Why do consumers join social,
networking sites?
Breda McCarthy, James Cook University
If there is one common denominator among young people today, it would be that they are enthusiastic users of social networking sites (SNSs). Also known as user-generated content sites, they provide platforms for sharing information, videos and photos, and blogging. These sites are often referred to as Web 2.0. Facebook is one of the world’s most popular social
� networking websites, attracting more and more people outside of its core
25- to 34-year-old demographic.
Social networking sites generate millions of dollars in revenue and advertising and, not surprisingly, there is growing interest in learning about why people join and participate in these sites. Industry surveys indicate that people join and participate in SNSs for a variety of reasons, including staying in touch with and making plans with friends, making new friends, and flirting. Other reasons may include feelings of affiliation and belonging, the need for information, goal achievement, self-identity, and values and notions of accepted behavior. Valkenburg, Peter, and Schouten find that the frequency with which adolescents use the sites influences their social self-esteem and wellbeing. Another study
found that students’ level of internet self-efficacy and need for cognition also influences their attitudes towards SNSs.
‘Internet self-efficacy’ refers to the individual’s perception of his or her ability to use the internet effectively. ‘Cognition’
is a personality trait that consumers display when they engage in. and enjoy mental activities.
The SNS business category adopts two basic operating business models: subscription-based and advertising revenue-based. Many users are reluctant to pay subscription fees to register with an SNS, so advertising remains the
The primary source of revenue for most sites. Therefore, SNSs are changing advertising profoundly, not just by cutting into traditional media budgets but also by revolutionizing the way advertisers reach consumers. For instance, Facebook allows businesses, organizations, restaurants, bars, cafés, sporting teams, artists, churches, health and fitness centers,
and even politicians to create pages with which users can interact by adding them to their profile. They can also choose to share this information with friends in their network through ‘News Feed’. ‘News Feed’ is a feature on the user’s home page that shows the recent activities of friends.
Facebook has a good deal of information about its users, such as sex, age, educational status, income, location,
music tastes, interests and hobbies, and this helps advertisers to target their audience. Advertisers on Facebook include
Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Apple and Victoria’s Secret. The site appeals to these brands for many reasons. First, Facebook has good viability-that it, it is well established and looks like it will be around for a while. Second, it has a good privacy policy. Facebook emphasizes privacy, personal information, and authentic relationships. People already have their friends, acquaintances and business connections, and Facebook simply helps in mapping them out. Third, the content is compatible with the image of these companies. Finally, the site is performing well for these companies. Advertising
online has its advantages:
• Interactivity: companies and customers can engage in dialogue.
• Flexibility: brand messages can be instantly changed if they are not producing the desired results.
_ Precise targeting: visitors to the website match the company’s customer profile; they are interested in particular product categories or brands and are more likely to respond.
– Quick results: because people are online 24/7, as soon as an offer is placed online, it has a potential audience that can immediately reply.
• Measurable: Hits. Click-throughs and purchases can be tracked.
Online advertising has its critics. Customers find banner advertising annoying and intrusive. Critics argue that users are too deeply engaged by their activities online to pay much attention toads. Privacy concerns can alienate users and

cause them to migrate to new destinations. In 2007, Facebook faced a backlash against its Beacon advertising service.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called this service a ‘social ad’; it was designed, he said, to ‘help [advertisers] create some of the best ad campaigns [they’ve] ever built’. Various advertisers, such as Blockbuster, entered into partnerships
with Facebook to create social ads that displayed the items users had rented or bought. Beacon notified a user’s friends
about e-commerce transactions that the user had just completed, without their consent. Thus, Beacon set off a wave
of criticism from Facebook users, journalists and privacy activists. Withdrawal of the service and a quick apology to
Facebook ensued.

Sources: A.lenhart and M. Madden, ‘Social Nf1Worl<ing Website! and Teens: An OVelView’, hw/internet & American lIfeProjea,1007.available at <WYIW.pewintemet.orgIPPF/r/19BlrepoICdlsplay.asp>,
accessed May 2009; A. Klaassen, ‘f¡¡cebook’s Bid Ad Plan: II Userllik� Vou, They’ll Be Your(¡¡mpalgn’, Advellising Age, 26 November 2009; P. M. Valkenburg, J. Peter and. P. Schouten, ‘friend flelworking
S�es and Their Relatioll5hip to Adolescents’ Well• Being and Sodal Self• Esteem’. CyberPIydioiogy & Behavior, vol. 9, no. S, 2006, pp. 584-90; C. Ridings and D. Gelen, ‘Virtual Community Action: Why
People Hang Out Online’. Joomla of (computer•Medialrd (communication, vol. lO, M. l, 1004; K. Oowersloo[ and T. [}unm, Integrated MarktrIng Communication” European Edition, (London: McGraw•
Hill, 2008); H. Gangadharbarla, H., ‘facebook Me: (collective Self-Esteem, Need to Belong and internet 5elHfficacy as Pœdkters of the IGeneratlon’s Altitudes toward Sod¡¡1 Networking Sites’, Journal of
llIltloaive Morkerint¡, Vol. 8, no. 2, Spring.1008, available at <YIWW.jiad.org/articleloo>, acœssec May 1009.


1 What does the term ‘involvement’ mean and would consumption of social networking sites be classified as a low-
or a high-involvement situation? Explore the notion of ‘risk’ in relation to participation in social networking sites.

2 In the chapter, personal and psychological factors were said to influence buyer behavior. Select a few concepts
such as Maslow’s theory of motivation, personality, and self-concept, personal factors such as age and life-cycle
stage and attitudes and describe whether any of these factors have the potential to influence participation in social
networking sites.

Assessment Criteria

-Executive Summary and overall quality of the report

-Identification of case issue(s)

-Analysis of the issue(s) using marketing theory

-Develop several possible strategies to solve the problem(s)

-Final Recommendations – select strategies to solve the problem(s)

-Format of report, structure, spelling, grammar, punctuation, referencing

*Please ensure you follow the above table when preparing a report


The following journals are recommended for additional reading and research
• Advertising News
• Business Horizons
• Business Review Weekly
• Far Eastern Economic Review
• Harvard Business Review
• Journal of Marketing
• Journal of Marketing Management
• Journal of Services Marketing
• Journal of Marketing Research
• Journal of Advertising
• Marketing (Australia)
• Marketing News

could you please don’t use any books or website for reference just use academic journals or as I recommended

Also, please use these references as examples of how I want you to write all the references

Chao, A., & Schor, J. (1998). Empirical tests of status consumption: Evidence from women’s cosmetics. Journal of Economic Psychology, 19(1), 107-131.

Frank, R. (1985). Choosing the right pond: Human behavior and the quest for status: Oxford University Press New York.


Name of student:

Course name:

Class name:

Date assignment due:


Executive summary. 3

Explanation of consumption patterns of social networking sites. 4

High and low involvement. 6

Potential for Maslow’s factors to influence participation in social networking sites. 7

Recommendations and conclusion. 9

References. 10

Executive summary

Facebook is today’s most successful online social networking sites. It is popular all over the world and its potential for creating adverts that can influence the purchase decisions of friends. Seemingly trivial Facebook applications such as pages, groups, and gifts have proven to have the potential to marshal product support from thousands of friends. In most cases, widespread support of the products advertised increases the likelihood that the friends who like the products will buy them. The best approaches for explaining the nature of purchase decisions are social psychology, group polarization, and cognitive dissonance.


Risk and participation factors influence Facebook buying decisions just as they do in local adverts. Facebook offers users the chance to form groups that are founded on virtually any product, belief, service or activity. Advertisers tend to form groups and pages in order to try and spark debates among interested friends, who are the target market. With this regard, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory presents a potential explanation for Facebook’s advertisement and purchase decisions. Insights from this theory provide crucial information on the target groups, buying behaviors and the underlying motivation for purchase decisions as friends set out to satisfy different needs(Hargittai, 2007).

Explanation of consumption patterns of social networking sites

Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have undergone phenomenal growth in terms of the number of people who use them within a remarkably short space of time. Today, Facebook has more than 200 million current users. Today, these sites have become remarkably useful marketing tools because of the emergence of free software development tools such as OpenSocial and Facebook Platform. These tools make it easy for small software applications to be deployed in a viral fashion to an exceptionally large number of people.

The success recorded with seemingly trivial Facebook applications has proved that people are willing to invest much of their daily time interacting with these applications and to recommend them to their friends. AppData, a Facebook application metrics site, is being used by millions of users. On the other hand, even the most trivial of applications can end up having tens of thousands of users. It seems logical that Facebook has the potential to provide a platform for the delivery of persuasive applications, given a large number of users and their level of social connectivity.

Insights from social psychology can explain why social networking sites such as Facebook are tremendously powerful motivators of behavior change(Pasek, 2009). Anyone joins Facebook voluntarily and adds applications to his profile on the same basis. The main role of Facebook is merely to provide such a user with an online network of friends that one has chosen for purposes of interactions in various ways. The attractiveness of these friends with regard to their familiarity and similarity to the individual makes it extremely appealing for frequent social interactions to take place.

Friendship associations form the primary basis for Facebook interactions. It is common for Facebook friends to try to spread persuasive behavior by simply embedding them in one’s applications. These patterns utilize built-in features of the social interaction platform such as the messaging functions and friend selector. This mitigates the spread of a certain application through various social networks in a viral fashion. One such pattern, named ‘Provoke and Retaliate’ require one friend to take an action on another friend by, for example, sending a graphic representation of encouragement or a virtual gift. Reciprocity is generated, whereupon the recipient feels socially obliged to respond.

Consumption patterns on Facebook can also be explained through cognitive dissonance and group polarization approaches. Cognitive dissonance manifests itself when a person holds two or more beliefs that are inconsistent. When these conflicting ideas induce cognitive dissonance, more awareness is created, a drive to change the prevailing behavior and attitude is generated.

Group Polarization, also known as ‘risky shift’ is the idea that an individual always makes more risky decisions compared to a group(Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992). The notion of ‘risky shift’ was popular among researchers in the 1960s, although it was later proved to be wrong, with the realization that indeed, groups tend to make much more ‘extreme’ decisions compared to individuals. In this era of online social networking sites, the effects of group polarization are highly significant and far-reaching(Ridings & Gefen, 2004). Group meetings that take place in an online create a highly persuasive environment. However, sometimes this can also lead to negative effects. For instance, if members of a group start talking about racism, their negative beliefs about racism may be strengthened much more than before(Barnes, 2007).


In Facebook, one can choose to become a ‘fan’ of a certain product or brand. When a person becomes a fan of a certain brand, he is highly likely to buy it or recommend the product to his friends. In social networking sites, people are highly likely to buy products with which they are socially involved because this gives them a sense of identity(Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

            According to Lewis (2008), Facebook networks that are defined by race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status are often characterized by highly distinct network behaviors. Additionally, people who share social relationships and demographic traits, often share many cultural preferences.

High and low involvement

Involvement is often seen as existing in three essential dimensions. These include intensity, direction, and persistence. Intensity involves the degree of interest experienced by the consumer. Today, it is usual for people to describe high or low involvement situations. However, in reality, the intensity of involvement is always a continuum(Fagerstrøm, 2010).

In terms of focus or direction involvement may be oriented towards advertising, the product itself, the purchase decision or a combination of all these three factors. An excellent example is in a service situation whereby a purchase decision is always simultaneous with product decisions, making it difficult to differentiate between the two(Bearden, 2008).

Persistence is often understood in terms of situational involvement and enduring involvement. Situational involvement is always short-term and it is normally associated with a purchase decision. On the other hand, enduring involvement is long-term and it is indicative of an ongoing personal interest in a particular product area.

In the case of social networking sites such as Facebook, involvement is a crucial factor in consumption patterns. This is because it relates to consumers self-concept and values. Therefore, it varies not only across situations but also across individuals. Involvement in itself embraced many different properties. As a determinant of the mode of decision, it is more complex than the notion of prior knowledge or familiarity.

The level of involvement on Facebook, therefore, depends on the product being sold and the interests of the buyer. However, owing to the wide array of purchase opportunities offered by online communication technology, the level of involvement is always lower compared to local stores. This is because, the attention span in Facebook, like in all other online media, is low. There is a lot to read, comment on, reply, confirm, recommend and like, all within a short time.

Potential for Maslow’s factors to influence participation in social networking sites

According to Maslow’s theory, the most critical driver of motivation is unsatisfied needs(Gangadharbatla, 2008). Maslow developed different types of needs: basic, low-level and higher-level needs, all of which are stacked in a hierarchical model. Low-level needs such as safety and psychological requirements are always sought before the need for higher-level needs such as self-fulfillment is felt. However, the most critical needs are the basic ones, such as food, clothing, and shelter.

An individual’s needs determine the personal and psychological disposition whenever he is seeking the products on offer on Facebook. In this regard, personal factors such as the life-cycle stage, age and attitudes manifest themselves in the buyers’ behaviors(MacKenzie &Spreng, 1992). For instance, the motivation for an individual who wants to satisfy basic needs is different from that of a person who is seeking self-actualization, the highest-level need according to Maslow’s theory.

Maslow’s theory is highly relevant in today’s online social networking site advertising culture, whose pacesetter is Facebook and Twitter. These online sites cater to the needs of different market needs with the emphasis being put on the greatest market segment. For instance, anyone can require biological and physiological needs such as emergency helplines, roadside recovery and social security benefits. Advertisers of products that facilitate the satisfaction of these needs are immensely popular on Facebook.

Furthermore, competition for consumers can be seen in all the other levels of needs through a critical analysis of Facebook adverts. These levels include safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs. Examples of safety needs include life insurance, home security product and schools.

When it was started, Facebook’s main target was college students. For this market segment, belongingness and love need closely rhyme with the whole idea of friendship formation. Although Facebook is today spreading its tentacles outside the 24-35-age demographic, its main attraction is people within this age bracket. For these people, love needs, a sense of identity and self-concept are highly critical. This is why membership societies, dating and match-making services, clubs and chat-lines are extremely popular utilities for advertisements. Likewise, there are many adverts directed toward people who are pursuing esteem needs. The product offering in this category includes fast cars, cosmetics, furniture, home improvements, drinks, fashion clothes, drinks, and lifestyle products. In Facebook, just like elsewhere, self-actualization needs are being sought by only a marginal section of the population. This is why they do not constitute a vital component part of the mainstream market in social networking sites.

Recommendations and conclusion

            Facebook, like many other online social networking sites, is an effective tool for not only forming friendships but also selling and buying products. The influence of friends is always great as far as the determination of risks and the level of involvement is concerned. Facebook has excelled in creating platforms where friends can take pride in their identity. The consumption patterns in social networking sites seem to be predictable when considered along identity lines such as gender, socioeconomic status, membership in societies and political affiliations.

Both the notions of social and psychological influences are critical determinants of the manner in which online adverts are designed. Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs provides a convenient point of reference in the analysis of advertising trends on Facebook. Advertisers should refer to the findings derives from the analysis of this theory with regard to the satisfaction of various types of needs. This would make it possible for them to focus on the right market segments within the networking sites.


Baumeister, R. & Leary, M. (1995), The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation, Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.

Bearden, W. (2008) Consumer Self-Confidence: Refinements in Conceptualization and Measurement, Journal of Consumer Research, 28 (June), 121-134.

Barnes, S. (2007) Virtual worlds as a medium for advertising, Harvard Business Review 38 (4), 45 – 55.

Fagerstrøm, A. (2010) Web 2.0’s Marketing Impact on Low-Involvement Consumers, Journal of Interactive Advertising, 10(2), 53-65.

Gangadharbatla, H. (2008) Facebook Me: Collective Self-Esteem, Need to Belong, and Internet Self-Efficacy as Predictors of the iGeneration’s Attitudes toward Social Networking Sites, Journal of Interactive Advertising, 8 (2), 56-87.

Hargittai, E. (2007). Whose space? Differences among users and non-users of social network sites, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1), 23-39

Lewis, K. (2008) Tastes, ties, and time: A new social network dataset using Facebook.com, Social Networks, 30(4), 330-342.

Luhtanen, R. & Crocker, J.   (1992), A Collective Self-Esteem Scale: Self-Evaluation of One’s Social Identity, Personality, and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18 (4), 302-318.

MacKenzie, S. &Spreng, R. (1992), How Does Motivation Moderate the Impact of Central and Peripheral Processing on Brand Attitudes and Intentions? Journal of Consumer Research, 18 (2), 519-529.

Pasek, J. (2009) Realizing the Social Internet? Online Social Networking Meets Offline Social Capital, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 6(3), 197 – 215

Ridings, C.&Gefen, D. (2004), Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10 (1), 108-162

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