Oriane Letouze

Research Proposal

Research proposal:

Social Networking Advertising

 

Introduction and literature review

With the constant growth of the Internet and especially the expansion of social networks, companies have to adapt their communication strategies by using new kinds of media in order to constantly follow the market’s new desires and become well known. The Internet is nowadays one of the best ways to communicate and advertise for a company since it can target the right people, at the right place, and at the right time. This marketing tactic is exactly what companies are looking for because it is both effective and efficient.  Its secret is the use of social networks because they link millions of people together, reference their age, location, profession, and hobbies. Moreover, their population is still growing. Indeed, according to “The Facebook Marketing Book” written by Dan Zarrellaand Alison Zarrella (2011), the current Facebook population is 500 million and 250 million users log in on a daily basis. The article “Marketing through social network: Business Considerations”, written by Katheryn A. Andresen (2011), adds that social network sites accounted for twelve percent of all online use; that is incredibly important.

Advertisements through the Internet really began with the first social networks such as MySpace and Friendster; now networking techniques have been improved and further developed by Google and Facebook, as explains Todd Wasserman (2011) in the online article “Facebook’s New Advertising Strategy Is Brilliant and Unexpected”. Wasserman explains that Facebook has developed two advertising tools that are truly helpful for companies. First, there are the ads, which appear on every Facebook home page, and second the brand pages. These brand pages are not profitable for Facebook but very valuable for companies because they are a display of companies’ image directly on the social network. The article “All about Facebook” found in the newspaper Haymarket Business, written by Jennifer Whitehead (2011), goes further by explaining that Facebook has recently changed its design to increase the number of visits and the reputation of these brand pages. The new design, called Timeline, should increase the creativity of the companies, which should improve their marketing, and therefore, boost the circulation on their own brand page. Nevertheless, “The Facebook Marketing Book” adds a third marketing tool: groups. Groups are slightly different than pages because they are more exclusive, so they can send messages and notify the members.

Concerning Facebook ads, there are various guidelines to establish successful advertising strategies on Facebook. The article “10 Rules For Advertising On Facebook”, written by Nick O’Neill (2009) and published in the online newspaper Business Insider, lists many of them. In the same vein as “The Facebook Marketing Book”, this article explains that the first rule to establish good marketing strategies is to know the target market; because of Facebook, this is now very easy to do. Indeed, because of its plethora of options, Facebook is able to pinpoint one specific target, which can be determined by all the personal information displayed on Facebook, and show the most relevant advertisements to them. The second main tip presented in this article is that Facebook should not be used as a direct sales tool, in fact, Facebook’s CEO wants to preserve the social network function. Brands are, thus, not allowed to notify the members of their page when they upload new promotions or create events, the “facebooker” has to join by their own free will. Finally, O’Neill gives some other tips concerning the budget that companies should consider and the methods on how to pay for the ads. Along the same line, the chapter entitled “Branching Out: Facebook Pages and Facebook Advertising” found in the book Social Networking Space written by Todd Kelsey (2010) explains how to create a good ad: how to choose the best picture? What sentence is catchy?

Therefore, we have a lot of tips concerning how to use the ads on Facebook, their budget, and their appearance. However, there are not tips on how to use groups, when to create an event, when should the fan pages for businesses be used or how often the company should upload its publication. All previous research about online marketing is based on ads, which are costly hence only used by large and powerful companies. That is why through this study, I want to search how small-marketing-budget companies can increase their reputation with Facebook without spending money.

 

Method section

To conduct this research, I will use both quantitative and qualitative marketing methods. First, the qualitative method will help us to improve our knowledge about Facebook users, their habits, or their opinions and motivations. This study will be completed through focus groups, which will include a dozen participants each. These participants will have to come from different places, have different ages, different hobbies, and different social classes. Via these meetings, lasting about an hour each, the participants will have to speak and debate about my topic’s research: brands on Facebook. The goal of this first step is not to extrapolate the results of our sample to the rest of the population, but to improve our knowledge about customers’ behaviors. The qualitative study helps to go deeper and understand attitudes and desires. It will be organized and led by a professional, which will make people feel confident and discuss the topics together in order to develop new ideas and new initiatives. The leader will direct the debates around some specific questions such as, what do they think about Facebook advertisements, Facebook groups, and Facebook events; how do they perceive the social networking advertisements, and so on. These meetings will be recorded allowing us to analyze them later. Moreover, an observer will take notes about participants’ reactions, tones of voice, and non-verbal behaviors. After running three different sessions with three different groups, I will analyze the results. These outcomes will help me to understand the population and, then, prepare the second step of my research: the quantitative research.

The quantitative research will be conveyed through questionnaires that I will elaborate thanks to the previous analyses. This one will have to be completed by a sample of a Facebook’s representative population. This sample would have to be determined in advance because it is not the same as the world’s representative population, nor the Americans’ representative population because the Facebook members are essentially young: 50% are less than twenty four-year old, 28% are between twenty-five and thirty-four, 13% are between thirty-five and forty-four and only 3% are older than fifty. Hence, the questionnaires have to be distributed carefully to obtain the right answers and convey the general opinion.

The questionnaires will be divided into four sections. The first part will ask questions about Facebook in general and I will introduce our topic: the brands on Facebook. For instance, the questions below could be asked: Do you use Facebook? Are you a member? How often do you log in on Facebook? Are you familiar with social networking advertising? And how do you feel about the presence of brands on Facebook?  These questions will be critical: if a participant cannot answer them, he will be allowed to stop completing the questionnaire because his next answers will not be relevant.

Then, the second part will deal with Facebook groups. The questions could be: Do you use the groups on Facebook? In how many groups are you involved? What kind of groups are they? Are you in a brand group? I will also ask questions about how the Facebook members interact with their groups, if they do, and how often. Next, I will interrogate them on notifications and uploading. My questions would be, for example, do you like receiving some news? Would you like to receive coupons via these groups? Are you more able to buy brand products if you received news daily? Weekly? Monthly? And finally, to conclude this part, I will ask about departure: have you ever quit a group and for what reasons? Naturally, these questions may be adjusted to function with the focus groups.

Then, the third section will further investigate the fan pages. I will ask the members the same kinds of questions I did for groups to determine whether members prefer fan pages or group pages, and in what context members use them. I will also ask what characteristics make fan pages or groups attractive.

Next, the fourth part will ask about events created on Facebook. I will ask how often they participate in a Facebook event and what kind of event it was. Are they interested in commercial events? How can they be attractive?

Finally the last part will ask about personal information such as age, sex, social class, family and other criteria that can identify the person.

These surveys will be distributed either online or in paper. They will be analyzed via the software Sphinx: a marketing tool used for quantitative surveys. The results can be shown via tables and graphs that are very easy and convenient to visualize and then analyze.

Results and discussion

The problem of how limited-budget companies should advertise through social networks, and especially through Facebook, is nowadays a practical question that has to be solved in order to promote local businesses instead of multinational companies. Via this study I am hoping to find the most effective way to do it by exploiting groups, fan pages and events. The study will focus on the best way of using these tools to increase corporate communication, corporate image, popularity, and last but not least sales. To do it, I will elaborate two studies. First, the qualitative analysis will improve my knowledge on the subject and, then, the quantitative analysis will help me to make decisions.

According to my personal experience and how companies seem to behave online to promote themselves, I expect two main results. On the one hand, I think Facebook fan pages should be used to promote companies on a large scale by presenting the company but also how it works in the daily life: via pictures, articles, and videos. In fact, these pages are accessible by all the Facebook users, so no real targeting would be effective. Facebook groups will, on the other hand, work better on the small scale because companies can choose the target population that they want. They can also create private events and send personal messages.

Finally, despite all the care that will be taken during this study, some limitations could appear. Indeed, some details can still distort the results in the future; for instance, Facebook design can change, Facebook privacy could be modified, and other Facebook tools might be created to improve companies’ advertising. Hence, these current outcomes could be skewed. Nevertheless, this study can be conducted again to adjust for the foreseen limitations.

To conclude, I am convinced this study is essential because globalization promotes multinational companies, which can afford to spend millions in their promotion. Small businesses, nonetheless, have to gain popularity and increase their reputation through free or less expensive ways. Social networks may be the key solution for them. Therefore, this study will give them methods to create successful communications and advertisements strategies.

References:

Andresen, K. A. (2011).  Marketing through social network: Business Considerations. William Mitchell Law Review. Retrieved from Lexis Nexis Academic

Kelsey, T. (2010). Branching Out: Facebook Pages and Facebook Advertising. In M. Lowman (Eds.), Social Networking Space (p147 –p181). New York, NY : Springer.

O’Neill, N. (2009). 10 Rules For Advertising On Facebook.  Business Insider. Retrieved from http://articles.businessinsider.com/2009-07-16/tech/30073056_1_facebook-advertising-target-market/3

Wasserman, T. (October 03, 2011). Facebook’s New Advertising Strategy Is Brilliant and Unexpected. Mashable Business. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/10/03/facebook-ad-strategy/

Whitehead, J. (2011). All About Facebook. Haymarket Business. Retrieved from Lexis Nexis Academic.

Zarrella, D. & Zarrella A. (2011). The Facebook Marketing Book. Sebastopol, CA : O’Reilly Media, Inc.

 

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