The Influence of Social Networking Around the World
In recent years, social networking has become arguably the mostly discussed topic around the world. For example, the experiences of how Mark Zuckerberg had eventually created Facebook have been adopted into the recent movie “The Social Network.” With such a great influence to the world, there is a huge potential that social networking will become an effective tool in marketing in the near future. An analysis of the growing emphasis on social networking as a platform for marketing campaigns that aim at teenagers reveals several reasons behind this phenomenon: an increasing popularity of social networking among young people as a channel of interaction, and huge commercial benefits resulted from advertising via social networking.
Before analyzing this phenomenon, it is necessary to explain what social networking actually is. The article “Direct Marketing to Online Social Network (OSN) Users in Nigeria,” written by R.A. Gbadeyan (2008), there are a few definitions of social networking developed by professionals. For example, Redbridge Marketing has described social networking as groups of people online who are engaged in performing certain activities. According to YALSA, social networking enables people to communicate via sending e-mails, posting things on walls, setting up websites, and talking with each other online. In a nutshell, these definitions have implied that social networking serves as a platform for communications between people with same interest without restrictions by time or place, for instance. The article also mentions a number of Social Networking tools, for instance blog, a place for posting any writings and comments; podcasts, soundtracks that can be downloaded free, and so on. Users in Social Networking sites can be classified into a few groups according to two criteria: users’ degree of extent in accessing Social Networking sites and purpose of doing so. People who do not use Social Networking are classified as another separate group.
The reason marketers are so eager to open profiles on social networking sites is that these sites have become increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults. Social networking is a new product from the rapid advancement of information technology. Thus, it can attract many teenagers to experience this new product. A research that investigates the relationship between frequency of access to social networking and age of users has revealed that among 1329 people who completed the survey, most of them spend their free time mostly in Social Networking sites. Among these people, most of the users of Social Networking sites are people are aged 40 or below. (Gbadeyan, 2008). This indicates young people favor social networking greatly. In fact, social networking has become a routine activity for many young people. In the report “Kids and Teens: Communication Revolutionaries,” it is written, in 2009, 82% of U.S. adolescents, aged 12-17, use Social networking is expected to expand its business even further. In the report “Social Network Demographics and Usage,” it is written, 78.2% of U.S. teenagers access social networking sites regularly in 2009, and this number is expected to rise further for 19% by 2014. In other words, social networking will become an increasingly common activity for young people.
The increase in popularity of social networking means the power of word-of-mouth (WOM) communication in spreading messages becomes greater than ever. In an online environment, young people keep in contact with each other much more frequently than ever. This is because an online environment is a boundless environment, regardless of distance between people and time zones. Hennig-Thurau and Walsh has defined WOM as casual discussions about different perspectives of particular products and services on social networking. (Shintaro Okazaki, 2009) In addition, regarding the rapid enhancement of online communication, the term electronic WOM (eWOM), which refers to WOM carried out online, such as through social networking sites, has arisen. (Shintaro Okazaki, 2009) WOM is a very effective tool in persuading customers to buy certain products. In a study which investigates teenagers’ participation in a mobile-based WOM campaign, it is shown that through mobile-based WOM, participants are willing to participate in the campaign even though they may not be very interested in the brand advertised in the campaign. (Shintaro Okazaki, 2009) The way communication is carried out on social networking sites is very similar to that through mobile phones, in which they both involve communication at a distance, and the majority of users are both teenagers. Therefore, WOM via social networking is probably as effective as mobile-based WOM.
In addition, the growing popularity of social networking enables companies that are willing to set up personal profiles on social networking sites to interact with other users as well. Kristen Luke (2009) suggests companies can set up their business pages on Facebook, for example. Other Facebook users can then become “fans” of their business pages. This way companies can keep their fans updated with any new information about them. They can also post links to external places in which their fans may find the information interesting. Social networking is able to create more convenient and frequent connections between businesses and customers, as what Luke (2009) has written, “Social networking sites are allowing planners to connect with more people more often, and in a shorter period of time than they could through face-to-face meetings, phone calls or e-mails.” Thus, social networking is a great platform for marketers whose products target on teenagers to spread their advertisements to a tremendous amount of people in a short period of time.
Through advertising on social networking sites, marketers can gain huge commercial benefits. Firstly, they can attract a great amount of attention, especially from potential customers. As the above has mentioned, WOM communication through social networking enables widespread of information about the companies. Through social networking companies have more opportunities to maintain frequent contact with customers. Thus, people are more eager to follow any news about the companies they are interested in. For example, Buffalo- based Freed Maxick & Battaglia CPAs PC, an accounting firm, has recorded a 35-40 percent increase in the number of visits to its website every year after it set up its page on a social networking site called LinkedIn. (Fink, 2009, p. 13) What this means is that much more potential clients are willing to approach those companies that utilize social networking than before, when advertisements are limited to conventional methods such as through televisions. In addition, social networking enables people to know more about the companies. For instance, in the article “Yammering away at the office,” it is written, staff in Zappos, an online retailer owned by Amazon, are able to share information through social networking sites. The rationale behind is that this increases the transparency of the company in the eyes of customers. The more information people know about the companies, given these information is mostly non-negative, the more confidence these people have on the products and services, and thus the higher opportunity these people become potential clients of the companies.
Moreover, communication on social networking sites increases efficiency within corporations. When working on marketing campaigns, for example, employees can gather information much more quickly, and thus can spend more time on other business such as brainstorming strategies for their campaigns. In the article “Yammering away at the office,” it is written, IDC, a research firm, has performed a research which showed that workers need six to ten hours a week to gather information. According to Caroline Dangson, an analyst at the firm, workers can do their searching more swiftly through social networking. They can then spend the extra time on other work. Businesses can also discover more ideas and experts in different fields through social networking. In addition to these, interaction on social networking raises employees’ incentives.