Introduction to Social Media and Digital Marketing

Defining Social Media

Social media websites and applications allow users to create and exchange user-generated content on the web.

Learning Objectives

Describe the common characteristics of social media technologies, and user behaviors that occur on social media websites

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Social media are examples of Web 2.0 technologies, which contrast significantly with the more passive, top-down technologies that characterized Web 1.0 web pages.
  • Specifically, social media features a rich user experience, dynamic content, scalability, openness and collective intelligence.
  • Different types of social media include social networks, weblogs, microblogging, content communities, podcasts and wikis.

Key Terms

  • scalability: The ability of a system, network, or process to handle an increasing amount of work, or its ability to be enlarged in order to accommodate that increase.
  • collective intelligence: A shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus-decision-making in bacteria [clarification needed], animals, and computer networks.
  • trolling: Internet slang for posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community-- such as a forum, chat room, or blog-- with the primary intention of provoking an emotional response in its readers or otherwise disrupting normal discussion.

What is Social Media?

Social media are interactive platforms where content is created, distributed and shared by individuals on the web. Professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein of the ESCP European Business School define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. " Social media websites and applications allow users to create and exchange user-generated content where people talk, share information, participate and network through technologies such as blogs and social networking sites. Within the last decade, social media has become one of the most powerful sources for news updates, online collaboration, networking, viral marketing and entertainment.


Conversations in Social Media: Consumers intentionally and unintentionally use social media to purchase, evaluate and ultimately influence a brand's marketing mix.

Characteristics of Social Media

Before the term Web 2.0 was coined in 1999, Internet pages featured mostly static content such as text and graphics. Websites operated on Web 1.0 technologies, where website hosts and owners were the primary content contributors. Online information targeted a mostly passive audience that received rather than contributed content. However, with the introduction of Web 2.0 Internet technologies around the turn of the 21st century, social media venues such as blogs began to allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in virtual communities. This more open, communal method of social media dialogue contrasted significantly with the top-down approach that characterized the early years of the web.

Specifically, social media began meeting the characteristics of Web 2.0 websites, providing a rich user experience, dynamic content, scalability, openness and collective intelligence. Active social media users could take advantage of various features that allowed them to 'like,' create and post images, and upload videos and text. Users could then share this information, either with a select group of friends or publicly across the web. However, this has also opened up social media websites to spamming, trolling and flaming by unscrupulous or less mature users. Nevertheless, social media has grown rapidly in the U.S. and around the world due to its blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.

Types of Social Media

Some of the most popular current forms of social media are social networking websites such as Facebook, which surpassed over one billion active monthly users in October 2012. There are several types of online platforms classified under the vast umbrella of social media. These categories include:

Social Networks: Social networking websites allow users to build web pages featuring personal portfolios and interests. These pages are used to connect with friends, colleagues and other users in order to share media, content and communications. Examples of social networks include Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Bebo.

Visual social networks are becoming more popular, with Instagram having now surpassed Twitter in its amount of users. Data has shown that a tweet that includes an image has a 150% more chance of being shared. There are also new networks such as Snapchat and Periscope, that are slowly growing in terms of popularity, especially with the younger generations.

Web blogs: Some of the oldest and most popular forms of social media are blogs. Blogs are often viewed as online journals that order content chronologically, or by date, month, year and category. Users can also maintain "vlogs," or video blogs, featuring shared or homemade videos. Blogging websites include WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr.

Microblogs: Microblogs are blogging tools that feature short posts, as opposed to journal-style posts. Users are usually restricted to posting a few lines of text, or uploading individual images and videos. Microblogging is particularly common for posting quick updates and distributing content via mobile devices. Notable microblogging sites include Twitter and Tumblr. However, social networks such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace also have their own microblogging features.

Content Communities: Users on content communities organize, share and comment on different types of content, including images and videos. YouTube, Flickr and scribd are examples of content communities.

Wikis: Wiki websites allow a community of people to add and edit content in a community-based database. One of the best-known wikis is Wikipedia.

Podcasts: Podcasts are audio and video files available through subscription services such as Apple iTunes. The term "podcast" is a neologism derived from "broadcast" and "pod" (as in "iPod"), since Podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.

Other types of social media include the following:

  • Rating and review sites (e.g. Yelp)
  • Social bookmarking or social tagging features (e.g. Digg; Stumble Upon)
  • Forums and discussion boards (e.g. Yahoo!; Answers)
  • Virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life; World of Warcraft)
  • Music and audio sharing (e.g. Spotify; Pandora Radio)

Social media can also be classified by their ability to facilitate certain social functions. These social functions often involve identity, conversation, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, and groups. Kaplan and Haenlein created a classification scheme using six different types of social media-- collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft), and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life).

Social Media Marketing Communications

Social media serves as a cost-effective communication channel for promoting brands to target audiences.

Learning Objectives

Discuss how social media increases brand awareness and customer engagement in integrated marketing communications

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The viral and collaborative nature of social media allows brands to build brand authenticity and loyalty among their users.
  • Social media allows brands to refine their segmentation strategy by reaching a narrow target audience.
  • Advertisers and PR professionals can use social media to engage audiences, create compelling content, and monitor sentiment about their brand.

Key Terms

  • virality: The state or condition of being viral; tendency to spread by word of mouth.
  • earned media: Publicity for political campaigns gained through newspaper articles, TV news stories, web news, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, and "fast polls" on TV and the web.
  • semantic analysis: The process of relating syntactic structures, from the levels of phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs to the level of the writing as a whole, to their language-independent meanings, removing features specific to particular linguistic and cultural contexts, to the extent that such a project is possible.

Social Media and Integrated Marketing Communications

Some of the post popular tweets are tweeted by companies and businesses. Powerful brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's boast Facebook pages with millions of fans. Social media, including social networks, makes it ever more important for companies to ensure their online exposure ties directly to their brand image and messaging. Along with television, radio, and print, social media is part of the communications ecosystem that works as a whole to create an enjoyable and seamless consumer experience across multiple channels. Likewise, integrated marketing communications is increasingly incorporating social media into the promotional mix to reach consumers on the web and on mobile devices.


Facebook Business Page: Social networking sites such as Facebook can serve as lead generators for marketing communications campaigns.

Brand Authenticity

The explosion of social media websites has led to the increasingly important practice of social media marketing. Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. A brand's corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source as opposed to from the brand or company itself. Social networking sites and blogs allow individuals to retweet or repost comments written by the creator of the product.

When that individual repeats the message, their connections are able to see it, which means the message reaches more people. Because of the virality of social media, companies frequently use social networking sites for word-of-mouth promotions of products and services. As the information about the brand is broadcasted and repeated across the social network, more traffic is brought to the company's website. This results in earned media rather than paid media and both serves as a lead generator and creates favorable publicity for the brand.

Consumer Intelligence

Social media allows marketers to refine their segmentation strategy by reaching a narrow target audience. For example, Pinterest, a social bookmarking site with an overwhelmingly female user base, attracts companies that primarily target women.

Social networking sites also reveal vast amounts of information about prospective interest in products and services. Today, new semantic analysis technologies allow marketers to detect buying signals based on shared and posted online content. Understanding these buying signals can help sales professionals target relevant prospects and help marketers run micro-targeted campaigns.

Engagement Advertising and PR

Social media in business allows anyone and everyone to express an opinion or idea somewhere along the company's path to market. Through social networking sites, brands can have conversations and interactions with individual followers. This personal interaction can instill and strengthen brand loyalty amongst followers and potential customers. Thus, each participating customer informally becomes part of the marketing department, as other customers read their comments or reviews.

Facebook and other social networks are often used to tune into customer conversations and quickly flag customer service issues and concerns. However, these conversations can also be repurposed across other social media and corporate channels. Brands often use social media to transform customer comments and testimonials into relevant and compelling content for personal selling, advertising, and other promotional tactics. Listening to social media "chatter" also helps companies stay in tune with public sentiment about their brand. By tracking and analyzing conversations on social media, public relations professionals can catch problems early and prevent negative publicity from turning into full-blown crises.

This engagement process is fundamental to successfully integrating social media into a company's marketing communications strategy. Organizations can use social media to cost-effectively increase communications across the promotional mix, fostering brand awareness and, often, improved customer service.

Digital Marketing Characteristics

Digital marketing uses internet-connected devices to engage consumers with online advertising, primarily through pull or push methods.

Learning Objectives

Discuss pull versus push digital marketing tactics

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Digital marketing consists of pull or push online communication tactics. These tactics can also be referred to as inbound or outbound marketing as well.
  • Pull digital marketing is characterized by consumers actively seeking marketing content.
  • Push digital marketing occurs when marketers send messages without the consent of the recipients.
  • Examples of pull digital marketing include search engines, email newsletters, text messaging, while push digital marketing consists of opt-in subscription services.

Key Terms

  • display advertising: online advertising that typically contains text (i.e., copy), logos, photographs or other images, location maps, and similar items.

Digital Marketing Characteristics

Digital marketing is defined as the use of internet-connected devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, and game consoles to engage consumers with online advertising. One of the key principles of digital marketing is creating an easy, seamless, and convenient user experience for target audiences. Moreover, eliminating the amount of consumer effort needed to act on digital content helps establish an ongoing, automated relationship between brands and their audience.


Blog website: Digital marketers often incorporate blogs and other social media elements in their corporate websites to encourage web traffic.

Pull Digital Marketing

Pull digital marketing is characterized by consumers actively seeking marketing content. Consumers might use tactics including search engines, email newsletters, text messaging, or web feeds to search for brand information. Push technologies deliver content as it becomes available and are better targeted to consumer demographics. However, microtargeting tends to produce smaller audiences, and results in higher creation and distribution costs.

Websites, blogs, and streaming media (audio and video) are examples of pull digital marketing. In each of these channels, users must navigate to the website to view the content. It is up to marketers to create digital content – text, images, videos, and audio – that is relevant and captivating enough to attract web visitors, increase page views, and improve search engine rankings.

Building online communities on related social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube is another pull tactic used by brands to increase the number of interactions with prospects and customers. Companies frequently use their corporate websites and blogs to build authority and credibility in their field, as well as improve their search engine optimization. Major search engines such as Google often index sites based on the quality and relevancy of their content. Thus, the higher a brand is ranked in Google, the more likely web users will find their website.

Push Digital Marketing

Push digital marketing occurs when marketers send messages with or without the consent of the recipients. These digital marketing tactics include display advertising on websites and blogs. Email, text messaging, and web feeds are also considered push digital marketing when the recipient has not agreed to receiving the marketing message. This practice is also known as spamming. The opposite of spamming is permission marketing, which uses technologies with the prior permission of the recipient. Marketers obtain consumer permission to send communications via subscriptions or written consent.

Subscriptions provide the opportunity to push content to fans and followers, prompting them to visit the brand's video channel, social media page, or corporate website. Text and video press releases can also be distributed easily through online distribution services. Journalists, bloggers, and other content producers visit these sites for news stories. Brands can gain web traffic from media publications and blogs that use their press releases as information sources.

Other Types of Digital Marketing

A company may not exclusively use pull or push digital marketing strategies, or they might not use these strategies at all. There are other marketing strategies that may involve a variation of push or pull marketing. For instance, multi-channel communications use push and pull message technologies simultaneously.

Types of Internet Advertising

Types of Internet advertising include banner, semantic, affiliate, social networking, and mobile.

Learning Objectives

Give examples of how brands use affiliate marketing, social network advertising, search engine marketing (SEM), and mobile advertising.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Internet advertising provides companies a low cost way to serve personalized ads across web and mobile interfaces.
  • Online advertising relies heavily on contextual and behavioral targeting to serve personalized ads to consumers.
  • Different mobile advertising tactics include idle screen advertising, app-vertising, and DoubleClick for Advertisers.

Key Terms

  • clickstream: A profile of a user's activity in a web browser or other software, based on what is clicked.

Types of Internet Advertising

One major benefit of online advertising is the immediate publishing of information that is not limited by geographic or time constraints. Online advertisers can customize advertisements, making consumer targeting more efficient and precise. For example, AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdSense enable ads to be shown on relevant web pages or alongside related search results. On the other hand, consumers have greater control over the content they see, affecting the timing, placement, and visibility of online advertisements. Within the scope of Internet marketing, online advertising includes display advertising, affiliate marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), and mobile advertising.


Banner Ad: Banner ads are examples of Internet advertising.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is the use of web banners or banner ads placed on a third-party website or blog to drive traffic to a corporate website and increase product awareness. These banners consist of static or animated images, as well as interactive media including audio and video. Display advertising uses demographic and geographic targeting – capturing users' cookie and browser history to determine demographics, location, and interests – to target appropriate ads to those browsers.

In addition to contextual targeting, online advertising is targeted based on a user's online behavior. This practice is known as behavioral targeting. For example, if a user is known to have recently visited a number of automotive websites based on clickstream analysis enabled by cookies stored on the user's computer, that user can then be served auto-related ads when they visit other, non-automotive sites. Semantic analysis techniques are also used to accurately interpret and classify the meaning or context of the page's content and then populate it with targeted advertisements. Semantic web content is closely linked to advertising to increase viewer interest engagement with the advertised product or service.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a form of online advertising where advertisers place campaigns with a potentially large number of publishers, who are only paid media fees when the advertiser receives web traffic. Web traffic is usually based on a call-to-action or measurable campaign result such as a submitted web form or sale. Today, this is usually accomplished through contracting with an affiliate network.

Social Network Advertising

Social network advertising is a form of online advertising found on social networking sites such as Facebook. Advertising on social media networks can take the form of direct display ads purchased on social networks, self-serve advertising through internal ad networks, and ad serving on social network applications through special social network application advertising networks.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing is a form of marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). SEM tactics include paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion, or free search engine optimization techniques to drive placement of their ads. Advertisers pay each time users click on their listing and are redirected to their website, rather than for the ad itself. This system allows brands to refine searches and gain information about their market.

Mobile Advertising

Cell phone advertising is the ability for organizations and individuals to advertise their product or service over mobile devices. Mobile advertising is generally carried out via text messages or applications. The obvious benefit of mobile advertising for brands is that mobile devices such as smartphones are usually close to the owner throughout the day. This presents a cost-effective way for brands to deliver targeted advertisements across mobile platforms on a daily basis. Technologies such as location-based advertising also give marketers the ability to deliver ads in close proximity to the physical location of a consumer. Although advertisements appear on a small mobile interface, mobile advertisers have the ability to deliver personalized, and thus effective, messaging.

Different mobile advertising tactics include:

  • Idle screen advertising - Cell phone owners enter into a third-party agreement that allows advertisements to run on their screen while their phone is idle in exchange for a discount or other promotion.
  • App-vertising – Companies design applications, including games and videos, that heavily promote their brand.
  • DoubleClick for Advertisers – A Google service that allows brands to buy certain keywords to increase the position of their ads in mobile search rankings.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of employing various strategies to allow websites to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Paid search engine advertising increases a website's visibility and reach by displaying links to the website's landing pages at the top or bottom of a SERP. In contrast, SEO increases a website's visibility and reach by allowing the website to rank well organically in search results when search engine users search for certain key phrases and terms.

Some SEO strategies include link building, optimization of onsite content with targeted keywords, optimization of meta descriptions with targeted keywords, and optimization of blog content with targeted keywords. Most search engines work to find users websites based on their searches using complex algorithms that assess a website's authority, using a wide variety of strategies to rate the overall quality and usefulness of a site's content. SEO strategists aim to boost a site's authority in the eyes of search engines by creating high quality content that uses relevant key terms which will be linked to by other sites.

Local SEO is an emerging trend in the SEO realm. Local SEO involves creating content that targets a particular geographical demographic. It also includes the use of local listing sites to help establish a website's presence in search results that are tailored to local users.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is the practice of promoting brands over mobile devices such as smartphones, portable media players and tablets.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the pros and cons of marketing via smartphones, computer tablets and other mobile devices

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the early 2000s, mobile marketing became popular with the use of text messaging in Europe and parts of Asia.
  • Mobile marketing promotional tactics include SMS and MMS messaging, push notifications, QR codes, keyword advertising and mobile game marketing.
  • Some of the key advantages of mobile marketing are the close proximity of owners' mobile devices, as well as the habitual nature of using cell phones, smartphones and computer tablets.
  • Despite the cost-effectiveness of mobile marketing, brands face challenges around privacy concerns with user data.

Key Terms

  • Bluetooth: A proprietary open-wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength radio transmissions in the ISM band from 2400–2480 MHz) from fixed and mobile devices, creating personal area networks (PANs) with high levels of security.
  • MMS: Multimedia Messaging Service - standard way to send messages that include multimedia content to and from mobile phones.
  • SMS: A text message sent on a cell phone.

Mobile Marketing

This type of marketing allows marketers and advertisers to promote products and services over mobile devices including cellular phones, smartphones, portable media players and tablets.

According to marketing professor Andreas Kaplan, mobile marketing is, "Any marketing activity conducted through a ubiquitous network to which consumers are constantly connected using a personal mobile device". Because mobile marketing is conducted using wireless networks, it is also known as "wireless marketing". Marketing communications on mobile devices is generally carried out via text messages or applications. Since consumers typically carry their mobile devices with them throughout the day, mobile marketing presents a cost-effective way for brands to deliver targeted messaging across different platforms.


QR Code Promotion: These are increasingly being used in mobile advertising campaigns to increase user engagement.

Types of Mobile Marketing

One of the most popular forms of mobile advertising is text messaging. During the early 2000s, marketing through cell phones' Short Message Service (SMS) became increasingly common in Europe and parts of Asia. Consequently, SMS marketing has become a legitimate advertising channel in both developed and developing economies around the world. On average, it is estimated that SMS messages are read within four minutes after delivery to a mobile device. This makes mobile marketing highly attractive to brands looking for marketing communication channels with high lead-to-conversion rates.

Unlike SMS, Multimedia Message Service (MMS) mobile marketing combines the delivery of images, text, audio and video. Nearly all new phones with a color screen are capable of sending and receiving standard MMS messages. Brands are able to both send and receive rich content through MMS A2P (application-to-person) mobile networks to mobile subscribers. In some networks, brands are also able to sponsor messages sent P2P (person-to-person).

Push notifications have become popular due to their use on smartphones using iOS and Android operating systems. These notifications appear at the top of the device's screen and serve as efficient mechanisms for communicating directly with end-users. Although it can potentially be viewed as interruptive by the end user, its long-term costs are lower than SMS marketing.

Game mobile marketing provides additional opportunities for brands looking to deliver promotional messaging within mobile games. Some companies sponsor entire games to drive consumer engagement, a practice known as mobile advergaming or ad-funded mobile gaming.

Mobile content advertising schemes provided by the likes of Yahoo! and Google allow brands to purchase keywords specifically for mobile advertisements. Additionally, web forms on web pages can be used to integrate with mobile texting sources for reminders about meetings, seminars and other important events for users who are away from their laptop or desktop computers.

Quick response (QR) codes have also gained in popularity after first being introduced in European and Asian mobile markets. Acting as a visual hyper-link to a page, QR codes enable users to jump to a mobile optimized offer page. QR codes only began to be used in mobile advertising in North America from 2011. Companies recognized the technology as a very powerful tool for initiating consumer engagement at a time when the marketing message is likely triggering its most emotional response — the impulse moment — for the end user.

In addition to QR codes, other tools used by mobile marketers to improve targeted messaging and reduce marketing costs include location-based services, Bluetooth technology, and proximity systems such as Short Message Service - Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mobile Marketing

Some of the key advantages of mobile marketing are the close proximity of owners' mobile devices, as well as the habitual nature of using cell phones, smartphones and computer tablets. Distributing promotional and advertising messages customized according to the recipient's location, geography and personal interests through wireless networks makes mobile marketing highly cost-effective given the potential reach and scope of the audience.

However, mobile marketing practices present challenges around privacy concerns over user data. Push marketing tactics -- mobile advertising that is sent without consumers' required permission – have caused privacy violations. Although mobile advertising has become increasingly popular with the growing use of tablets and smartphones, numerous concerns have emerged due to the personal nature and close proximity of mobile devices to users. Some of the major concerns around privacy include mobile spam, personal identification, location information and wireless security.

Industry bodies including the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Mobile Marketing Association have established guidelines to prevent SPAM messages and the practice of carriers selling member databases to third parties.

However, these self-regulatory rules are also in place to support marketers looking to incorporate mobile marketing into their larger marketing communications strategies.

Social Behavior of Consumers

Understanding consumers' social behavior online and offline is essential to developing viable marketing communications strategies.

Learning Objectives

Describe how social media aids the study and measurement of consumer behavior

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Traditionally, consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, purchase and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas.
  • The emergence of web technologies such as social media allow more opportunities for consumers, particularly younger generations, to experience more social interactions with people and organizations.
  • Brands must recognize the importance of demographic factors such as age and gender when assessing consumers' social behavior online.
  • Companies commonly use behavioral targeting techniques to market to consumers based on their online behavior.

Key Terms

  • behavioral targeting: The range of technologies and techniques used by online website publishers and advertisers which allows them to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns by capturing data generated by website and landing page visitors.
  • customer relationship management: A widely implemented model for managing a company's interactions with customers, clients, and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. Also known by the acronym "CRM. "
  • psychographics: the science of using psychology and demographics to better understand consumers

Social Behavior of Consumers

Digital and social media has spurred brands to develop research tactics that hone in on the social behavior of consumers online. Observing and understanding how consumers behave and interact with each other has led to the introduction of new semantic analysis technologies allowing companies to monitor consumer buying patterns based on shared and posted content. The data helps sales and marketing professionals improve segmentation to target prospects and customers.


Web User: Younger generations use web and mobile devices to increase their number of social interactions.

Consumer Behavior

Traditionally, consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, purchase and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas. Their purchases are meant to satisfy needs. Research has shown that consumer behavior is difficult to predict, even for experts in marketing communications. Relationship marketing, customer retention, customer relationship management (CRM) and personalization are all tactics used to assess consumer behavior.

However, consumer behavior is also influenced by internal conditions such as demographics, psychographics (lifestyle), personality, motivation, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. Psychological factors include an individual's motivation, perception, attitude and beliefs, while personal factors include income level, personality, age, occupation and lifestyle.

Types of Buyer Behaviors

Extensive research is often used to understand what appeals to buyers: colors, thought triggers, images and sounds; all of these factors address psychological buying behaviors. Societal buying behavior incorporates identification and suggestion to prompt a specific buyer behavior. When a company hires a spokesperson or personality to promote a product, they are utilizing societal buying behavior to connect buyer actions to that of the spokesperson or the personality involved. Similarly, psychographics are often used that offer insight into the lifestyle and personality traits of buyers.

Situational buying behavior involves a specific scenario or event that pressures a buyer to purchase product. Perhaps it is the fact that peers have bought the same product, or a certain product has become a "status symbol. " Whatever the reason buyer behavior is often impacted.

Online Behavioral Trends

The advent of social networks and social media provides an easy way for people to connect on the web. People use social networking to meet new friends, find old friends, or locate people with similar problems and interests. The information people post and share, as well as the relationships they build online, often transfer into an offline setting. While some critics have attributed the decline of quality interpersonal communication and human relationships to the growth of social media, others point to web and mobile technologies as a way for younger generations to experience more social interactions.

Age and gender influence how web and mobile devices are used and how decisions are made. While adolescent females and adult women are found to be more active in sending SMS messages, males send and receive more audio calls. Psychologically, research shows that men seem to adopt technology faster and have more incentive to try new features. This might be due to a difference in male and female attitudes towards new technology. Women tend to view technology as a tool, whereas men view it as entertainment.

Recognizing the intersection between social behavior and web technologies is imperative for brands looking to advertise products and services that are relevant to buyers. To implement a viable integrated marketing communications strategy that incorporates these data, companies employ techniques such as behavioral targeting for understanding, collecting and analyzing online and offline consumer information.

Collecting and Analyzing Online Consumer Data

Brands commonly use behavioral targeting techniques to market to consumers based on their online behavior. Brands increase the effectiveness of their campaigns by capturing data on web visitors who visit their website landing pages. Websites identify visitors by assigning a unique ID cookie to each and every visitor to the site. This allows the platform to track users throughout their web journey and make rules-based decisions about what content to serve. However, when behavioral targeting is done without the knowledge of users, it may be considered a breach of browser security and even illegal depending on country privacy, data protection and consumer protection laws. To monitor and measure behavior on social media sites, companies use analytical tools provided by the social media platform or external vendors.

Again, this behavioral data can be combined with known demographic data and a visitor's past purchase history in order to produce a greater degree of data points that can be used for targeting. Self-learning onsite behavioral targeting systems will monitor visitor response to site content and learn what is most likely to generate a desired conversion event (i.e. consumer purchase). Behavioral targeting can also be used to serve many advertisements across many different sites based on the likely demographic makeup of internet users. For example, a website may assume that an Internet user is male based on the user's visit to football and male fashion sites.

Types of Consumer-Generated Digital Content

Consumer-generated content can be text, images, video or other digital information posted and shared by end-users.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the technological factors that have led to the rise of consumer-generated digital content

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Examples of consumer -generated digital content include videos, blogs, microblogs, wikis and podcasts.
  • Consumer-generated content across digital interfaces has provided brands with insights into consumer behavior.
  • In addition to social media, user-generated content may also employ a combination of open source, free software and flexible licensing mechanisms.

Key Terms

  • discourse: A formal lengthy exposition of some subject, either spoken or written.
  • widget: Any one of the components of a computer application's graphical user interface, such as a Cancel button or text input box that a user interacts with.

Types of Consumer Generated Digital Content


Twitter for the iPad: Companies employ consumer-generated content across mobile applications such as tablet computers.

The type of digital content created, published and shared by web users varies based on the media and communication technology available. The term "user-generated content" entered mainstream usage during 2005, after its rise in web publishing and new media content production circles. Consumer content is applied in areas including problem processing, news, gossip and research. The proliferation of consumer-generated content, which has coincided with the rise of social media, reflects the expansion of media production through new technologies that are accessible and affordable to the general public.

Consumer-generated content encourages collaboration and discourse, as well as basic conversation between people and entities of the same interests, concerns or professions. The web's ability to eliminate geographic and time constraints has opened more doors for increased collaboration and exchange between users and organizations that are physically separated but digitally connected. This has produced a treasure trove of consumer insights for companies looking to increase brand awareness and build customer relationships across multiple interfaces and communication channels.

Blogging, microblogging and social networks are among the most popular forms of user-generated content. However, all digital media technologies are considered "user-generated content." Examples of these technologies include:

  • Question-answer databases (e.g., Yahoo! Answers,
  • Digital video (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo)
  • Blogs (e.g., Blogger, Weebly)
  • Microblogs (e.g., Tumblr, Twitter)
  • Podcasting (e.g., iTunes)
  • Review-sites (e.g. Yelp, TripAdvisor)
  • Social networking (e.g., Facebook, MySpace)
  • Wikis (e.g. Wikipedia)

In addition to these digital media, user-generated content may also employ a combination of open source, free software, and flexible licensing or related agreements to further reduce the barriers to collaboration, skill-building and discovery. Social media sites such as Facebook and Google+ include micropost features such as status updates, as well as "Like" and share buttons to encourage interaction between users. Third-party websites and online publications help facilitate the publication and spread of user-generated content by including sidebar widgets on their web pages. These digital icons allow users to link directly to different social media accounts, where they can automatically post and share news stories, images, video and other content from the third-party website.

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