Three perspectives of relationships in a social media context
Killian, Virginia Anne
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Whether interacting with friends, searching for information, or relaxing, consumers are increasingly turning to social media tools to fulfill a variety of needs. Research shows at least 75% of adults who use the Internet use social media (Urstadt 2008). My research examines the influence and impact of social media from a number of perspectives. From a consumer perspective, I explore the tools that individuals employ to craft a desired self image to an online audience. Using a triangulation approach of in-depth interviews and focus groups, I uncover three primary motivations underlying the desire to protect the ego: a need for respect, a need to feel secure, and a need for acceptance. To manage these motivations, social network users employ self regulation techniques protect and enhance their ego. My research also examines the influence of social media on integrated marketing communications. As the effectiveness of traditional advertising media declines, managers are looking to alternative communications channels such as social network games to reach consumers. The nature of social games necessitates a new approach to in-game branded messaging. Utilizing in-depth interviews and a content analysis of a popular game message board, I develop a typology of gamer receptiveness to marketing communications. Findings suggest that social network gamers are receptive to brand message inclusion in a game when the promotion is aligned with the gamer’s motivations for playing. Successful marketing communications requires brand managers to understand the player’s motivations as well as the functionality of the game in order to design a promotion or message that is able to meet both the gamer’s and the brand manager’s goals. In my final research study, I conduct in-depth interviews with brand and agency managers to understand how social media is incorporated into firms’ overarching marketing communications strategies. Findings suggest that social media should be an integrated, consistent presence across all customer contact strategies, though the messaging included in social media channels must feel personalized to the consumer. Because the consumer is in control of the interaction, managers must demonstrate value in order to remain a part of the conversation.
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