Behavior: Face-to-face and Online Communication Differences


Social psychology is the field of study that focuses on relationships and behavior within the human society. It can have various implications. For instance, organizations have long relied on research and methods used in social psychology when developing their business strategies. Technology has enabled them to develop new efficient methods to explore the population and potential consumers as well as their behavior and the way they influence each other. At present, companies pay special attention to social media and the role they play in shaping people’s opinion and behavior. Hajli (2013) stresses that social media have diverse effects on people whose attitudes towards companies may change.

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This research will focus on the way people interact with and affect each other as opposed to the way people interact with their devices (social media). Admittedly, social media are also a tool of communication but it has changed the way people behave and interact. It is important to understand to what extent social media have transformed ways people interact in the digital as well as real world. This can help identify behavioral patterns of consumers, which, in its turn, will enable companies to develop more efficient business strategies.

The Setting of the Research

This research will focus on retail and the way people affect each other’s choices when communicating face-to-face and through their devices. Various retail chains make use of social media to promote their products or events (Rapp, Beitelspacher, Grewal & Hughes, 2013). At present, thousands of consumers as well as potential customers are active users of various social media and, hence, people can shape each other’s behaviors and choices they make.

The research will be based on the results of observations implemented in malls. Groups of people (presumably young females) will be the most common group as they often shop together. In this way, it will be possible to observe the way people affect each other choices when making purchases and when communicating face-to-face. This is an effective strategy as people will feel relaxed and they will behave naturally since they will not know that they are being observed or that they are a part of the research. However, there can be certain limitations as the researcher may hear only a part of the conversation, which can result in certain deviation of data obtained. Therefore, there can be certain degree of bias, though the researcher will try to minimize it. Nonetheless, the chosen method is enough to draw preliminary conclusions and explore the field unveiling existing peculiarities of people’s behavior.

At the same time, social media will also be researched. Accounts of some retailers will be central in this research as shoppers often share their ideas there. Of course, major social media will also be considered as these domains provide more freedom to people who can express their ideas and opinions freely. Thus, the limitations associated with the use of retailers’ social media is that people (presumably) tend to make positive comments. Nevertheless, the researcher will address this limitation through the use of the larger online context. In other words, observation of the behavior of users of social media (Facebook, Twitter and so on) will make the research more comprehensive and reliable.

Theoretical Background

To implement the research, it is essential to identify the way social psychology sees social media. It is possible to apply a number of theories to achieve this goal. For instance, Rapp et al. (2013) state that contagion theory unveils major characteristics of social media as well as their role in shaping people’s behavior. Contagion theory is based on the assumption that the crowd has a “hypnotic influence” on individuals and people are often prone to accepting views that are shared by a large group (as cited in Rapp et al., 2013, p. 549).

In other words, it is possible to note that social media shape people’s opinions and behaviors significantly, when there is a large group of people sharing this opinion or behavioral pattern. Klaus (2013) also stresses that social media have a considerable impact on people’s opinions and behaviors. At that, the researcher notes that even a small group of people sharing certain views can have a significant effect on larger groups of people. In other words, even a limited number of people often has a great influence, as it tends to acquire many followers.

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Hajli (2013) notes that social media have become a perfect platform for interactions between individuals and development of certain relationships. The researcher stresses that social media have been the platform for sharing information and this role has expanded as, at present, this is the platform for development of trust. Social media are seen as a platform for development of communities where people share certain views.

Importantly, social media are also seen as a platform for such communicative patterns as individual-to-individual, individual-to-community, individual-to-organization. Canhoto, Clark and Fennemore (2013) note that social media contribute to creation of communities where people develop quite close ties and trustful relationships. It is noteworthy that these communities go far beyond any boundaries as they enable people living in different parts of the globe to reach each other.

Clearly, social psychology considers social media as a potent tool people use to affect each other. Remarkably, this tool is more influential than face-to-face communication in many cases. One of the most important characteristics of social media is their global nature. Face-to-face communication due to technology also expands geographic boundaries. Nonetheless, social media enable certain ideas to spread globally at a very high pace.

The Present Research and the Social Psychology

This research can contribute to the development of social psychology as it focuses on the way people affect each other through face-to-face communication and their devices. The focus will be made on purchasing preferences and development of trust towards some brands and/or companies. This research will focus on the way people’s opinions, attitudes and behaviors concerning purchasing decisions are shaped. At the same time, the researcher will also pay attention to the way people’s linguistic and behavioral preferences change. It is also important to identify the role trust plays in this type of people’s interactions and which type of trust (developed during face-to-face or online communication) is more powerful.

Possible Issues

It is clear that a number of issues can arise during implementation of the present research. One of the major issues is the need to elicit the meaning of a short conversation or even a part of it. Observations will be made in a crowded place and this can also be associated with certain inconveniences for the researcher. The researcher will also have to pay attention to linguistic aspects as well as behavioral patterns. Thus, when observing people in the mall the researcher will have to focus on differences and similarities in people’s vocabulary, the way they are dressed, the way they use non-verbal means. These are all influences people have on each other. Of course, it can be difficult to identify the origin of the change (the person whose behavior or opinion is followed).

When it comes to observation of the online communication, the researcher will have to explore quite an extensive number of platforms (accounts of companies, different types of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and so on). It is important to analyze quite a significant number of conversations. Again, it can be difficult to identify the origin of change as even one conversation can involve many people having diverse backgrounds.


On balance, it is possible to note that this research will contribute to development of social psychology, as it will focus on a particular sphere in people’s lives. People’s purchasing preferences and associated issues concerning the development of trust can fill in certain gaps in the field. The research can help trace exact pathways of change. In other words, the researcher will be able to consider particular patterns of behavioral change and reasons for this change. The difference between face-to-face and online communication will also be analyzed. Finally, the researcher will try to identify which types of education is more efficient in terms of the influence of others. Notably, this research can also be used when developing business strategies concerning promotion of the product, brand, company and so on. It can also provide managers with certain frameworks they can use in their research.

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Reference List

Canhoto, A.I., Clark, M., & Fennemore, P. (2013). Emerging segmentation practices in the age of the social customer. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 21(5), 413-428. Web.

Hajli, M.N. (2013). A study of the impact of social media on consumers. International Journal of Market Research, 56(3), 387-404. Web.

Klaus, P. (2013). New insights from practice: Exploring online channel management strategies and the use of social media as a market research tool. International Journal of Market Research, 55(6), 829-850. Web.

Rapp, A., Beitelspacher, L.S., Grewal, D., & Hughes, D.E. (2013). Understanding social media effects across seller, retailer, and consumer interactions. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41(5), 547-566. Web.

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