Using Facebook to Better Engage Customers and Strengthen Brand Identity

With traditional means of marketing, such as banner advertisements, becoming increasingly unavailing, businesses have begun to seek out alternative methods of soliciting custom from consumers. The ubiquity of social networking sites and other Internet-enabled platforms introduces new opportunities for businesses, but in return ask for a radical alteration in their business strategy. This paper attempts to analyse how one such social networking site in particular, Facebook, has allowed businesses to build and promote a stronger sense of community around their brand by engaging users and encouraging them to actively participate in content creation participation. It will also examine the effects this has on stimulating customer loyalty and how it impacts the way that the brand is perceived by consumers, that is, its public identity. A secondary goal of this paper is to impart some rudimentary recommendations on how a business might more effectively utilise Facebook’s features to not just endear itself to its community, but to more thoroughly engage it and provide users with a reason for continuing to return. A brief analysis and explanation of how businesses both large and small have utilised the points provided in these conduct guidelines will be supposed towards the end of the paper.

Social networking sites, Facebook, Community, Brand community, Brand Identity, Brand loyalty, Customer engagement, Customer participation


The rise of the Internet has opened up a multitude of avenues for businesses both big and small, each bringing forth a wealth of new and exciting challenges and opportunities. New platforms that are now able to exist thanks to Internet technologies present a whole new realm of opportunities for those business owners who are adventurous enough to pursue these paths. In more recent years, however, we can observe the rise of one such platform in particular which requires them to adopt an utterly foreign mindset in order to find success: social networking sites. Traditional, aggressive approaches to product promotion have been proven inadequate and ineffective on these websites. Rather than fighting each other for the attention of would-be customers through a barrage of advertisements, businesses are required to not just encourage users to view their content, but to become engaged by it in order to promote a stronger image of the brand they represent.

While there are countless social networking sites and applications that pervade everyday life, there are arguably few that have had as significant an impact on society as Facebook has. This paper will attempt to demonstrate how businesses are using the social networking site to construct communities around their brand and influence how customers perceive them. It will begin by introducing and briefly summarising the history of Facebook, before moving onto an analysis of how it encourages user participation and the formation of online brand communities. Next, it will then propose a set of guidelines by which companies may better solidify their online identities. Finally, it will examine and attempt to explain the success of both large and small Facebook businesses.


In February of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, a 23-year-old student of Harvard University, launched what was then known as “thefacebook”. It was designed as an online student directory exclusive to Harvard University, with the intent of allowing students to more easily find and connect with each other (Phillips, 2007). Since then, however, it has evolved into a service accessible by the general public rather than a closed tool limited only to educational institutions, and has become the now well-recognised social environment “Facebook”. As of late 2017, the widely renowned social media giant has gained over two billion active users (Chaffey, 2018). While not the sole player in the marketplace, it by far outstrips its competitors in popularity and, indeed, even owns several of its previous competitors. Its overall market penetration is undisputed, which has in turn led to it becoming something of a de facto for social interaction over the Internet.

Despite being a social platform whose use was predominantly focused towards catering to individuals, Facebook almost immediately began to attract the attention of hopeful business owners. While searching for ways to expand their online presence and thus generate additional revenue, the adoption of this new trend as an outlet for their exposure likely seemed a logical progression in their never-ending pursuit for market dominance. Even while the site remained limited to the university domain, Facebook experimented with business advertising. Among the first to evaluate the potential of this medium was MasterCard, who successfully attracted customers from a Facebook advertisement, Facebook gaining revenue from each card application submitted through the site (Fiegerman, 2013). With the number of users captured by this online phenomenon having seemingly exploded, its possibility as a marketing tool became swiftly apparent to other businesses. In fact, just two weeks after its release to the public in 2006, it was already accommodating over four thousand businesses (Waters, Burnett, Lamm, & Lucas, 2009), a number which has continued to climb in its subsequent years.


Certainly, by providing access to such an enormous and diverse user base as well as built-in tools by which businesses may create and disperse banner advertisements, Facebook presents an appealing prospect for many business owners. This form of product promotion does have issues, though: it is often difficult to target the specific audience that it is designed for, thus making it rarely cost-efficient to produce these advertisements. This is something that is only compounded by the fact that Internet users are becoming increasingly jaded by banner advertisements, which has led to a gradual decline in their practicality (Ed, 2009). It is thus becoming increasingly less effective to rely solely on these methods to attract customers.

Social networking sites such as Facebook suggest a new paradigm of business to consumer interaction that requires a vastly different mindset to traditional means, yet has the potential to function significantly more efficiently and effectively. As Weber (2009) suggests, the role of a marketer has been changed from that of a broadcaster to instead resemble something of an aggregator: rather than attempting to attract potential customers by promoting their products or services through traditional advertisements, we can observe a shift towards the use of social networking sites to more closely interact with and engage customers. Although it offers many marketing benefits for businesses, it is vital to understand that Facebook is, at its core, a social networking site, not a tool whose use is limited strictly to marketing. Therefore, I argue that businesses will benefit most by precisely controlling how they manage both their interactions with consumers and the mask they broadcast to the public. By engaging Facebook users with relevant content and treating them familiarly, that is, as “friends”, companies are able to further encourage brand loyalty (Ramsaran-Fowdar & Fowdar, 2013). The role played by Facebook itself is relatively elementary: it simply provides the means by which a business might craft these central hubs of brand information. It is by gaining a solid understanding of the opportunities that this new paradigm entails and utilising them effectively that their desired results may best be achieved.

One exceedingly useful product that these central hubs enable the emergence of, and perhaps one of the most significant concerning the modern marketing methodology that Facebook capacitates, is the sense of a focused community that they have the potential to develop. Facebook itself appears to acknowledge this potential and, indeed, readily support it by allowing companies to allocate a section of their page specifically for content created by others. These users are then able to share their experiences by posting and replying to comments and reviews, uploading pictures and videos relevant to the brand and, should they decide to “like” or “follow” the page, receive updates whenever the organisation uploads any content itself, thus indirectly showing their support for it (Nambisan & Baron, 2009). In addition, by providing users with instantaneous updates on the content their “friends” have posted, “liked” or “followed”, Facebook facilitates the proliferation of brand awareness at a rate that significantly trumps what was previously possible simply through word of mouth (Curran, 2011). These features enable users to better interact with other like-minded individuals, thus contributing towards and strengthening the notion of community that these pages create.

The attitudes not only of the members involved in these communities, but also the content they submit, can play a large role in how brands might be perceived by “outsiders” and other members of the community. This publically available forum that is provided by permitting user comments and reviews creates a readily accessible channel through which customers can assess the quality of the business’s services in a way such that all can see, for better or for worse. Weydart (2013) notes that consumers commonly put more trust in other, real consumers as opposed to the unfamiliarity of big corporations. By submitting generally favourable reviews or posts, or even by merely “liking” or “following” the brand’s page, users may be perceived as advocates of the brand, thus propagating trust within the community and encouraging fellow users to likewise “adopt” the brand. Contrariwise, reviews or posts that reject the brand can have the opposite effect, cautioning others against employing the brand’s services and stimulating the business to correct any faults or issues. We can see, therefore, that maintaining a positive image is crucial for any Facebook business.


With this sense of community playing such an important role in a business’s identity and, correspondingly, its success, some prominent questions arise: are Internet businesses purely at the mercy of their customers in developing their online identity? How does the organisation assist in building such an image? What measures can it take to ensure that it is received positively by both existing and new customers, and how can its online presence be used to attract, engage and retain users? In this section, I propose several content and management guidelines by which a business can not only more successfully and diligently engage their customers, but by doing so coax their continued return. It is my intention to deliver some enlightenment concerning the factors businesses must consider when building their online image.

My first assertion is that companies should strive to disseminate content that is not just relevant to the intended audience, but also sufficiently appealing, dynamic and interactive. This is something that applies to many types of online communities, and is not constrained only to businesses; by controlling the content on display, they can drastically influence how they are perceived (DiMicco & Millen, 2007). This, of course, first requires that the target audience be established, something that is particularly dependent on the nature of the business itself and thus may prove difficult; though some companies may find it sufficient to simply generate content that is suitable for a more general view of the public, that is, without targeting a specific demographic, other companies may find that they must target a more niche sector in order to realise success. One possible strategy might be to draw inspiration from the variety of content being uploaded by the community and use this inspiration to help tailor any officially mediated content, though this relies on an already active brand community.

A second action that businesses can take is to make an effort to actively interact with users. By replying to community content, answering questions and proving that customers’ feedback is being both heard and reacted to, organisations are able to better engage with consumers and strengthen their own identity as well as their relationships with these consumers (Gummerus, Liljander, Weman & Philström, 2012). This is perhaps the most crucial step in the process being outlined, as it is this creation of community and deepening of relationships that forms the very backbone of these Internet destinations.

Finally, businesses may choose to run events or provide exclusive rewards for user participation in various activities. There are numerous ways that this may be achieved, such as by organising special occasions through Facebook’s events feature or, alternatively, by hosting contests or providing limited discounts to members who have “followed” or “liked” their page. This can be done to encourage Facebook users to participate more in the business’s activities or to “like” or “follow” the organisation’s page in exchange for exclusive rewards (Matista, 2013). Companies that employ strategies of this variety should take care, however, for users may be driven only by the incentive of prizes rather than the desire to participate. This behaviour can consequently place the credibility of the business’s statistics at risk.

The preceding three points, while not exhaustive, would provide an elementary framework for a successful brand image campaign. As mentioned previously, Facebook already supplies businesses with the means necessary to develop, publish and maintain their presence in a simple, real-time and cost-effective way. The rapid rise of Facebook has provided progressive companies with an opportunity to embrace new methods of public engagement which are quickly supplanting the traditional means of advertisement that were mentioned previously.


Many businesses have found great success by utilising many of the methods outlined in this paper. It is becoming increasingly rare to find modern corporations that do not take advantage of this new advancement in marketing. This section will attempt to explain how businesses have achieved success through Facebook, drawing reference to several of the guidelines and methods mentioned previously.

One example of a company that has demonstrated how interacting with the public through the use of Facebook may be beneficial to the success of a company’s brand is Coca-Cola. Traditionally known for their innovative and entertaining television and theatre advertisements, they have increasingly turned to Facebook as a means of promoting their brand and message (Jackson-Eeles, 2017). Coca-Cola quickly found success, by continuing to encourage user participation and to promote itself through contests, the soft drink company soon becoming the third most popular brand on Facebook (Wakefield, 2012). The company ran successful online campaigns in several regions in order to connect with their consumers and extend their reach, though it was perhaps their South African campaign in particular that best showed the possible success available through a Facebook promotion: within three months, it found a 42% increase in its total reach and was spending approximately three times less on advertising when compared to television commercials (Coca-Cola South Africa, n.d.).

Because of how cost-effective the process of promoting a business through Facebook is compared to many of the traditional methods, it is also an appealing and significantly more feasible prospect for many small or start-up businesses. Though they may not have the funds required to advertise or promote their products as aggressively as larger and more popular companies can, small businesses are still very capable of marketing through Facebook using several of the methods outlined previously. As has traditionally been the case for many small businesses, they are exceptionally apt at forming closer, more personal relationships with their customers, as the face of their business, which is often a real person, is seemingly more relatable than that of large, faceless corporations (Perkins, 2015). Conducting business on Facebook is no exception, and by attempting to form communities and relevant connections with their customers, many have managed to elevate their exposure and increase their profits (Zimmerman, 2012).


With the increasing normality and acceptance of social networking and other trends that are now possible due to the Internet and its related technologies, businesses have been forced to adopt new ideas and methodologies in order to keep users engaged and receptive. As traditional approaches to advertising are becoming gradually less effective in capturing and keeping the attention of would-be customers, the sites that symbolise these innovative platforms represent a reprieve for businesses from the currently declining potency of many older marketing strategies that now seem somewhat dated in comparison.

Facebook provides the instruments by which businesses may reap the benefits of social networking, as well as access to what is one of the largest and most regionally diverse user bases on the Internet. These features have enabled businesses to more easily endear themselves to consumers and thus construct a sense of self and community that encourages customers to employ their products or services and remain loyal. By promoting user participation through the construction of strong communities and instilling the image of a flattering and feedback-responsive brand identity in their customers, companies are able to succeed on this radical platform should they invest the time required to do so correctly.


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17 thoughts on “Using Facebook to Better Engage Customers and Strengthen Brand Identity

  1. Hi Thomas,

    A great paper you confirmed that companies use social networks to engage in community management. They do this to create brand advocates and a good engagement rate. You also identified that traditional marketing is expensive and is considered ineffective. Whereas, social media platforms enable cost-effective promotions of product or brand. While you cited a Return on Relationship there was not one on Return on Investment or conversion to sales to cover costs of a media campaign. Do you think that it is difficult to determine ROI?

    1. Hi Angela,

      Return on investment is certainly a difficult detail to gauge, and not just in the context of online business interactions through social media. I think that, although it may not be explicitly quantifiable, the possibility of a positive return on investment is definitely justifiable when one considers the low monetary investment required by businesses in order to begin and continue to utilise social media for advertising.


  2. Hi Thomas, thanks for your insightful paper. I note your paper states that the traditional approaches to advertising are in decline and becoming less effective, and that social media advertising is more cost effective than traditional advertising. Your example of Coca Cola, and acknowledgement that smaller brands can also leverage social media to develop community and relationships with customers, so, do you see a future once the mainstream purchasing public are savvy digital natives, that traditional genres of advertising/marketing will become obsolete. Regards, Alice.

    1. Hi Alice,

      Television and radio advertisements traditionally have been good at generating awareness across large and diverse audiences, but seem increasingly ineffective at creating and retaining interest. Marketing a brand through social networking sites, as described in this paper, lies on the opposite end of the spectrum; it helps make product advertising more dynamic and entertaining for consumers, which can lead to significant positive results for a brand, but it can struggle with generating that initial awareness.

      I think such an eventuality is certainly well within the realm of possibility, though perhaps not in the forseeable future. I believe the two, at least at the current point in time, can be made to compliment each other.


      1. Thanks Thomas that was my take as well. Those TV ads get a whole lot less oxygen these days with competing media and the remote control. ;)Alice.

      2. Hi Thomas, Angela and Alice,
        traditional advertising is well down across the board, for example, revenue from advertising in the US newspaper industry is one third of what it was ten years ago (Barthel, 2017). It must be similar to television as our media attention is so fragmented across all the options: we get our entertainment and news from so many sources today – streaming, social media, multiple websites. In a way, the ads on my social media feed seem to follow the same rules as traditional media advertising: big global companies with popular appeal. I’m not getting very targeted advertising which is interesting.

        I think the value in social media for many companies is in the creation of brand communities (which I also wrote about –, and, yes, the value is difficult to ascertain as you all mentioned. However, recently I read that the investment in brand is estimated at 30% of profit/sales/turnover – sadly, I can’t remember which journal I read this so can’t be any clearer. I did find an article (Thompson, 2011) which says that brand contributes 80% to Coca Cola’s total earnings, and I wonder whether the success in South Africa that you mentioned Thomas stems from further investment in the brand.

        I would love to hear more about that case study Thomas. What do you know about the people in the online communities and social networks of the Coca-Cola experience? Why the increase in sales? A new market perhaps?

        Barthel, M. (2017). Despite subscription surges for largest U.S. newspapers, circulation and revenue fall for industry overall. Retrieved from

        Thompson, D. 2011. The World’s Most Valuable and Fastest Growing Brands. Retrieved from

        1. Hi Sarah,

          Yes, I believe that Coca-Cola’s success in South Africa did, in part, stem from an investment in their brand. However, I think it is more specifically how they chose to manage that investment that had the most influence on the extent of their success. As mentioned on the Facebook “success story” referenced in my paper, the purpose of Coca-Cola’s use of Facebook was as a brand awareness campaign. Coca-Cola has always been a company that has relied heavily on the sense of self that it projects in order to sell products, so I think their decision to attempt an approach to marketing oriented around social media was smart.

          Social media sites are particularly apt at generating greater awareness for brands due to the networks they are capable of constructing between both users and businesses and the flow-on effect that this generally produces. Additionally, as I have already argued, their generally more “personal” approach to marketing, as well as the way they encourage more active user interaction, are both appealing features for businesses seeking to retain customer interest. I definitely believe Coca-Cola was aware of these features when they chose to use Facebook to campaign their brand.


          1. Yes, absolutely. Nothing Coca-Cola does is by accident. They are a brand machine.

  3. Hi Thomas, a great and relevant paper in today’s Advertising 2.0 world. Overall, I agree with your statements and views. I do wonder if the face-to-face communication, that customers value within smaller businesses, is lost at all with advertising and company outreach on Facebook? Meaning, do customers dismiss advertisements on Facebook more because the community is so saturated?

    1. Hi Shannon,

      You’ve raised two very interesting questions here, and I shall attempt to answer them as best I can. First, allow me to begin by saying that this is chiefly conjecture, as I have found it quite difficult to find sufficient information on the subject of small businesses. That being said, however, I do believe that this more personal form of contact valued by many small businesses, especially those that are locally operated, still continues to exist despite the influence of the Internet. I would argue, in fact, that social media sites may actually help strengthen the bonds between business owner and customer. In some aspects, an analogy can be drawn between how it is used by customers of local businesses to interact with the business owner and the way that ordinary individuals use it to converse with their friends. While not a substitute for face-to-face communication, Facebook provides a place where these people can continue to stay in contact with each other remotely, which I believe is conducive towards building a stronger relationship.

      Concerning your second query, I think one of the most prominent details that separates marketing on Facebook from other mediums is that it calls for the creation of advertisements that feel less like what the public has come to expect from traditional commercials. The core philosophy behind the approach to marketing that social networking sites endorse is seemingly to make brand advertisement a more beneficial scenario for all parties involved (Saravanakumar & SuganthaLakshmi, 2012); rather than confronting users with what are often blatant attempts at promoting their products, Facebook encourages businesses to instead actively keep would-be customers entertained. This is something that I believe goes a long way in maintaining user interest in both the brand and its community.



      Saravanakumar, M., & SuganthaLakshmi, T. (2012). Social Media Marketing. Life Science Journal, 9(4), 4444-4451. Retrieved from

    2. Hi Shannon, I feel like I don’t even see them on FB. I’m much happier when I’m served up things I’m interested in but I don’t seem to be getting that. On Instagram, I just let out an annoyed ‘humph’ sound as I scroll past them as quickly as possible. They are becoming so frequent that it’s interrupting my immersion and I am using it less. This is where data could be used really successfully: this woman comes on less frequently with X ratio of ads. The companies are paying for advertising but the platform is not getting the mix right.

  4. Hi Thomas.
    There’s no doubt that social media websites have had significant impacts on influencing and coaxing online consumers. As a result, we find that marketers are closely interacting with consumers where technology is playing a vital role in bringing people together from all over the world. Facebook is another ubiquitous platform where marketing companies and consumers are freely trading without any boundaries. Constantinides (2014, p.41) stated in his article that social media empowered businesses with opportunities particularly when it comes to competition and attracting consumers. Social media, particularly Facebook, allows direct interactions between customers-to-marketers, which would definitely increase productivity of numerous marketing companies.
    I also agree with your statement that companies should run events to reward customers who participated in online activities such as liking, following, or even regularly buying.
    Overall, a great article Thomas!
    – Ali
    Constantinides, E. (2014). Foundations of social media marketing. Procedia-Social and behavioral sciences, 148, 40-57. Retrieved from

  5. Hi Thomas,

    I really enjoyed this paper. In regards to your example of Coca-Cola (I follow them myself on Facebook), did you come across any information in regards to their ‘Share a coke with’ campaign? I’m curious as to whether this marketing strategy was centred around the idea of social networking. I can’t count the number of times I, or someone I follow, has been ‘tagged’ when their name appears on a bottle. I also love the concept of a community focus for companies. How do you think this new approach of encouraging participation through building communities around a brand has impacted social awareness of companies? I’m also curious as to how you think the Facebook Marketplace factors into the discussion, I found it odd that Facebook is actively encouraging second hand sales while promoting itself as a tool for ‘first hand’ business.

    Looking forward to your reply,

    1. Hi Adrian,

      Yes, I certainly believe the purpose of this campaign was to leverage social media in order to better connect with consumers. Tarver (2015) raises some interesting points regarding why he believes the campaign has been so successful. He highlights Coca-Cola’s intent to create a more consumer-driven campaign, and I agree that it was likely this subtle, more “personal” approach to marketing that has brought it such success. I believe that this campaign in particular serves as an excellent example of how businesses can effectively use social media to encourage user participation and engagement, as well as how this can reinforce a more positive image of their brand.

      I did not consider Facebook Marketplace when writing my paper, as the business model that it enables seems vastly different to the one I have addressed. Although it is related to the topic of “business on Facebook”, I am somewhat sceptical as to whether it could be considered “business through social media”. Instead, I find that it seems more similar to traditional e-commerce services such as those provided by eBay. I have not looked into this subject particularly thoroughly, however, so I would be happy to hear your input on the subject.


      Tarver, E. (2015, October 7). What Makes the ‘Share a Coke’ Campaign So Successful? (KO). Investopedia. Retrieved from

  6. Hi Thomas

    Your paper is certainly an interesting read and gives businesses just reason to reassess their online marketing strategies.

    Do you, however, think that classifying the use of Facebook for marketing as a “new” strategy might be a bit of a stretch, considering that any company that is only now investigating this area of marketing might be several years behind their competitors who have had access to Facebook since 2007 (Brugger, 2015)?

    Is it possible, that in light of the “new” and largest market on Facebook being Millennials, who seem to be very aware of many of the conventional marketing practices and have become quite cynical and click-bait savvy, that many of the marketing suggestions listed may even be considered old-school in their thinking and be viewed quite cynically and thus dismissed and brushed aside as just another frustratingly disingenuous marketing ploy?
    One example of a marketing measure that many users tend to ignore is the “recommended post”, which is becoming more prominent as a part of recent changes to Facebook’s newsfeed, where the number of posts being displayed relating to a user’s interest choices have been significantly restricted.

    I discovered a couple of years ago that social media marketing has become such a complicated and specialised field that it has led to a booming marketing industry sector focusing purely on this online sector. One business rating website,, lists over 4,500 businesses that specialise in social media marketing, suggesting that it would be very risky and possibly careless for businesses planning on marketing through social media to attempt this on their own with only limited knowledge and experience.


    Top 10+ Social Media Marketing Companies – 2018 Reviews. (2018). Retrieved from:

    Brügger, N. (2015). A brief history of Facebook as a media text: The development of an empty structure. First Monday, 20(5).

    1. Hi Roseann,

      I agree that you may have a point regarding whether or not this marketing practice is new in the true sense of the word, though I would argue that when compared with other forms of marketing, social media can be seen as such, relatively speaking. Additionally, Facebook still seems to be trending among businesses, despite them having a little over a decade to being accustomed to it. Perhaps the platform could be more accurately described as “modern”.

      I found your hypothesis regarding the possible attitude of these Millennials towards Internet marketing a very interesting topic that would be an excellent opportunity for further research on this subject. Your comment about this model being perceived as disingenuous by those who are alert to the business’s intentions was particularly thought-provoking, and I can certainly see this holding true for many people who are deeply involved in Facebook’s greater community. I do not believe it would be unreasonable to presume that some of the techniques and tools that Facebook offers are becoming increasingly ineffective, with the “recommended post” feature that you have suggested being an excellent example of this; however, I do believe that many of the methods I suggested, and in fact most, still remain practical even today. This seems to be indicated by the large success that many companies are still managing to achieve through social networking sites.

      In response to your last comment, I think that any sort of marketing can be extremely risky for businesses. Failure to approach the task correctly poses considerable risk to a business and can lead to significant consequences. Promotion through the use of social media sites such as Facebook is similar to any other form of marketing in this regard, so for businesses that are not confident in their ability to undertake the process themselves, it may be conducive to employ the services of a branding agency. Again, I would reiterate that this is something that is not exclusive to Internet marketing.

      Having said all of that, I think you have introduced several compelling opportunities for further research on this subject. I expect that a good starting point for any future papers would be to conduct new studies and surveys on the behaviour and opinions of Facebook users today.


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