Study takes a look at social networking sites

Jan 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Online social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are now firmly implanted in the cultural mainstream. Yet in spite of their popularity - Facebook currently has 300 million users - relatively little is known about what drives users towards particular sites and what prompts them to contribute content.

Likewise, how knowledge and information transmitted socially among users of these sites can be captured and turned into opportunities for profit has so far largely evaded the business sector. To date, research on social network sites has focused largely on user , benefits to individuals such as information sharing, issues of privacy and the like.

Now, Macquarie University PhD student and Associate Lecturer in Marketing, Lucy Miller, is taking a closer look at online social networks from a marketing perspective. She recently presented her preliminary research at the Australian & New Zealand Marketing Academy conference in Melbourne.

Online social networks give the sites' owners and potential advertisers insights into their users thoughts and patterns of behaviour. Miller looked at the key motivating factors for use of that influence content contribution behaviour, friending behaviour, and attitudes towards advertising - all essential components that determine the success or otherwise, of a site.

Miller found four key motivating factors influencing the users of social network sites. These factors were curiosity about the lives of others, social engagement, a desire to increase social capital and status, and self expression.

The different motivating factors in turn resulted in different user behaviours and attitudes towards site advertising, how much content they contributed and friending behaviours.

The users driven by curiosity about others were less likely to contribute much in the way of content but would likely have a higher tolerance for advertising, Miller found. Likewise, others had a need to express themselves and would not be as active in seeking friends, instead feeling more satisfied that the site allowed them to be creative and reduce their anxieties. Still yet others built social capital and status through the large network of friends they established.

Based on her preliminary survey of existing social networking sites, Miller argues that those differing core motivational profiles and resulting behaviours show social networking sites such as , have distinctly segmented user markets. Site owners, anxious to retain and increase user numbers, and advertisers wanting to reach those user-consumers, need to be aware of the differences and tailor their approaches accordingly, she said.

Miller also found other, less clear factors such as gender and major transitional events in life such as a divorce, death, moving house or changing jobs can also influence and create changes in user behaviours.

By identifying groups of users with distinct behavioural useage patterns and attitudes towards advertising and commercial use of the medium, Miller’s future work will serve to improve our understanding of the nature and dynamics of consumer motivation. It will also have important implications for owners and sponsors of social networking sites interested in user retention.

With her preliminary research on key motivational factors now presented, Miller will move into the next major data collection phase of her work creating in-depth user surveys and profiles. She’d also like to partner with media and social network site owners interested in developing effective user retention and site sustainability strategies.

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

Provided by Macquarie University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Congress may clamp down on MySpace

May 11, 2006

New legislation from Congress would block access to social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook in schools and libraries, including instant-messaging services.

Social networking sites still popular

May 12, 2006

MySpace led in first place of 10 popular social-networking sites that collectively grew 47 percent year-over-year, according to Nielson//NetRatings.

MySpace's new CEO promises innovation

May 28, 2009

(AP) -- The new leaders of News Corp.'s MySpace said Wednesday they need to innovate to rejuvenate the social networking site, which has suffered from stalled user growth.

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

15 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

18 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

19 hours ago

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PLANETwebfoot
not rated yet Jan 06, 2010
Thank you so much for providing us with these intriguing research findings on social networking motivating facators.

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...