible reasons for this is because different Internet browsers afford different types of ad blocking capabilities such as Google Chrome’s “AdBlock”, which is an add-on to Chrome that completely eliminates these banner ads (and other types of ads) from appearing on one’s screen.  Another reason for this is that YouTube videos have varying types of advertisements placed on their clips, which seems to make the appearance of these banner ads (as well as other types of ads) occur in a very unpredictable manner.

*In case the video shown above did not have the banner ad as discussed these two images are screenshots of a clip with the ad banner shown at the bottom*

The implications of a study such as this are numerous.  One possible implication is that, if more studies like this are done on different types of advertising, especially online advertising, and reveal that specific advertising techniques are actually less effective than they were thought to be, the advertising industry could see major changes take effect in the coming years.  This potential shift could be likened  to the creative revolution in advertising because, if this type of change were to occur, advertisers would be forced to take their advertising efforts to a new level of creativity and thinking.  Consumers could, and most likely will, continue to see advertisements popping up in new places and in all different forms of media.  This implication is further perpetuated by the potentially unlimited amount of areas that the Internet affords advertisers to place their ads.  Especially with the advents in mobile computing technology and social media advertising, the areas that advertising could appear really are endless.

The findings of this study offer insight to the use of eye tracking devices as a method to better understand consumers. This method is not only used to measure eye movement on video, it can be used for all media and this study has succeeded in displaying a clear example of how companies today can benefit from the data collected by it. When brands and companies know what their target market is looking for they gain the ability to garner large amounts of profit which makes experiments like this one integral to the way companies interact and interpellate consumers.  Although this study finds that the ad banners used on YouTube videos may not be a very effective type of advertising, it establishes a precedent for other such studies to be conducted regarding other types of advertising.

Works Cited

Screenshots taken by author at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMnq9HTYynM

Tangmanee, Chatpong. “RelationshipsAmongTwo Visual Attentions And Fixation Duration On An Ad Banner: An Exploration Through Eye-Tracking On Youtube.” Journal Of Global Business Issues 7.1 (2013): 1-6. Business Source Complete. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

 

Measuring youth exposure to alcohol marketing on social networking sites: Challenges and prospects

Digital/Social Advertising Trends Assignment

by Bianca Bianchi & Vanessa Zdesar

Social networking sites (SNS) have transformed the way we connect with our friends, family and  the rest of the world. With all of this, the innovated web has also changed the way we are exposed to advertising. Corporations have changed their marketing strategies to adapt to the new “Web 2.0” era, which relies mostly on online content and social networking sites to spread brand awareness. Advertising on social networking sites (SNS) has embedded itself in our conversations and connections online; what was once a billboard ad has now become a viral video that people share amongst their network of friends. People today–the youth market in particular–spend a majority of their free time on the Internet and its various SNS, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Alcohol brands have harnessed the accessibility of SNS and online advertising to become pioneers in the social media marketing industry. Therefore, beer and liquor companies are targeting both their current customers and future (hopeful) customers. David Jernigan and Anne Rushman’s 2013 article, “Measuring youth exposure to alcohol marketing on social networking sites: challenges and prospects” argues that the lack of monitoring on SNS advertising has resulted in alcohol brands normalizing alcohol consumption at a much earlier age than ever before.

Studies done in the past have examined the effects of exposure to alcohol marketing on the youth, but Jernigan and Rushman’s study is the first to examine these effects on the digital, rather than traditional, platform. In the past, traditional mediums like television and radio were used to advertise alcohol brands. However, we have entered the “web 2.0” era, the interactive world of social media. Not only do consumers of all ages spend more time on the internet than before, but now over 75% of teens ages 13-20 use SNS, where the majority of alcohol advertising is done. Jernigan and Rushman’s study entailed analyzing the Facebook activity of 15 alcohol brands surveyed to be the most popular among 13-20 year olds. This was done with the help of an app the authors licensed called CrowdTange. With this app, Jernigan and Rushman were able to monitor the Facebook activity of these 15 brands, both in terms of brand activity and user engagement (i.e. posting, ‘liking’, sharing within the brand’s Facebook page). The three figures below show that by 2012, user engagement on Facebook for these top alcohol brands exploded.

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While most SNS restrict alcohol branded pages to those under 21 in the US, it is likely that users create social media accounts with false ages. Furthermore, these sites are so poorly monitored that alcoholic content not suitable for minors is easily accessible. YouTube, for example, requires a date of birth to create an account and view age restricted material, but teens can easily view the same material from an unofficial page that another user uploads. When creating a Twitter profile, the site does not request a date of birth; therefore, even if different pages within twitter request age verification, it is easy to lie. Once a user puts in the information for one page, it is saved for further pages that normally require age verification. Clearly, it is so easy to circumvent the measures SNS have taken to try and prevent the youth market from being exposed to alcohol marketing.

Not only is SNS content so accessible, but it is easily shared and spread to other underage audience members. In the example below, user-uploaded photos on Bud Light’s Facebook page depict  youthful looking drinkers. The snapshot below is a recent example of Bud Light encouraging user-uploaded photos. While this is simple post of a guy relaxing with a beer, the article explains “Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), ruled in a recent circular that alcohol-branded SNS pages and channels are advertisements” (Jernigan and Rushman. 100). Therefore, a simple post on Bud Light’s fan page is considered an advertisement, one that could be easily exposed to the youth market. With over 9,000 likes, this activity shows up on users’ newsfeeds. Furthermore, the 1,120 shares implies that these photos are now on thousands of profiles. Not only is this free advertising for Bud Light, but also a loophole to access the youth market. Once the image is on someone’s personal Facebook wall, his or her whole network is exposed to the Bud Light image (essentially, the ad). The image and its caption “Nothing feels better than Friday at 5” are very ambiguous signifiers. By making a very simple post that almost any adult can associate with, the image becomes ‘shareable.’

FACEBOOK EXAMPLE 

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The next example of easily accessible youth marketing of alcohol brands is on Twitter. Twitter only requires age verification when visiting a public page of an alcohol brand. Again, because of the ability to forge one’s age, all content, including tweets and pictures, is accessible to all users regardless of age and whether or not they are following the brand. The image below is an example of an alcohol brand, Four Loko, taking advantage of the accessible youth market. Because Twitter is a social platform, fans can retweet Four Loko’s tweet and it becomes an advertisement available to all ages through SNS. The title of their profile says “you must confirm you are of legal drinking age.” Although, their tweet from March 25th responds to fan tweets and insures that the company will “continue to bring our loyal fans the products they LOVE!” By talking to the fans directly, this tweet has a sharable quality in it that result in fans retweeting this message and sharing it with their followers. In addition to the tweet being a promoted (paid advertisement), the #FourLoko is a hyperlink that could easily become a trending topic on Twitter.

TWITTER EXAMPLE

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YouTube also require age verification before viewing a branded alcohol page. However, because YouTube is a video-sharing platform, age verification is not required when videos are on unofficial channels. The example below is a Budweiser Superbowl commercial that is now on the beer’s YouTube channel. To view the video through Budweiser’s account, age verification is required (though easily forged). However, when shared and embedded onto other web 2.0 pages, the video becomes available to all ages. The commercial itself is a cute story of a love between a horse and a puppy. Therefore, the content was very sharable and was discussed among all SNS and news blogs, resulting in over 50 million views.

YOUTUBE Example

This scholarly article concludes that with “all of these SNS, with varying levels of ease, it appears that underage users can access alcohol content” (Jernigan and Rushman. 100). Each site that requires age verification simply asks a user to input his/her year of birth. Although third-party software exists that is able to generate–through the use of outside information–a user’s true age, it is simply not being put to use. Therefore, the lack of regulation suggests that alcohol brands are in control of capitalism in our current society. When reading this article, we (Vanessa and Bianca) agreed that the easily accessible alcohol advertising is embedded in the web because these brands appear throughout multiple channels of contemporary culture. Through sponsoring popular sports, fashion and music events and generating viral content, these brands are now attached to a valued lifestyle that are discussed on the web 2.0. Through this strategy, the youth market described in this article is exposed to alcohol consumption in almost every aspect of digital culture. Alcohol brands are exploiting personal SNS accounts as free advertising through producing content that can easily go viral. Jernigan and Rushman state that these trends need to be monitored and regulated. However, alcohol brands’ involvement with almost every aspect of culture makes it almost impossible to control. The youth market is an attractive group to target. While 13 to 20 year olds cannot legally purchase alcohol, the advertisements on social media platforms can influence their purchasing decisions in the future and build loyalty to brands (and lifestyles). Young adults spend disposable income on alcohol and will need help deciding what brand is cool. By attaching alcohol brands to popular discourses among youth culture, these SNS advertisements promote alcohol consumption as normalized and glamorized lifestyles.

 

Work Cited

Jernigan, David H., and Anne E. Rushman. “Measuring Youth Exposure to Alcohol Marketing on Social Networking Sites: Challenges and Prospects.” Journal of Public Health Policy 35.1 (2013): 91-104. Print.

The Dark Side of Social Media Marketing

Social networks have become integral components of daily life, at least to those that have access to the Internet. From sharing pictures of vacations and chatting with friends to engaging in professional networking, the uses of websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are constantly evolving and expanding. In 2013 Facebook had approximately 1,230 million monthly users, which represents roughly 11% of the world’s population. As people have herded to social media sites, corporations have followed. Recognizing the multiple possibilities of social media to directly approach consumers, businesses have developed the concept of “social media marketing,” which refers to the “utilization of social media technologies, channels, and social software to create, communicate, deliver, and exchange offerings that have value for organizational stakeholders.” (Tuten, Angermeier, 69)  This marketing technique has proven to be very efficient and this is a statement that is backed up by the thousands of articles and research available to praising this practice. However, a subject that is not as frequently discussed are the negative consequences associated with social media marketing. A recent observational research performed by scholars Tracy Tuten and William Angermeier from East Carolina University “postulates the negative utilities associated with social media and social media marketing for the two primary stakeholders involved: individuals and brands” (70).  The following paper will explore Tuten and Angermeier’s research while also providing additional real-life examples to support their postulations.

In the paper entitled “Before and Beyond the Social Moment of Engagement: Perspectives on the Negative Utilities of Social Media Marketing,” scholars Tracy Tuten and William Angermeier present their claims regarding the negative utilities of social media marketing for both individuals as well as businesses. The authors’ postulations are the results of their own research, which was carried out by observing the interactions of several personal and business accounts on different social media platforms. That being said, this research was exclusively observational, yet the findings are still quite valid and worth considering.

Among the many negative consequences that social media marketing can bring to consumers, Tuten and Angermeier listed “security breaches and loss of privacy” (71) as their number one concern. The authors emphasized that the usual social network user is not aware of how much of their personal information they willingly publicize by engaging with these websites and how corporations may use this information “for behavioral targeting to serve advertising as users surf the Internet.” (71) Many people may not recognize the harm in behavioral targeting; however, this technique is often a subject of controversy as many people see it as an invasion of privacy. One incident that perfectly exemplifies how damaging this practice can be is the one illustrated by the New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg in his famous article “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” Duhigg wrote that through a “pregnancy prediction model” developed by the store Target, which utilized all sorts of personal information (drawn anywhere from consumers’ credit cards to their social media profiles after they had engaged in anyway with the store) to target soon to be moms with coupons and advertisements earlier than any other stores. As a consequence, the father of a teenage consumer found out through Target coupons that his daughter had been secretly pregnant.

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One of the highlights of Tuten and Angermeier’s study is the focus on the brand or company’s implications upon using social media as a marketing tool, which individuals seldom think of.  These negative consequences brought up by social media marketing are usually uncontrolled by the companies themselves, meaning if the companies receive negative or poor reviews online (via Yelp, Google Reviews etc.) it could be a definite hindrance in terms of revenue.  Tuten and Angermeier postulate these cause and effect narratives that come to target the brand and individual directly.  Since companies have no legal control over the personal information posted on behalf of the sharing public via social media (which may include employees) it is a murky area over what is acceptable behavior online.  Another problem that could arise according to the authors is the fear of losing stored data via social media sites.  Given the circumstances, individuals may or may not be aware they give up many of their legal rights to personal content posted via social media.

“In 2012, several social media sites, including LinkedIn, Last.fm, and e-Harmony, all experienced security breaches.” (Tuten, Angermeier, 74)  The fine line between something intangible (social media) becomes very tangible as one’s personal data is at the hands of third party.  Recently, Target also experienced a similar hacking issue last fall pertaining to credit card usage.  In order to gain back customer loyalty Target took to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to announce 10% off entire purchases the weeks following the breach.  This situation might be viewed as both a positive and negative aspect of social media marketing.  The authors also references alternative company fail social media campaigns, McDonald’s being at the crux of the more recent backlash.  In an effort to promote a new addition to the menu, McDonald’s asked the Twitterverse to share their beloved McDonald memory using #McDstories.  The campaign failed as users were posting their negative experiences with the company, McDonald’s soon backed out of promoting this option.  Recently, there has been a steady rise in the use of this tagging or hashtag culture directly involving social media.  Some might equate the hashtag as “free” advertising on behalf of the individual every time they use their social media handles.  On the other hand, following the McDonald’s trajectory #mydunkinstory pertaining to Dunkin’ Donuts has also received some backlash in terms of causing a tension between its rival coffee house – Starbucks, producing this DD vs. Starbucks tug of war.

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Granted, companies have indeed caught on in the importance of advertising via social media sites, there is a high risk when promoting a marketing strategy that is uncertain.  When consumers’ reviews become well “liked”, shared, or retweeted it could be for the benefit or hindrance of the product or brand itself.  Tuten and Angermeier aim to highlight some of these negative aspects when social marketing campaigns go south, and the negative effects of solely relying on consumer reviews.  According to the authors, “The negative consequences of social media and social media marketing are largely associated with the post-consumption period” (75).  Whether in agreement or not, there will always be manufacturers, providers, and consumers companies are putting their own image at risk when relying on social media to advertise for them.

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In general social media marketing has brought many benefits to both individuals as well as businesses. However, it is important to keep in mind that these benefits also come along with many not so positive consequences. Tuten and Angermeier’s research is both timely and socially significant for it touches upon an issue to which most of us as media consumers are vulnerable to.

Works Cited:

Tuten, Tracy, and William Angermeier. “Before and Beyond the Social Moment of Engagement: Perspectives on the Negative Utilities of Social Media Marketing.” Gestion 2000 30.3 (2013).

 

-LMS & GC

Celebrity Endorsements on Twitter

Celebrities have been endorsing brands since the middle of the 20th century through traditional means of advertising such as television, radio, and print. With the rise of social media and especially Twitter, these celebrity endorsements take an interesting turn. Because of this, people have taken a great interest in the relationship between celebrity endorsements on Twitter and consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward a brand or product. We will be focusing on the study “Following Celebrities’ Tweets About Brands: The Impact of Twitter-Based Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Consumers’ Source Credibility Perception, Buying Intention, and Social Identification with Celebrities” by Seung-A Annie Jin and Joe Phua. In short, this article examines the relationship between celebrities’ tweets and consumers’ attitudes toward a brand and desire to spread the celebrities’ opinions.

A celebrity endorser is defined as “any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good” by either using the product, recommending it, or merely appearing with it (Jin and Phua 182). As Goldman and Papson state in “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning,” a commodity sign “is formed at the intersection between a brand name and a meaning system summarized in an image” (82). In context, celebrities are seen as commodity signs and when they endorse a product, the meaning developed around the celebrity transfers to the brand. Advertisers seek out celebrities because they have a large amount of social capital. Social capital, a term coined by Bourdieu, is people’s networks and relationships, something that is made very visible on social media, through number of friends and followers. Celebrities are usually, but not always, paid for endorsing brands. Examples include Britney Spears appearing in the Pepsi ad campaigns in the 2000s, Kirstie Alley supporting Jenny Craig in print campaigns, and even Justin Bieber tweeting about 1-800-Flowers.

Social media is an attractive medium to advertisers when it comes to celebrity endorsements. Twitter alone has over 600 million registered users, many of whom are part of the coveted teen and young adult market segments (“Twitter Statistics”). Additionally, social media allows users to easily state their opinions about brands and share those opinions with many people, thus facilitating electronic word-of-mouth (eWoM). The term eWoM refers to “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the Internet” (181). Twitter specifically makes celebrities seem more relatable. As Jin and Phua argue, “Celebrities who tweet about brands and products on Twitter are often seen by their followers as fellow social media users, whether or not they are official brand endorsers; therefore, their eWoM about these brands are seen as more credible and trustworthy than if they had appeared in television or print advertisements for the same brands” (183). Twitter enables consumers and celebrities to tweet about similar things and blurs the line between them and us. For example, we can tweet “I love Smart Water” and so can Justin Bieber, which makes his tweet appear more honest and relatable.

Jin and Phua’s research focused on the potential of Twitter as a medium to facilitate eWoM about a product. In their study, they performed two experiments, both in which they create fake celebrities’ Twitter pages that say either positive or negative things about a product. The first experiment measured the effect of the number of Twitter followers on the perceived source credibility, or whether or not it matters to consumers how many followers a celebrity has when tweeting about a brand. Participants viewed a Twitter page of “celebrity” David Kerr, either with a high or low number of followers tweeting positively or negatively about Bling H2O or Oval Vodka. After viewing the pages, the groups had to fill out a questionnaire, agreeing or disagreeing with statements such as, “I think David Kerr could be my Twitter friend” and “I am willing to spread David Kerr’s product review via my Twitter page” (Jin and Phua 186).

Experiment 2 measured the interaction between the type of celebrity and the popularity of a product. Instead of number of followers, the variable was whether a celebrity was prosocial or antisocial. Prosocial celebrities’ images convey things such as charitable contributions, while antisocial celebrities are related to more negative actions such as substance abuse. Jin and Phua aimed to discover if negative information about a celebrity negatively influenced one’s willingness to share the eWoM about a brand. In Experiment 2, groups of people viewed a Twitter page for “celebrity” Victoria Kerr after having read either a positive article about her philanthropic work or a negative article about her drug abuse and adultery. These Twitter pages included either negative or positive tweets about Bling H2O. Participants then filled out an online questionnaire similar to Experiment 1.

The results of these experiments are intriguing. As expected, when it comes to positive reviews about a product, consumers view prosocial celebrities with higher social capital as being more trustworthy. Consumers tend to want to share prosocial celebrities with more followers’ tweets if the tweets positively endorse a brand. However, when a celebrity tweets negatively about a product, it is those celebrities with fewer followers in which consumers are more interested. The participants on average said they feel most compelled to share less popular celebrities’ negative tweets about a brand. Jin and Phua attribute this to the fact that popular celebrities have a higher reach and consumers feel that it is futile to share their opinions because so many people have already seen them. If the celebrity is tweeting negatively about a product, consumers deem both prosocial and antisocial celebrities’ tweets as credible and worthy of being shared, especially if they do not have many followers.

Advertisers are using celebrity Twitter pages to endorse brands everyday. One example of this is Midori Liqueur and Kim Kardashian. Kim originally became famous for a sex taped that was leaked, placing her into the category of antisocial celebrity. However, after changing her image to become a prosocial celebrity, by working with nonprofits such as The Dream Foundation and owning her own clothing line, she has become someone who brands desire to use as an endorser, especially on Twitter. From 2011 to 2013, Kim was the Midori Liqueur spokesperson, supporting the product through television commercials, events, and even tweets.

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Another example of a celebrity endorsement on Twitter is Justin Bieber and 1-800-Flowers. On Mother’s Day in 2013, Bieber tweeted positively about 1-800-Flowers. This was around the same time that he was quoted saying that Anne Frank would have been a “Belieber” and also around the time when narcotics were found in his tour bus, proving him to be an antisocial celebrity. Applying the logic of the study to our examples, although both celebrities have a high number of Twitter followers, Midori made the better choice since Kardashian is the more prosocial celebrity.

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Celebrities also often tweet negatively about brands. An example of this is Richard Branson’s recent tweet about Dorchester Hotels, in which he states he is boycotting the luxury hotel chain. This tweet was retweeted 2,100 times, which is a very significant number, especially because he comparably does not have as many followers as Bieber  (51 million) or Kardashian (21 million). This proves that consumers generally feel obliged to share negative tweets about a product (Richard Branson has 4 million followers).

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The Jin and Phua study demonstrates that Twitter is indeed a viable medium for linking celebrities to brands due to its ability to spread opinions, especially those of celebrities with high social capital. Advertisers can use this study to better predict what types of celebrities would be best for endorsing brands on Twitter. Moreover, this study was reminiscent of the impact celebrities can have on cause-related marketing campaigns, through raising awareness and encouraging greater consumer participation on Twitter. Since celebrities have the power to influence purchasing decisions, they can use this power to motivate people to engage in ethical consumption.

Works Cited

“Celebrity Endorsements and Twitter: Do We Buy Things When Celebrities Tell Us To?” Mainstreethost Blog.Web. 30 Apr. 2014. <http://blog.mainstreethost.com/celebrity-endorsements-and-twitter-do-we-buy-things-when-celebrities-tell-us-to#.U2huuiiQ2Do&gt;

Emerson, Ramona. “Twitter Celebrity Endorsements Are Big Business For Stars And Companies.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 03 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/celebrity-twitter-endorsements_n_1073577.html>.

Jin, Seung-A Annie, and Joe Phua. “Following Celebrities’ Tweets About Brands: The Impact of Twitter-Based Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Consumers’ Source Credibility Perception, Buying Intention, and Social Identification With Celebrities.” Journal of Advertising 43.2 (2014): 181-95. Print.

“Twitter Statistics.” Statistic Brain. Statistic Brain, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/twitter-statistics/&gt;.


-Natalia Karavasili and Alyssa Snyder

 

 

Alcohol Brands on Facebook: the challenges of regulating brands on social media

Contemporary advertising has grown to include the corporate use of social media in order to reach as many potential consumers as possible. While there are multiple organizations that exist to monitor advertising – the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, among others – it is growing increasingly difficult to regulate the content put into the social media sphere. In 2012, the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) expanded upon existing regulations in response to studies done on Smirnoff and Victoria Bitter, brands that sell vodka and beer, respectively. They saw social media as a direct form of advertising, and felt that it required heavier regulation for many reasons. The ASB “determined that (i) a brand’s Facebook page is a marketing communication tool, and (ii) all contents on the page fall under the industry’s self-regulatory code of ethics, including consumer-created content…” (Brodmerkel & Carah, 272). While the decision was hailed as a landmark one, an analysis by Sven Brodmerkel and Nicholas Carah argues that acknowledgement of social media as a form of advertising is not enough – brands require more explicit means of regulation.

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There are numerous health and youth welfare advocates who are concerned about advertising of alcohol on social media websites. Currently, there are no strict laws governing the content that alcohol brands can place on social media sites – and brands are creating a large amount of content that is broadcast and shared, particularly via Facebook. Brodmerkel and Carah’s analysis utilizes multiple studies that address not only the prevalence of alcohol advertisements on social media, but also the nature, extent, and results of these ads. One study “underwent a qualitative examination of alcohol messaging on Facebook”, while another “applied a systematic content analysis to social media content generated by alcohol brands” (B & C, 274). Brodmerkel and Carah take the evidence from these studies to postulate that new procedures of industry regulation must be installed. The authors reference a study that followed the Facebook pages of fourteen different brands, and the research came to the conclusion that “alcohol brands engage with Facebook users in specific and strategic ways that aim to stimulate user-generated content that contributes to brands’ image and marketing objectives” (B & C, 274). This study determines that Facebook is indeed a marketing communication channel; brands use their pages to “amplify cultural identities by involving consumers in the circulation of cultural practices and values… stimulate the integration of the brand and alcohol consumption in the mediation of everyday life… [and] manage the mediation of drinking culture in a way that challenges existing regulatory codes” (B & C, 274). Two Facebook pages are used as case studies by Brodmerkel and Carah: Smirnoff and Victoria Bitter. Their pages in particular included content that seemed to be in violation of regulatory codes, for the following reasons: promoting excessive use; discriminatory and vilifying posts; attribution of social and sexual skills to consumption; and the depiction of users who seemed under-aged. While Smirnoff and Victoria Bitter felt that their content was not and should not be considered as advertising, the ASB deemed that consumer engagement activities did in fact create value for the brands. Brodmerkel and Carah applaud the acknowledgment of social media marketing, but argue for further regulation that addresses “how alcohol brands are responsible for the way they interact with and manage their ‘co-creators’ (B & C, 278). Ultimately, the authors call for “a regulatory approach that recognizes that an alcohol brand is not contained within advertisements but is mediated out of the interaction between brands, cultural intermediaries and consumers” (B & C, 280).

In regards to contemporary examples, we have found four brands that are currently managing and creating content on their Facebook pages. A look at the United States version of the Smirnoff page illustrates the authors’ concept that alcohol brands contribute to social ideals of trendiness; “the alcohol brand becomes part of a series of images about fashion, ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ people, bands and DJs, and the social antics of nightlife” (B &C, 279).

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Smirnoff consistently posts content that presents a normalized vision of constant partying. Their images and videos depict various scenes of nightlife – from a video of celebrities Alison Brie and Adam Scott with the caption “Everybody’s invited. Everybody? Everybody. Party this weekend with Smirnoff.” to a series of #Overheard images that portray things that could be heard at an actual social gathering, Smirnoff’s entire online presence is tied to a party. This type of content presents consumption as being a necessary part of everyday life – if you purchase and drink Smirnoff, you can be as hip and cool as the people in their created content. This is inherently advertising, down to the celebrity endorsements. Additionally, Smirnoff has managing control of what is said on their page; consumers’ comment and post images on Smirnoff’s pictures, and Smirnoff’s page replies to some of them. This indicates that the brand that is able to interact with consumers on a personal level. This also implies that Smirnoff has the capability to further manage the posts that their consumers make – some of which are clearly promotional posts that enhance the brand.

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Similarly to Smirnoff, the whisky brand Fireball promotes a normalized vision of drinking in excess. Whereas Smirnoff typically captions its promotional photos, albeit in fine print, with the disclaimer “please drink responsibly”, Fireball does not include any warnings on its promotional material. In fact, Fireball routinely “produces images that glorify excessive drinking practices” (B&C 279), which is one of the main, concerns Brodmerkel and Carah’s have with alcohol brands on Facebook. A recent promotional photo that Fireball posted to the Facebook page features a freezer stocked to capacity with Fireball and is captioned “we’re ready for Friday. Are you?”

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This caption implies that this large quantity of alcohol will be consumed in a short period of time. Other more responsible alcohol brands typically only feature a singular bottle of hard liquor in their advertisements. Additionally, Fireball’s images on their Facebook are a direct violation of the Advertising Standards Bureau’s codes. “Presented images that suggested that the use or presence of alcohol leads to a change in mood or the achievement of social or other success (ABAC code Section (c)(i))” (B &C, 275).

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One of fireball’s images equates levels of friendship with the amount of fireball a “friend” consumes, while another playfully insinuates the best way to make friends is buying them whiskey. The “fire breathers”, which is the moniker Fireball has for its fans also encourage irresponsible actions, such as drinking to blackout and drinking as a game. While it appears as though most of these comments are made jokingly, they perpetuate irresponsible ideas.

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While Heineken might be considered one of the “better” or “more responsible” alcohol brands on social media, Heineken still posts some content that is questionable. A large part of Heineken’s brand image is cantered around youth, vitality and sports. The element of youth in alcohol advertising poses a unique challenge, as underage drinking is a significant issue in many places around the world. One of the Advertising Standards Bureau’s codes states that advertisement content “shall not depict individuals who are under the age of 25”.

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While Heineken’s published ad content generally appears to follows this rule, their online publicity material does not meet this standard. Heineken’s Facebook page features images of young people at promotional events, festivals and nightclubs who appear to be under the age of 25. A significant of Heinekens Facebook content is centered around sporting events, such as the #sharethesofa campaign. These features position Heineken beer as being a necessary part of enjoying a sporting event, and this in turn leads to irrational perceptions of alcohol consumption.

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Finally, the vodka brand Svedka serves as an example of a brand that promotes excessive consumption of their alcohol. In addition to being extremely provocative with their content, Svedka posts numerous recipes on their page and responds to a significant portion of their commenters.

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They have coined the phrase “Instafan,” by highlighting user-submitted photos of their products. For example, they encourage consumers to post images of Svedka bottles on Instagram, and they will choose positive images for their Facebook. Furthermore, they influence consumers to purchase their products by showing them exactly where to locate Svedka, and how to make the exact drinks posted. One particularly alarming example depicts an “Instafan” pouring an entire bottle of vodka into a watermelon. These types of ‘inspirational’ posts promote ideals of over the top consumption. Svedka even shared step-by-step instructions of how to create a vodka watermelon with an excited fan. By existing as an almost-human personality, Svedka’s page is provocative. On Valentine’s Day, they posted an image that encouraged single people to essentially drown their sorrows in alcohol. This exploitation of unhealthy drinking behaviors is an unfortunate by-product of this type of social media advertising.

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The main reason there are laws and industry standards regarding the advertising of alcohol is that alcohol can be misused, and become a danger to consumers. The results of this finding unsurprisingly reveal that alcohol companies are using social media as a form of marketing for their brands regardless of whether the content meets the standard definition of advertising. Brodmerkel and Carah conclude, “brands use these platforms (of social media) for branding and consumer engagement. Branding on social media provides brands with the opportunity to create, amplify and exploit cultural practices” (B&C 280). These type of promotional activities are typically monitored and regulated for the good of the general public, but as the world of social media is rapidly evolving and advancing at dizzying rates, regulatory policies have not kept pace with innovation. Ultimately, it would be prudent for regulators to redefine the scope of advertising and recognize that alcohol brand marketing takes place outside of the scope of traditional advertisements. Therefore, alcohol brands would be responsible for upholding reasonable standards in their marketing content. While our society embraces innovation in social media, we must ensure that our societal values are not compromised along the way.

Brodmerkel, Sven, and Nicholas Carah. “Alcohol Brands on Facebook: The Challenges of Regulating Brands on Social Media.” Journal of Public Affairs 13.3 (2013): 272-81. Web. 28 Ap. 2014.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pa.1466/abstract

-Natalie and Cari

Fashion Consumption & Social Media

     “Analysis Of Fashion Consumers’ Motives To Engage In Electronic Word-Of-Mouth Communication Through Social Media Platforms” by Julia Wolny and Claudia Mueller questions what motivates consumers to engage in brand-related communications online.  The authors discuss the concepts of eWOM (electronic word-of-mouth) and viral marketing with a focus on the fashion consumer and brand commitment.  They conducted their research using a self-administered Internet-based questionnaire where there were likely to be responses from people who have had experience engaging with fashion brands online.  The two main findings were that social networking sites are being used by consumers to connect with one another and connect consumers with brands, and that high brand commitment and fashion involvement motivate people to engage in talking about and interacting with fashion brands.

     The three key terms that the authors discuss in the article are high involvement products, viral marketing and eWOM.  Fashion has been ranked as high involvement, which refers to ‘products that are either expensive, rarely bought, linked to personal identity, or carry high risks.  These products are known to attract a lot of conversation online because of evaluation of their social value.  Viral marketing is defined as ‘any strategy that encourages individuals to propagate a message, thus, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence.’  EWOM falls under the category of viral marketing and is defined as ‘the positive or negative statement made by a potential, actual or former consumer about a product or a company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions on the Internet.’  This includes non-textual communication such as ‘liking’ a brand on Facebook or ‘retweeting’ a story on Twitter.  General consumer traits, such as loyalty, and context-specific motivations, such as product satisfaction, influence engagement in WOM.  These groups of consumer-related motives are analyzed in this study in relation to fashion and social media contexts.

     The four major motivations for WOM are product involvement, self-involvement, other involvement and message involvement. Product involvement is the level of personal relevance a consumer sees in a product.  The authors’ hypothesis is that people with high product involvement engage in fashion brand-related eWOM more frequently.  Self-involvement is a motive for engagement in WOM behavior and self-enhancement by sharing positive consumption experiences.  The hypothesis is that people who are motivated by self-involvement engage in fashion brand-related eWOM more frequently.  Other involvement (concern for others) is a need to help others or do something for others without expecting anything in return.  The hypothesis is that people who are motivated by other involvement engage in fashion brand-related eWOM more frequently.  Message involvement is simply an external motivator for eWOM engagement that was not fully analyzed in this study.  However, the two main consumer traits analyzed in the study are fashion involvement and brand involvement.  Fashion involvement provides a measure of enduring involvement in which the individual relates the product to his self-image.  People who score high in fashion involvement are likely to be heavy clothing buyers and be interested in fashion.  The hypothesis is that people with high fashion involvement are more likely to engage in fashion brand-related eWOM.  Brand involvement ‘is described as positive feelings of attachment to a brand, and is characterized by a tendency to withstand changes’ (566).  Brand commitment may predict members’ behaviors in an online community.  This hypothesis is that people who exhibit high brand commitment to fashion brands are more likely to engage in eWOM about those brands.  The last two discrete motivators are advice-seeking and the need for social interaction.  Advice seeking is when a consumer is genuinely interested in other consumers’ opinions and advice, and can take form of ‘sharing’ a product or company link on social media.  The need for social interaction refers to consumers talking about products and services simply to make conversation, such as posting comments on social media in order to receive social benefits from being a part of a virtual community

     The methodology used was instrument development where the hypothesized predictors of engagement in fashion brand-related eWOM were measured with a questionnaire.  The predictors were measured with five-point Likert scales and eWOM engagement was measured with a binary (yes/no) and frequency measure.  There were 192 usable responses with 65% females and 51.1% in their twenties. For fashion-related surveys it is pretty common that the sample was skewed towards females and younger consumers, and is “reflective of the target population of fashion-oriented social network users” (571).

     One example that illustrates the variables being studied is found on Old Navy’s Facebook page. This post and the comments that follow show that a consumer with brand commitment is more likely to participate in eWOM. The advertisement posted to the Old Navy Facebook page is a facetious advertisement designed specifically for April Fool’s. Facebook user Kristin St Martin says in her comment “Saw this in my email today…Had to come say GOOD JOB! Now I’m giggling AND I want to go shopping”. Her referencing an email indicates that she has either signed up for Old Navy’s mailing list or has already made a purchase and was automatically added to their email list. Both show a prior association with the brand that ultimately motivated her to discuss it on Facebook. Not only does the user express a desire to buy their product, but also compliments their advertising campaign.

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     Another example that elucidates Wolny and Mueller’s study is the Twitter account of a fashion blogger named Wendy Nguyen. Nguyen is a very successful blogger with hundreds of thousands of followers across various social media sites. Her passion for fashion is visible scrolling through her Twitter page, as most of her tweets reference her fashion style and industry news. She also often refers to specific brands and products. Nguyen’s account shows us that someone who exemplifies fashion involvement and sees fashion as a central part of constructing an identity and self-image, is more likely to discuss it online.

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     The examples discussed are evidence of the study’s larger findings. Wolny and Mueller conclude that fashion involvement and brand involvement are the primary motivators for eWOM engagement as it relates to fashion brands. This contradicts the conclusion of prior research that customer satisfaction was the primary motivator. Rather, an affinity for a brand is more predictive of whether a consumer will take part in discussions about it online. Their research was not definitive enough to regard product involvement as a predictor of eWOM engagement, because product involvement is transitory by nature, but their findings did suggest that further research might show temporary engagement with a product increasing consumer engagement. Both self-involvement and the need for social interaction were shown to impact the frequency of eWOM. Concern for others and advice-seeking were variables that Wolny and Mueller concluded to be unimportant in affecting eWOM engagement. Another important conclusion involves attitude and subjective norm. In this study attitude concerns perceived consequences associated with a certain behavior while subjective norm reflects one’s belief that the opinions of others are important. Because these concepts are theoretical and more difficult to measure, their conclusions about these variables are more suggestive than definitive. However, they propose that these psychological and sociological factors may influence motivation, which will, in turn, influence eWOM engagement.

     When it comes to learning information about a product or brand, consumers today often look to their peers rather than disconnected “authority figures” like fashion magazines or designers. Advertisers have recognized this and thus need to encourage consumers not only to buy their products, but also discuss them. While face-to-face interaction is positive this is especially important on social media, which has the ability to reach a much larger number of potential consumers. This study provides evidence for what motivates this electronically mediated discussion. The study discussed in this paper did not yield any shocking findings – in fact, most of their hypotheses were confirmed. But the study does serve as tangible proof that there is great value in targeted marketing. This is not only important for fashion brands, but for companies across an array of industries. People who already had an attachment to a brand or product were more likely to converse about it on social media. This seems like it would serve as great motivation for companies of all kinds to continue conducting and collecting research on users – with or without their permission. Furthermore, it may lead advertisers to minimize advertising to the general public on larger platforms. Targeted advertising can become controversial as people are concerned about a loss of privacy, but this study provides confirmation that targeted advertising is effective in encouraging conversation about your product.

Wolny, Julia, and Claudia Mueller. “Analysis of Fashion Consumers’ Motives To Engage In Electronic Word-Of-Mouth Communication Through Social Media Platforms.” Journal of Marketing Management 29.5/6 (2013): 562-583. Business Source Complete. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

– Alexis D. & Megan G.