Businesses use social media to connect with a connected generation

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Clarissa Oliphant
Ryan Elder presents key indicators that companies use to advertise through a social media platform. (Clarissa Oliphant)

Social media is greatly altering the ways the average consumer receives information. Ryan Elder, assistant professor of marketing at the Marriott School of Management, researched how having an emotional experience with a product or company affects consumers’ thinking process.

Companies along with technology have developed to attract consumers in a more natural way. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google + and LinkedIn are the six largest social media networks, and each targets a specific form of consumer.

Elder said companies use these interfaces to market products and interact with consumers.

“Because social media now feels like one-on-one connection,” he said.

Laekynn Davis, a BYU student studying news media said social media is the new word of mouth.

“I no longer call up my friend to tell her something. I post it and then she looks at it and knows what I’m up to,” Davis said.

Though some may think that this new form of connection is killing the social nature of our community, there are many who believe that the social aspect of society is increasing.

Mike Swenson, a BYU marketing professor, said he uses social media to connect with people.

“I think it’s causing greater sociability, not taking it away,” Swenson said.

Elder said companies are working to latch on to key aspects that they know will intrigue the average person living in the “like and share” generation.

“To establish a connection, to share something with somebody else, to establish a relationship, and to keep that, that’s similar to what we’re looking at in businesses,” Elder said. “So this is a way for us to engage with our consumers because we’re not face to face very often with them. A way to engage and keep the contact, and to ultimately drive sales.”

Researchers like Elder have broken down the reason why people are so likely to share certain items on popular social media websites. Elder mentioned advertisers of large businesses are keen to know this information so they can blend into the social media world without being seen as advertising.

These basic tools include: emotional arousal, social currency, triggers, popularity, practical value and stories.

Elder said there is a large emotional connection to many of the things which are shared. He also said companies today now have the ability to watch facial reactions through sophisticated software, while consumers are watching ads in order to better understand their feelings and enjoyment.

“Just because there is an emotional experience does not mean that it will be the same emotional experience all around,” Elder said. “Positive emotions do get shared more then negative emotions, but that is not the most critical dimension for emotional experiences that leads to sharing. Emotions like awe, excitement, or anger or stress are more likely to get shared.”

Social Currency, meaning that a person knows something that many others are not aware of, is also a large reason for public sharing according to Elder.

“A secret is worthless if you don’t have somebody to share it with,” Elder said. “People are more likely to post about it if they feel as though they know something nobody else knows.”

He also mentioned human beings are greatly connected to public influence. If others are participating in the same action, then the action becomes okay and more socially acceptable to pursue. Elder said another aspect consumers are looking for is practical value or a good story they can relate to. The story approaches allow companies to present an idea which cannot be argued.

Elder explained there is a certain reaction businesses are looking for in all consumers.

“I like that, that really resonates with me. I’m going to share that,” Elder said.

He said this reaction is the beginning of what companies want individual consumers to feel.

“Now that media is out there, we’re seeing how much they are engaging,” Elder said. “They are not just interested in if people see it, (they want to know) if they’re likely to share it, (whether they are) likely to engage in this brand.”

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