Week 8 | Social Media are Tools of Influence

This week’s readings cover many topics relating to how people use social media, including Twitter, product reviews (which I feel are a form of microblogging), and Facebook as tools of influence. Dave Clark’s chapter, Shaped and Shaping Tools on the rhetoric of technology is complex by the nature of its subject matter. He says that both rhetoric and technology are difficult to define individually, yet the two concepts go hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, it is even harder to define the rhetoric of technology. Clark says by its very essence, technology is rhetorical. When it comes down to it, Dave is examining how “technologies structure, shape, and influence the ways we communicate (p. 87).”

Twitter’s Influence
The structure of the author’s latest muse was 140 characters. He was marveling at the fact that while it was a simply coded program and a basic concept, the rhetorical implications of Twitter were very powerful. This was because Tweets are public (unless the author has an account with protected Tweets), Tweets are searchable and allow trends to surface, and Tweets in large numbers about the same subject can be powerful. Those who don’t use Twitter, yet have something powerful to say, lose an opportunity to compound the message through this potentially influential tool.

Product Reviews Influence
Twitter is changing how people communicate and who people communicate with. Similarly, other social media outlets are changing the way people shop online. I like how social media influences the way my friends and I shop. “Socialommerce is a referral program on sterroids (Qualman, p. 94), and “consumers are taking ownership of brands and their referral power is priceless (p. 97).” Qualman says that retailers are encouraging consumers to review products because whether a product is good or bad, eliciting feedback only helps the brand either sell more of the product or improve it. I look at online product reviews when I purchase things online and in the store. They often influence my purchasing decisions, too. Sometimes I write product reviews, too.
Yesterday I received an email request from Eddie Bauer to rate some outerwear I recently purchased online. Since reviewing seemed easy to do, and I liked my new purchases, I took a minute to review the products. On the other hand, I have also reviewed products I didn’t think were that great. I bought a clothes drying rack at a Target store. The rack is low quality and keeps falling apart. While I could no longer return it to the store because the 90-day return period had passed, I decided I could at least write an online review in hopes others not to make the same purchasing mistake I did.

Facebook’s Influence
Shoppers consider anonymous online product reviews, but shoppers also seek the advice of people they know via social media. Just the other day, I saw my friend recruited her friends’ advice on Facebook. She wanted recommendations on best smartphones, but not from anonymous reviewers or technology experts. Since people generally feel strongly about phone brands like Droid and iPhone, her friends and family rushed to her aid. She received many comments on the best phones to buy. Seeking advice gave my friend a list of phones to consider and hopefully helped her narrow down her options.
Companies miss an opportunity to connect with consumers when they don’t utilize social media like Facebook. I love shopping at Trader Joe’s, but I feel the company is missing out on a great advertising opportunity by having a profile on Facebook. The store could tell people about new products, new store locations, specials, and fun recipes to try.

Other Clever Ways to Influence Consumers
In “Winners and Losers in a 140-Character World,” Qualman discusses how integrating product advertising into the programming like the Charles Schwab podcast is smart, but it is not new. When I was young, my mom listened to famous announcer, Paul Harvey on the radio. Paul often endorsed products on air like the Bose Wave Radio. He was known for endorsing his favorite products on air (in turn for advertising support for his program). I felt that when Qualman talked about product advertising incorporated into programming, it was a tangent and not so much about social media. However, maybe it is best to think about it as talking to people where they are and where they will listen. Social media are powerful tools, and they shape the way people and companies communicate.

Posted on October 23, 2011, in Social Media, Society and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Natalie,

    On product review I like the trend of eliciting feedback of product review because the companies are benefiting through social media. They improve their products because of reviews. I think social media is really unifying us globally and we have many advantages because of social media. I also consider the online shopping through reviews which are very helpful in most cases.

    I agree with you on the point of companies missing out of connecting with consumers because of not utilizing facebook. It is a fact that successful companies in social media will function more like entertainment companies.

  2. I agree with you (and Qualman) about the increasing role of socialommerce. Like in the book, I’ve asked for travel ideas, recommendations on products, etc. It just makes sense to ask someone you know. I’ve written marketing copy for 15 years. I know what kind of smoke is being blown in that particular game, so I am extra jaded about it. If someone I know buys something and really digs it, I am going to listen to what they have to say over an anonymous reviewer any day.

    While I think that some sites do the review thing very well (like Amazon), lots of other sites do it very poorly and I tend not to trust them. I have not liked my interactions with drugstore.com or Walgreens. Com. They just aren’t set up as nicely/easily/intuitively as Amazon. So, my husband and I end up buying vitamins from Amazon – from a BOOKSELLER – because their search and review is known for being easy to use and (in my opinion) pretty reliable. I bought a magnetic-resistance recumbent exercise bike and a mini-stepper from Amazon. Both for around $100. We got a subscription to chocolate muffin mix that came every other month.

    Their selection is much better than I could find locally for the types of items I wanted. And it comes right to my door. I think the only downside (besides not supporting the local economy as much) are all the boxes. My husband gets a book or two every few weeks and our box collection can quickly get out of hand. Although my cat really likes them…

  3. Natalie—

    My friends on Facebook are always asking advice. It can be from what kind of telephone to purchase to advice about how to handle a situation with their kids. I think people use Facebook for advice because they know they’ll probably get a variety of different answers. I think it’s more helpful if you receive a variety of answers but I don’t like how everyone can read them if they want to. Having all of their friends read what I might have written makes me not comment on a lot of people’s posts. I comment here and there but usually I will not comment on anything that anyone posts because people I don’t know can see what I write.

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