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Making connections: ensuring appropriate alignment between social media tools and audiences.

Introduction

The media landscape has undergone profound change since the rollout of Web 2.0 software. Schwoch and White (1992) in "Learning the Electronic Life" discuss how technologies alter our individual and collective worlds.
   ... prosaicness is what makes them so important and powerful,
   because it is in our interface with these technologies, the
   human-technical interface, that an entire pedagogy or technical
   competence is fostered, a pedagogy which becomes almost buried in
   the thousands of discrete habits and routines that both help us,
   connect us and imprison us in the information society (p. 102).


An oligopolistic marketplace, or one once controlled by a few, has evolved to what Poster (1997) postulated: a democracy of voices and economic characteristics associated with monopolistic competition. The legal, social, cultural and technological environments once associated with traditional media are being reconfigured as a result of the demise of the gatekeeper and the birth of freedom of speech for all. The revenue streams associated with yesterday's media, as well as the message content and creation process, have shifted as a result of social media. David Meerman Scott (2011) explains the new media marketplace.
   Without a focus on the buyer, typical press release and media
   relations programs are built on what the organization wants to say
   rather than on what the buyer wants to hear. There is a huge
   difference. Companies that are successful with direct-to-consumer
   news release strategies write for their buyers. The blogs that are
   best at reaching an organizational goal are not about companies or
   products but rather customers and their problems (p. 145).


Many media practitioners are relearning their craft as a result of the diffusion of social media tools. This paper explores how media buyers require a far greater comprehension of traditional, Internet, and social media options. I begin with an exploration of the First Media Age associated with the rise of broadcast television and explain how advertising messages were placed to generate greatest consumer consumption. The discussion shifts to the characteristics of the Second Media Age and the associated tools to identify an audience, its "viewing" patterns, and the best practices to reach an audience using these new tools. Ultimately, educators and students must keep abreast of the changing media landscape to ensure that those responsible for message creation and placement are aware that a plethora of options exist and select the best tools for the most reasonable cost.

Review of the Literature

Many consumers of what was once considered traditional media: print, magazine, radio and television broadcast, and billboard, aren't aware that every time they observe an advertising message, it has been positioned at a cost in a specific location in an effort to "reach" the intended audience. Media content, such as news, classified ads, sports, features, etc. are positioned in the media form around advertisements. The content is designed to attract an audience so advertisers' messages are consumed. The perfect scenario translates to desired audience and message through content. According to the website, mediaknowall.com,
   It can be argued that the main purpose of commercial television is
   to provide a link between audiences and advertisers. It is
   certainly true that without the income generated by commercials,
   television as we know it would not exist--TV is too expensive a
   medium to be funded purely from satellite subscriptions or TV
   license fees. (retrieved on 9.11.11)


The link is provided in the form of programming. Before the network connection designed by the powerhouse three, ABC, NBC, and CBS; media operated at a local level with primary audience characteristics differentiated by gender and age. Similarly, the local newspaper published daily, alternating days, or weekly and designed special sections catering to niche audience segments such as sports, business, lawn and garden, social, food, and education. Local merchants advertised specialized messages in key locations, such as the business section for banking establishments' announcements of mortgage rates; the home section for promotion of supermarket specials, etc. The advertiser paid costs associated with column inches to advertise their message. Local and regional magazines operated in a similar fashion; cost was associated with size of page and location placement. Supplements, special editions, and other means were utilized to ensure that every advertiser in a community had the opportunity to reach a desired audience at an appropriate time.

When landline analog technology diffused and satellite technology enhanced transmission and conversion of multiple signals, the ability to transmit voice and picture became common place, and network radio and television were born. The concept of network has been discussed from multiple perspectives, and the impact of a networked society on individual thinking, living, and comprehension of "normal" conventions of life has developed into numerous areas of current academic inquiry: critical studies, mass media and society, media production, media literacy, cultural studies, etc. Broadcasting ushered in the First Media Age and altered the media landscape in several critical ways: 1) The notion of a mass audience that consumed messages designed by a select group of producers and directors designed to transmit the cultural heritage and established and perpetuated societal "norms." 2) The programming presented to the mass audience was not representative of real life, but rather "select" lives. 3) Depictions of women and minorities in successful careers or heads of households were non-existent. When minorities were cast in mediated product, the depictions promoted stereotypes rather than emancipation from the stereotypes (Holmes, 2005).

Douglas Ferguson (2001; 2003) attempted to analyze the factors associated with numerous innovations in the media marketplace through the identification of a conceptual inventory of three generations of television: broadcast, multichannel, and interactive. In TV1G or broadcast, time-based schedules differentiating audience segments through the use of day-parting (presenting programming aligned to the individual or individuals most likely to be watching at a given time) content selected and controlled by programmers was critical. The technology featured dials and knobs delivered through an analog cable to those sets where rabbit ears and/or bow tie antenna didn't improve reception. Printed guides directed viewers to select programs offered at one time and displayed on three networks and one public programming outlet. Consumers paid no connection fee for over-the-air transmission and very small cable bills for "wired" connections. The free television featured advertising messages every seven to 10 minutes for two to three minutes per unit. A network thirty-second spot in a prime-time (7:30-10:30 p.m.) program had the potential to generate millions of dollars per 30-minute program based on rate and share data published in the Nielsen's overnight ratings.

The hallmark of TV2G or the multichannel generation was programming choice and time-shift viewing made available by the video cassette recorder. Couch potatoes proliferated as the remote control device became mainstreamed. Colorized images and stereo televisions were connected to boxes that offered scrambling of signals and routers. Instead of major networks delivering mass audiences, new broadcast networks and netlets emerged, while cable franchises sliced up the media market into niche programming services with a sliver of the number of audience members once drawn to mass appeal programming. Viewing audiences were homogeneous and delivered by targeted programming which honed the audience--advertising message connection. Channel bugs in the right lower third of the television monitor aided viewers' recognition of sponsored content while channel guides exposed a plethora of programming choices. The control of mediated product began to diversify.

Ferguson's final generation is TV3G where convergence is king and viewers have ultimate control over their media consumption patterns with the ability to select alternative programming. Audience flow is limited to over-the-air programming because of the limited repertoire. "The shift in control changes everything, and may overthrow the advertising-supported model of television" (http://fergusond.people.cofc.edu/concept3g.htm retrieved 8.15.11). As a result of the shift in control of media viewing patterns, ownership and programming selection, coupled with continued advances in technology, the Second Media Age emerged.

Second Media Age

The Second Media Age is punctuated by interactivity, engagement, and choice and has been embraced by teenagers between the ages of 12 to 17 who, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2011), report that more than 93% of this demographic are on-line. The focus of control is de-centered with many speaking to many and multiple parties' communication occurring simultaneously. While the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission controlled much of what, where, and how messages were presented in the First Media Age, this Age evades control due to the global footprint of message exchanges. One of the interesting characteristics of media in this Age is the individual influence and experience of space and time. Media consumers in this Age have a plethora of options, communities and personal experience they choose to share with one, some, or all. This process of controlling message flow, in some respect, is related to the diffusion of social media.

Social media allows for two-way synchronous and asynchronous interaction between, and among, users. It includes social networking environments, person-to-person and broadcast messaging, and other Web 2.0 applications (Palen, 2008). As a result of the dominance of social media tools, communications specialists have the need to be reoriented regarding how to align messages with outlets. For example, a public relations practitioner's preparation of a press release now includes targeting the audience, choosing the outcomes, customizing the content, identifying the vehicle, generating open dialogue, and adapting conversation to accommodate feedback; whereas in the past, the message was crafted based on the stakeholder group and distributed to a media contact list with the hope of placement. Media consumption patterns during the First Media Age were tracked and calculated by Nielsen ratings. The rating and share translated to number of homes using television during a time period and number of homes tuned to a specific media provider during a specific time period to identify who was actually tuned in and from where they were watching. In the Vocus whitepaper, "Re-Emerging Trend in 2010: Integrating Marketing and PR, the shift in understanding where to find the audience and determine their level of engagement is real.

Social media measures engagement or interactions on social networks. Interaction has become important as a measurement tool because it demonstrates that not only did a reader entertain a given piece of content, but felt compelled to do something with it: e-mail it, favorite it, bookmark it on Digg or Delicious, or in somewhat share it (p. 4).

Because of the focus on individualized and personal communication, a number of social media tools exist for advertisers to reach target audiences. Social media is "both symbolic of the change the industry is experiencing and illustrative of the case of an integrated approach. Even so, social media is just a tool. It's one channel albeit an important one, among many" (Vocus Whitepaper, pg. 1).

Different social media tools are aligned with different demographic audiences. However, the proliferation of social media tools coupled with diffusion has altered the traditional practices of marketing, sales, public relations and advertising forcing us to rethink the media marketplace. "Integrated communications is more than just social media. It's about.search marketing, search engine optimization, multimedia, video, interactive marketing, traditional public relations and most importantly, it's about measurable results" (Vocus, 2011a, p. 6)

This presentation will limit discussion of social media tools to the most popular: blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Blogs

Seventeen years ago, Swarthmore student, Justin Hall, started the trend of maintaining an on-line diary. Today, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a blog is "the Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer; the contents of such a site; short for Weblog (Tittp://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/blog retrieved on 9.14.11). As of December 2009, over 152,000,000 blogs exist worldwide. This diary-style communication format is typically used by CEO's and executives to reach target customers and share the latest business deals and innovations. There are numerous benefits to blogging: a) keep a personal diary that can be shared with the world; b). use as a business tool or as a business itself (advertising); c) find friends and have followers of your blog comments; and d) voice personal ideas and thoughts. Wikipedia's version of blog fame is Julie Powell's account of the trials and tribulations she experienced when preparing 524 recipes in 365 days from Julia Child's, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". This project evolved into a 2009 comedy-drama box office hit titled, "Julie and Julia." Nora Ephron's screenplay was adapted in part from the reworked blog titled, "The Julie/Julia Project" by Julie Powell. All social media requires a presence, the creator must "be there and spend time there" (Stratten, 2011, p. 2) There are a number of ways to join the blogosphere; https://www.blogger.com/start is a location to review to establish a blog.

YouTube

Chad Hurley (CEO), Steve Chen (CTO) and Jared Karim (Advisor) founded YouTube in 2005 and as image sharing website designed to upload and share videos of all quality, caliber and content and has evolved to the most popular image-sharing website in the world. In 2006, Google Inc. purchased the site and is currently pursuing plans to generate slivercasting product around which advertising messages can be placed. YouTube's user profile is 52% male and 48% female with 31% of users between the ages of 46 and 60 while 27% are between 18 and 43. The benefits of YouTube are many: see the latest events, find videos to support interests, hobbies, products and perspectives; 3). Discover the quirky and unusual--anyone can post to the site with an account. "As more people capture special moments on video, YouTube is empowering them to become the broadcasters of tomorrow" Well, not exactly! Broadcasting was free to the consumer and was supported through advertising messages. Whereas, access to blogs, YouTube, and Facebook is controlled to those who have the ability to pay the price to hook-up to an Internet provider or live in a community where the public library has terminals available to townspeople in the evening and weekends and enables "playing" on the Internet. Those who have economic resources to own and pay the monthly connection fee for a smartphone have access to Social Media and can be reached by potential advertisers and others wishing to target information to you. The benefits of YouTube are numerous: images that are captured can be uploaded straight to the site; access to YouTube can be achieved through phone, TV, website, Internet search; and RSS feeds on YouTube can be used for updates on content.

Facebook

Three Harvard students, one of whom is the "face" of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, created the social networking site in 2004. According to http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php7statistics, more than 400 million users are connected and the benefits are many: connect with old friends; make new contacts and friends; network; lead opinions, and function as a personal website. Anyone with access to the Internet can generate a page that represents a person, organization, perspective. Then the "friending" process begins where others are invited or request the opportunity to "see" or access your page. Friends can write on your "wall" which serves as a note and commenting location. According to Strategies for Effective Facebook Wall Posts: A Statistical Review published by Buddy Media, the best time to post is Thursdays between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. with photos and videos getting the most views. Content on individual pages might include photos, videos, status updates, events, infographics, different types of articles such as reviews, blogs, news, etc. Millennials and other users appear to prefer "80 characters or less" for higher engagement with the content. Facebook users' response to posts that engage them to participate through requests to "like, take, submit, watch, post, comment, tell us, check," ask the traditional coach potato to react. The reaction becomes a measure of engagement with the content. Approximately 1% of Facebook's audience actively engages with pages.

Twitter

One of the younger social media tools, Twitter was created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey with the explicit purpose to follow and be followed by fans. This social networking and microblogging service allows users to tweet or post 140 character comments. Like other social media tools, there are numerous reasons to tweet: create awareness, seek and create media opportunities, foster customer loyalty, launch viral marketing campaigns, manage reputations (Demi and Ashton), promote products and services, network with customers, extend event participation, monitor trends and breaking news, recruiting. Twitter activity is monitored on Google Analytics and current research suggests this tool is growing."Businesses are paying Twitter $120,000.00 to sponsor a promoted trending topic for a day.. .that's up from $25,000.00 to $30,000.00 when the feature was launched in April 2010" (Sonderman, 2011).

Conclusion

Social media tools will innovate until revenue streams dwindle and migrate to the next tool that can accurately, effectively and efficiently deliver audiences. According to David Poltrack, CBS Corporation, "age and sex don't matter when it comes to increasing TV ad effectiveness" (As cited in Evans, 2011). Practitioners in the Second Media Age will be forced to be lifelong learners and consumers of the latest innovations in technology. According to 60 Second Marketer,
   Mobile is one of the fastest-growing platforms in the world. With
   40% of U.S. mobile subscribers regularly browsing the Internet on
   their phone and a projected 12.5% of all e-commerce transactions
   going mobile by the end of the year, it's a channel that you need
   to be aware of. According to Google, mobile web traffic will
   surpass PC traffic by 2013.


The First Media Age provided audiences with broadcasting, networked content that transcended time and space to unite thinking and perspective. The Second Media Age shifted the notion of free speech, advertising supported content and access to audiences. Audiences have communicated great satisfaction with the diversity of content available for consumption, ability to be content providers and opportunity to control consumption patterns. Media buyers and others seeking to direct a message to a specific audience have a better understanding that traditional media and social media will be a part of the media plan. Will a Third Media Age evolve and how will it distinguish itself from the previous two ages? The answer to this question will be addressed in time.

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Vocus Whitepaper, (2011b). 25 Top Tips for Social Media Success, Part 2.

Ann D. Jabro

Department of Communication

Robert Morris University
COPYRIGHT 2011 Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Communications Media
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Author:Jabro, Ann D.
Publication:The Proceedings of the Laurel Highlands Communications Conference
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2011
Words:3477
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