SNS: Marketing on a Personal level?

In his article, “Social network(ing) sites…revisiting the story so far,” Dr. David Beer claims that while boyd and Ellison’s article brings up the issue of social media and attempts to clarify the difference between “social network sites” and “social networking sites” (or SNSs), they fail to ask the right questions concerning social media. Beer believes that due to the ever-shifting online culture, social media is becoming too broad, making a “differentiated typology of [these] various user-generated web applications more problematic” (Beer 519). His second issue with the boyd and Ellison article is the distinction between online friends and offline friends. Beer argues that friendships online are no different from our offline friends and that we shouldn’t think of the two as “disconnected” (Beer 520). Beer also disagrees with the issue of unmediated and mediated communication. He believes that all communication is mediated in some way. Finally Beer feels that instead of focusing on individual users should focus on the economic structure of these SNSs. By failing to critique these sites, Beer fears that our society will become unwittingly domesticated with the various types of social media.

Although both articles bring up very important points about social media, I agreed with a lot of Beer’s responses. While the broad distinction between social network sites and social networking sites was helpful, I believe that it is almost impossible to categorize one site as a social network site and not a social networking site. Take for example Facebook, while it can be labeled as a social network site due to the privacy settings, the bidirectional ties and the ability to control visibility and access to your profile, it can also be considered a social networking site. Take this photo:

This is the Gramercy Green Residence Hall group. Although I’m not “Friends” with a majority of this facebook group, I can still contact them because we have a common network. Through this page, the Gramercy residents can ask to borrow certain objects (such as a printer, a textbook, and cooking utensils), sell their old textbooks, search for lost items or simply find someone to talk to. In this way, users can still meet new people online and expand their own networks.

I also agreed with his argument about the distinctions between “friends” and “Friends”. Most of my “Friends” are friends that I have made in the physical world and I only accept friend requests or request to be friends with people whom I’ve met in the physical world. While it’s true that some of my “Friends” are people I’ve met only once, I can say that I would probably recognize a majority of them.

Finally, Beer brings up the economic structure of the SNSs and how they use the information they obtain from users to provide personalized ads.

I admit, I’m a huge fan of games whether they’re on my iPhone or my facebook and because I play a lot of different games, Facebook will then suggest possible games that I might be interested in. Usually Facebook suggests these games because they are either similar to the games that I’m playing now or because my friends are playing the same game. For example, when I was playing Restaurant City, I kept getting suggestions and ads to start playing Café city and other restaurant related games. It’s the same with Youtube, but with videos. SNS keeps track of your recent activity then caters to your “likes” or “dislikes” and through your preferences, they find ads that they think you’ll click.

I feel like SNSs are becoming, in a sense, a marketing scheme. It seems perfect. You create a profile so the site already knows what you like and what you dislike. As you continue to use the site, the site gets more information about you. Through the SNS, different companies and advertisers can target what you like and provide ads that you will be interested in. For example, while watching TV shows online during the commercial breaks they ask you (in the upper right hand corner) if the ad is relevant to you in any way. If the ad isn’t then they replace it with something else.

 

After I clicked no:

While social media does provide us with excellent ways to stay connected, I feel like they are also another platform for media to bombard us with ads, which raises the question: Are the SNS made to help us maintain connections and create networks or are they made to provide to expand the reach of the consumeristic culture and cater marketing to our personal tastes?

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5 Comments

  1. lauraportwoodstacer

     /  February 4, 2012

    nice use of examples to illustrate your points!

    Reply
  2. I agree with your views about SNSs using our preferences and targeting us with specific advertisements. They know what we like and dislike and use this information to choose certain advertisements. I think it is an interesting approach from the companies because, what if their product or service does not cater to a broader audience. Do they lose out on a bunch of customers? Also, advertisements change by location. For example, if I were in Europe, Facebook would automatically know and change those ads to fit my tastes. I think Facebook’s sidebar advertisements have been very successful because a user does not have to filter through or painstakingly watch a product they are not interested in. Facebook is one of the few SNSs that take user connectivity to the next level by partnering up with companies to cater to them.
    Personally, I actually like these types of advertisements because it keeps me aware and focused on things that I like. I am an avid fashion lover and have found many great sites and brands through this method. I also feel a sense of security knowing that many of these ads and companies are real and expect Facebook to wisely choose these advertisers so they would not ruin their own image and reputation as well. Compared to Facebook, MySpace has introduced many bogus advertisements that do not attract people at all. They often seem like rip offs that would leave you with a virus. I think SNSs try to maintain connections and change consumer culture, because consumer culture has also been changing due to the extensive use of the Internet. Companies have been changing their advertising tactics to broaden into the web and find specific web cultures to target.

    Reply
    • Good point! When I’m home in Japan, I realized that the ads on youtube are Japanese ads and at first I was a little surprised because I was so used to the American ones. It’s definitely interesting to learn that advertising tactics are taking specific details like location, likes and dislikes as well as generic information like who drives cars into account.

      Reply
  3. I think that your argument was well thought out. I also really enjoyed the media that you included to prove your points about social media. I agree with your first point about the distinction between social network sites and social networking sites. I agree that this distinction is hard to determine since it is based on how a user functions within each individual site. I also agreed with your second point about how it is not necessary to distinguish between online and offline friendships. I also argued in my blog that these friendships can be just just as equal or better than the friendships formed in the physical world. I think the most interesting part of your argument was the last point about personal marketing. I also wrote about the capitalist nature of social network(ing) sites in my blog. In response to the last question that you posed: I think it can be argued that these sites are expanding a consumeristic culture and creating personal marketing. The fact that these sites can gather what use to be private data about its users is highly concerning. Moreover, when they share this data with third parties to sell products back to us it becomes even more frightening. These SNS sites and those with a profile are now doing the job for these third party companies. Instead of researching about their consumer all they have to do is contact an SNS site and find out pertinent information about whoever they want. Another question that arises from this discussion is whether users should embrace this new personal marketing or stop it?

    Reply
  4. lauraportwoodstacer

     /  February 11, 2012

    It’s interesting for me to see the range of attitudes you all have toward personalized marketing. We’ll be talking about this a lot more later on in the semester – looking forward to hearing more of what you all think!

    Reply

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