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Consumer networks in social media marketing

Consumer networks in social media marketing

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Published by Robin Croft
This article is due to be published in a major journal soon, and is included here as a preview. For copyright reasons it will be withdrawn when the journal comes out. Please also note that there have been some amendments, corrections and additions to the final version.
This article is due to be published in a major journal soon, and is included here as a preview. For copyright reasons it will be withdrawn when the journal comes out. Please also note that there have been some amendments, corrections and additions to the final version.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Robin Croft on Feb 26, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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Blessed are the Geeks: an Ethnographic Study of ConsumerNetworks in Social Media , 2006-2012
 
 
Journal:
 Journal of Marketing Management 
 Manuscript ID: RJMM-2012-0257.R2Manuscript Type: Special Issue - AM-SI-2012Keywords (headings notselectable):Identity < Consumer research, Interactions < Relationship marketing, Newmedia < E-marketing, Social networks < E-marketing, Viral marketing < E-
 
marketing, Consumer culture < Consumer researchMethodologies: ethnography, phenomenology / observation, netnographyFree Response Keywords: Facebook, Twitter
URL: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rjmmJournal of Marketing Management
 
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Blessed are the Geeks: an Ethnographic Study of Consumer Networks in Social Media , 2006-2012
Abstract
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
ad hoc
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.
Keywords
Social media, netnograpy, Facebook, Twitter, reciprocity, virtual conspicuous consumption,virtual display approval, catharsis
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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
This journey began on an ordinary Thursday in November 2006. I was stood in frontof 200 final year undergraduates, trying to figure out what to say about YouTube. Thestudents had signed up to a course which would explore ‘contemporary issues in marketing’: but Google’s acquisition of YouTube, completed earlier that week with a price tag $1.65 billion, made no sense at all. YouTube was losing a billion dollars a year and was facing the prospect of a series of ruinous lawsuits from copyright owners. At the same time, I hadobserved my students and family alike migrate from text messaging (SMS) on mobile phonesto instant messaging on MSN and Yahoo. While they were hanging out in Myspace andBebo, politicians in France and Germany were adopting avatars to carry out their virtualcampaigning in Second Life (Baygert 2009), and a would be president Obama was starting toexperiment with social media (Fineman 2009).This article describes curious longitudinal study whose broad aim was to discover thenature and extent of consumer networks in the burgeoning online communities. It wascurious, not because of the method chosen – ethnography has been providing insights intoconsumer behaviour for more than 20 years. Rather it was that the phenomenon I wasstudying evolved and grew exponentially, morphing into an almost unrecognisable virtual behemoth six years later. More interestingly though, I will show how there was a co-evolutionary dynamic in play: as a user, the technology changed the way I conceptualisedmyself and engaged with the outside world, just as, in parallel, I and other users wereresponsible for changing the very nature of the technological offering.
Context
What we were dimly aware of in late 2006 was that the world wide web was evolvingfrom something that audiences consumed, to an entity which they actively created (Harwoodand Garry 2010, Heinonen 2011): a whole new set of easy-to-use tools came available andthe web became not just what we read but how we expressed ourselves (Pehlivan 2011). Asone computer science student put it to me, “I’ve spent the last four years learning how to put
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