Background and Motivation
With the Internet fast becoming the dominant means of communications and commerce in the 21st century, it recently plays the main role in changing human beings’ environment, life styles throughout the world and also impact on global economic system. Globalization has forever changed the world in which we live - a world that has become increasingly connected. The Internet is perhaps the most prominent tool that has facilitated this interconnectedness. The information technology innovation has been developed rapidly. Internet network has shortened the communication distance and connected the dimension of time and places together accordingly, which is considered as another important change of the world’s information technology history. A plenty of studies indicate an increasing stage in social network usage (Goldsborough, 2009). While teenagers were mainly considered the first group users of social networks, a growing population of 25 to 34-year-olds and most of white-collar professionals now also use them (Kim, 2008). Social networking websites have expanded rapidly over the last few years and have created new and varied channels to communicate via internet whether through PC or mobile phones. Many people are now members of social networking websites such as Facebook, Hi5, Youtube and so on. Cooke and Buckley (2008) predicted the Internet would be the marketing tactics of the future. With technology advances and the growth of digital media usage (Cheong and Morrison, 2008), advertisers are seeking new ways to reach consumers. Advertisers spent over $2 billion on social media advertising in 2009; predictions indicate that they may be spending almost $3.5 billion by 2013 (eMarketer, 2009). Each participant brings his/her own virtual character and personality to the joint web community. (The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Kaplan A, Haenlein M. 2009). The mentioned websites above provide valuable ways for people to share their interests, activities, get connected with your friends and even stay in touch across the globe. People are able to interact with social networking website in many methods such as blogs, directories, links and videos. However, the major types of social networking websites are those which contain directories of some categories. Facebook, Hi5, Youtube and Twitter which respond to different activities are prominent instances of popular social network sites. Both profit and non-profit organizations are able to use social networking websites as an advertising tool to promote their products and services. For instance, Burger King applied marketing communication via social networking websites by launching marketing promotion on Facebook. Facebook users could exchange ten accounts of friends for a whopper coupon. This promotion of Burger King attracted many social networking users to join this interesting campaign (“Famous brands with Facebook,” 2009). Putting ads in front of Facebook users is like hanging out at a party and interrupting conversations to hawk merchandise. (Newsweek, October 10, 2008). Advertising is the essence of Facebook's business. (Time Magazine, July 24, 2008). Social media is especially important because consumers interact with these platforms differently than traditional media. Social media encompass an inherent shift of informational power from the advertiser to the consumer, in which consumers decide which content to ignore and which to pass along to others in their network. Many consider this sharing of online content as powerful as word of mouth marketing. Moreover, other analysts point out, that users of social networking website tend to spend a lot of time on those sites, providing an attractive platform for advertisers to promote their brands, especially if preferences are tracked. (Advertise on Twitter? Meredith L, 2009). In summary, online social networks are here to stay and will continue to gain traction and...
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