F o r P e e r R e v i e w O n l y
Blessed are the Geeks: an Ethnographic Study of Consumer Networks in Social Media , 2006-2012
Understanding the nature and extent of consumer networks in social media has beencomplicated both by their rapid adoption and their tendency to adapt and mutate as they have been deployed. Originally described as Web 2.0 technologies, social media appear to haveshifted the locus of communicative power from brand owners, governments and large mediacompanies, in favour of their audiences. Much has been claimed for social media marketing, but empirical studies are only recently starting to appear in leading journals, and in mostcases concentrate on the role of brands, products and services. This article presents thefindings of a 6 year virtual ethnography, one focused on the consumer, a study with the aimof gaining a preliminary understanding of this evolving phenomenon. It finds that socialmedia contain sets of complex interpersonal relationships in both concentric networks and in
groupings. These networks function through multi-faceted reciprocal displays inwhich products, services and brands may have a role, but are more likely to be peripheral toother aspects of relationship building.
Summary Statement of Contribution
Provides further evidence on the value of ethnographic research in marketing. Provides aconsumer/user viewpoint to supplement much of the recent scholarly research on strategicaspects of social media marketing. Highlights areas for further research, as well as possiblelimitations of conventional surveys in an area which is subject to rapid and disruptive change.Tentatively identifies online display approval and virtual conspicuous consumption.
Social media, netnograpy, Facebook, Twitter, reciprocity, virtual conspicuous consumption,virtual display approval, catharsis
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