Written by: Madison Paces, Brian Mauer, Tomas Ferreira, Cameron Grams, and Fernando Martinez

Intro

People have reached the point where social media is used more often than television or other previous forms of entertainment. Social media has therefore turned into quite the opportunity for companies to advertise their products. Most people however, have never really thought of social media as being as saturated with advertisements as television is. But, what if there are more advertisements in social media than people thought? Upon evaluating these social media websites with this fresh question in mind, it seems that instead of receiving advertisements directly (which people still are) some people are also sharing content that serves as advertisement for companies. The study aims to evaluate the nature of these advertisements, and the frequency at which they occur. Additionally, the advertisements were analyzed for 5 different major areas of advertisement: products, places, websites, entertainment, and politics.

Methodology

To find data, it was gathered from a timeframe of two months of  Facebook posts of five different people. Of the five people whose data was gathered, the study selected people from different ethnicities from one another, along with gender. Once the subjects were selected, the data was gathered from their Facebook page, and analyzed for key themes. Relevant posts were posts that were in some way advertising for a company, idea, political party and etc. Then a ratio was drawn for each person between the amount of posts that advertised something, and those that didn’t. With this clearer picture it was then analyzed.

Findings and Analysis

Politics

Upon analyzing the data for advertisements, and their correlation with politics, there were

certain interesting conclusions to be drawn. Firstly, because of how different the general stance is amongst different groups of people (especially people of different age groups) this seemed to create a problem with people whose facebook is over saturated with friends from a given demographic. As the writer John Gables(1) pointed out, this seemed to created various loops in which the same political idea would cycle around with little mention of the other side of the political spectrum. For example, younger people seemed to generally lean more on liberal than conservative, whereas older people above 40 seemed to lean more (though not unanimously) to the conservative side.

Additionally, data was found during the month prior to the election, where people were generally not shy about their political opinions on social media. Generally, people aren’t always comfortable with sharing political opinions in daily life. As the article “Unpacking the Use of Social Media for Protest Behavior The Roles of Information, Opinion Expression, and Activism”(2) states however, social media has proven to bring a voice in people in various occasions, including in protests, and general self expression, the article says, “These findings deepen our knowledge of the uses and effects of social media and provide new evidence on the role of digital platforms as facilitators of direct political action.” Much like, the ability for social media to empower the people in times that call for protests, the social media platform empowered people by bringing out discussions on politics that went beyond just sharing articles. People would participate in discussion through posts stating their political leanings, and by sharing videos and articles. People seemed to openly discuss politics in the comment section of posts also.

Social media helped give a voice to the people, one problem however, is that social media allowed for the information to be shared without any filters. Because of this, there are obvious down sides. One down side that certainly happened is the abundance of misinformation that was shared on to facebook. The article “Detecting and Tracking Political Abuse in Social Media”(3) states, “political astroturf — political campaigns disguised as spontaneous ‘grassroots’ behavior that are in reality carried out by a single person.” This is the nature of a good handful of misinformation, where the website source seems legitimate, and consequently, the person sharing it only reads the (often eye-catching) title, and shares it without reading the article. This lead to a lot of misinformed ideas by people that read the headline of an article, and believed it, while some even go a step further of sharing it without even clicking on the article, or fact checking it to verify its authenticity. 

Certainly, there were flaws with the way information regarding politics spread through facebook. Misinformation was in abundance, and people further sank into the ideology that they normally surround themselves with while distancing further from the other side of the story and vice versa. This could’ve lead to a lack of empathy and understanding to the other side of the political spectrum from both sides, making this year’s election even more divided. And also amongst someone’s newsfeed that may be heavy on one side of the spectrum because of the demographic they belong to, misinformation may spread from people attempting to discredit the other side, not knowing that it is misinformation. However, while there were obvious down sides to the interaction facebook had with the election its positive effects were much more significant. This relates to the way information could for the first time be somewhat decentralized from major news conglomerates. Sure, people were often times still sharing news stories coming from the conglomerates, but it would be easier to see other people’s thoughts on the information given, or other times the roots of the information received came from independent sources.

There aren’t any other platform that worked so efficiently at giving people a voice of their own in politics, making way to the conclusion that the way social media works to advertise politics and even other things, may be a good thing.


Entertainment

Beyond just politics however, the movie and television industries are instead, consciously embracing social media in the way of advertising. For a good reason, it is a cheaper way to get their movie or television show promoted and start a buzz around their film or show, by having people to comment about it, or even better just seeing it on another person’s page. After going through the secondary data from Facebook, which covered a month of an individual’s activity, this was one of the top categories of advertising. The types of advertising that was prominently seen in the entertainment field was movie trailers, characters from a television show promoting another product or another show on their home channel, and clips from television shows that give you a look at the next episode in the season. When it was a television show that is being promoted they have a clip of the show, a short description, and the date and time that it is on, they also give you a hashtag so you can promote the show even more for them. Looking at the bottom of just one of these post you have 133K likes, 10.1k comments, and 30.7K people have shared this clip on their Facebook. Facebook charges per click on the ad, but if it is posted on a person’s page and you see it then you see the advertisement without clicking on it. Which boils down to free advertising. Before there was social media there was a movie that started this trend. This movie was The Blair Witch Project that come out in 1999. This movie had a budget 60,000 dollars and grossed 248,639,099 dollars worldwide. The way they achieved this was they put up a website telling a story about teen going out into the woods never to be seen from again. They used the website to sell the story and got free advertising by the media doing stories about the disappearances of the teens. This is just theoretically what the movie and television industry is trying to due today by using social media.

 So in conclusion the entertainment industry is using social media as an advertising tool which has been a very effective way of promoting their product. If you can post something and have it seen by thousands of people and then those people use word of mouth to other people, make it a very successful form of advertising. With more and more of people’s lives being spent on social media, here will likely be more and more entertainment advertising on it. Social media has proven to be a very effect way for any industry to get their product notice by the general public.

Websites

The internet has become one of the most prevalent things in modern life because of the monstrous amount of data and information sharing that is possible because of it. Social media has become a very large factor of information sharing between people, and one of the easiest ways to share information through social media is to link a website. One click is all it takes to be on a new website with a new information and a new set of ads.

When looking at the secondary data these website links could be found leading to just about everything, from youtube videos, to full articles discussing the current state of the election, to an amazon product page. It is very easy to be taken from one page to the next just be clicking on links. It becomes even easier for a person to share links to these websites as it is now common for a website to have a handy share to facebook button. By sharing a website to facebook it is free advertising for that website which in turn leads to profit for that website. Going to the website linked advertises any products or information the website provides as well as any products from advertisements on that website. Looking at the earlier example of a link to an amazon shopping page found in the secondary data, shown is a picture of the product and a brief description of it, in this case a trash can that vacuums anything swept in front of it, and a link to the amazon store page. This advertises the product directly to you, but also advertises you to buy said product through amazon, by clicking on the provided link you are not only able to buy the item but you are also shown any advertisements that amazon provides, such as black friday discounts. Simply by clicking a share to facebook button you are advertising any service the website provides as well as any advertisements they have on their site to further generate revenue.

This can also be seen through the use of facebook’s instant article feature. By using instant article, which makes it easy for publishers to create fast and interactive articles over facebook, publishers are able to sell their own ads at a lower price than paying facebook for advertising. Using advertisements through social media such as facebook is even more beneficial to these websites because traditional media such as magazines, radio, television, and newspapers are not considered as trustworthy as social media is for promoting products and services (Stavrianea).

It is easy to see why many websites incorporate the share to facebook button as it is an easy way to advertise both your product and to generate revenue provided from the advertisements on your site. The connectivity of social media makes it very easy for one person to reach hundreds or even thousands of people very easily (Heyman). It’s because of this ease that some advertisements can be entirely unregulated, such as seeing an advertisement that would not normally be presented to an individual based on age or other factors (Moreno).
Advertising Locations and Places

Nowadays, the world consumes and produces content by staying connected to one another through a social network. More than likely, in today’s world that network is on a social media site. Social media users come together and exchange information over the most powerful electronic medium out there today, the internet. A. Stavrianea and Kavoura Androniki wrote about a study that was done in order to observe which kinds of advertisements people were drawn to, what drew them in, and the attention people pay to those advertisements brought on through different sources of media. “Results found that Facebook was a large factor. It the second most important medium that people look to for collecting information. It was also the third source that the majority of all participants paid attention to the most. Lastly, it was the second place users turned to in order to come up with travel destinations and places for family gatherings, with the first being the locations website itself” (Stavrianea 319). Secondary data found from Facebook shows that advertising places and locations was the most popular, among others.

A new phenomenon has emerged. Location based services (LBS) is well-defined by Shaojung Sharon Wang as “any service or application that spreads spatial information processing or geographic information capabilities to end users via wireless network” (870).  The new and preferred way people choose to express how they distinguish, perceive, and view a certain place is now done through social location disclosure (870). Facebook has introduced the check-in feature that allows users to announce to their friends where they are at that moment in time. They can also tell who they are with and what they are doing at that place. Findings showed that many times when using this check-in feature, opinions about the location the user was at were apparent. This feature is seen as a sharing to enhance self presentation, which has three primary functions. The first is to influence others. People are encouraged to share their experience while being at these places (Wang, “Showing Off? 439). Checking in draws attention to a place or location, and opinions are formed out of that.

The types of places being advertised in the secondary data were those such as Starbucks, along with other coffee places, restaurants, both known and some unfamiliar, and also movie theaters and football games. Simply checking into these locations and posting about it to Facebook friends is a form of free advertising. Many companies spend huge amounts of money to get their name out there and on social networking sites. The check-in feature allows those names to get out, without costing the company anything.

Many users post about everything that occurs in their lives because they want their friends and followers to know about it. Advertising places and locations is going to become more and more common because of that. Social media is a very effective way to get ideas and opinions out there and to bring attention to places. Whether the attention being brought is positive or negative, in the end places and locations are still being thrown out there for all to see.

Products

Products are necessary, (and sometimes not necessary) items that people buy because they believe the item will either serve them well in entertaining them, assisting them with their lives, or just be cool to look at. Products can fall under the categories of toys, clothes, video games, and even items just placed around someone’s home to tie everything closer together. Products are advertised everywhere from television, to videos on YouTube, to apps like Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes these advertisements on apps like Facebook and Twitter aren’t direct advertisements, like when a college student tweets about a brand new calculator that does their math for them. With smartphones becoming increasingly popular, these advertisements keep on popping up more and more around apps and games on phones. Facebook and Twitter are both apps that are reigning as kings of the app stores on smartphones, which makes it easier to investigate what people post on these apps and how often about their favorite toys.

Throughout the investigation, a total of 19 product advertisements between 3 groups of people in the last 2 months were found. This was a fair amount of advertisements between these people since two different groups had 5 advertisements and one group had 9. This number may also be taken as small since these people posted very often on Facebook, however with the election roaring throughout every form of social media, it was assumed that maybe the significance of Hilary and Trump may have gotten everyone’s attention off of fun and cool products on the market. These products ranged from pillows to litter boxes to virtual reality helmets and video games.

After studying the data a bit closer it was obvious that the younger people (teenagers) investigated were sharing more posts about funny and interesting products that pass the time. The older people investigated seemed to share more info about products that made things much easier like a litter box cleaner or a jacket that could turn into a blanket. It was also noted that the teenagers tended to post a lot more about the election that anything else, making it harder to get your attention away from it. Teenagers also seemed to advertise media more too. Teenagers would post things about places that they would love to go to, or media such as YouTubers and actors.

Social media is the easiest way for information to spread out and let people know about things happening around the world, cool television series, or even just the neatest products on the market. Whether there were other factors that may have affected these findings or not, this still provides enough information on how people can advertise items for companies without even wanting to or knowing about it.

Conclusion

Upon analyzing the different groups of people, it was evident that advertisements show up in many different posts from people without them realizing it.  The easiest way for information to get out is dispersing it on social media. Advertisements play a large role in our daily lives, and as more people use social media, more and more advertisements will begin to appear.

Works Cited

1. Gable, John. “How Facebook Keeps You in a Political Bubble of Your Own.” (2016): n. pag. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.


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