(1) Information

The SM platform is a granular form of connectivity since it is the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth communication. The critical differences are the massive and simultaneous reach of digital word-of-mouth. Text messaging and postings on Facebook pages, where individual voices have a public canvas, are examples of granularity, and there is no more forceful example than the political arena. Forrester Research calls this the age of the consumer, and predicts that “empowered customers are changing the fundamentals of the market” [76].

Word of mouth has never been so important or so instant. From Instagram and Pinterest to social sites such as Snapchat, a consistent theme is instant reaction to people, products and ideas. Snapchat attracts 41 % of millennials in the US and is aiming to be the leader in live event socializing on mobile devices, as was the case during the 2016 Rio Olympics when users viewed the events on Live Stories [77]. Consumers are connecting to strangers, becoming active content creators and sharers. Communication about a product, say a new movie or a sports event, can now be instantaneous and disseminated to large numbers of consumers, leading to viral connectivity. Advertisers now use the power of WOM communication, since consumers filter out general media advertising.

When users stream live broadcasts, using their smartphone video apps, of charged political events on Facebook Live, as part of their News Feed page, they are substituting for the news media at large. The content is unfiltered and possibly incendiary. The perspective on these events is localized, providing superior insights compared to live broadcasts, but might also be biased. Started in the spring of 2016, Facebook Live is in a partnership with New York Times for creating live broadcasts, so it is possible that the Times editors would provide the curation.

Information put forth on SM can acquire commercial aspects. Facebook “likes” and product reviews are a form of unpaid advertising. There also exists a paid version of this form of publicity, where a reviewer gets paid by the business to publicize their appreciation of its product. In this instance, the distinction between the OTT #1 and advertiser A in Fig. 5.2 becomes blurred as Facebook integrates along the supply chain.

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